Monday, December 27, 2010


Maggie Lee is a local institution here in Northfield, MN.  She has been writing for the local newspaper for something like sixty years.  (However, rumors that Maggie provided eye witness coverage of the Jesse James bank raid are bald-faced lies.  She was just a little girl at the time.)

Every Wednesday Maggie's column looks back at what was going on in Northfield 100, 75, 50, 25 and 10 years ago that week.  These columns are often recitations of people elected to hold offices in any of the dozens of social and benevolent (or perhaps even malevolent) organizations active in town at that time.  I am always struck by the sheer number of organizations discussed, especially in a town that must have had a population of a few thousand souls at most in those days.  I am also fascinated by the titles that people held - and am even more amazed that apparently they were able to speak them with a straight face.  In one recent column a women's organization had recently held elections to fill the posts of Oracle, Vice Oracle, Outer Sentinel and Inner Sentinel. 

I have never been a joiner of groups or organizations.  My membership in the Society of American Foresters lapsed years ago.  I was once elected in absentia to a leadership post in the University of Minnesota Forestry Club, until someone figured out I had never joined (I just volunteered at the Forestry Club Christmas Tree Lot for the free schnapps). 

But now I think it is time to join.  When I think of how we spent most of winter huddled in our homes, isolated from our neighbors, I think how wise those previous Northfielders were holding elections on cold winter nights in the company and camaraderie of friends & neighbors. 

I have attended meetings of organizations like the Northern Nut Growers Association - once a vibrant organization boasting geniuses like J. Russell Smith as members and supporters - and still a vibrant organization with geniuses like Sandra Anagnostakis as members - but without question an aging organization,  and if I had to guess a shrinking organization.  One problem is modesty.  The first line of NNGA's home page is: The Northern Nut Growers Association, Inc. (NNGA) brings together people interested in growing nut trees.

How about: NNGA can save the world with the power of woody perennial-based agriculture.  More of a grabber, and equally true.

The accumulated knowledge of an organization like NNGA must never be lost.  I know an Oak Watch reader who is working to tabulate much NNGA's old information.  I need to help. We all need to help.

The International Oak Society is another organization whose efforts need to be multiplied. 

And of course the American Chestnut Foundation, founded in Minnesota (to which the American chestnut is not even native) by geniuses like Phil Rutter, Charles Burnham, David French and Donald Willeke, needs every last member it can get.  No, it's not an oak-oriented group, but chestnut is in the same Fagaceae family.

Let's do more joining this year.  Tell you what: I'll vote for you for Oracle if you vote for me for Inner Sentinal.  I've always wanted to be an Inner Sentinel. 

I've always wanted to be Inner Sentinal.

1 comment:

  1. While I haven't supported NNGA in the past, I do support TACF, I buy from Badgersett (new hybrid-hickory/pecans this year!) and I attend whatever training/open house Phil Rutter offers whenever I can. So much information in that man - it'll be a wonderful day when he publishes the main extent of his learnings!