FARMINGTON — Members of the West Farmington Grange, energy auditors and Western Maine Community Action staff recently met to assess the weatherization needs of the grange.

Stephen Scharoun, grange master, said a grange member comes in early to start warming the building for a farmers market that is currently open for two hours on Saturdays. A quarter of a tank of oil later and time to shut the market down, the building’s temperature is just bearable. Scharoun said making the building more efficient to heat will broaden its use for year-round activity with the primary goal of supporting local agriculture.

Energy auditors Dick Mitchell of Maine Energy Savers and Teddy Ellis of Freedom Electric will use an infrared camera to detect air infiltration. Leaks will be sealed, making the building more efficient to heat and comfortable.

“Air leaks in the otherwise structurally sound building act like a chimney, allowing heat to escape and drawing cold air in at a rapid rate,” said WMCA Energy Program Auditor Del Downs. Once the audit is complete, weatherization technicians will seal leaks, install moisture barriers and use various materials for insulation in the ceiling, walls and the foundation to significantly slow the exchange of air in the building.

Mitchell and Ellis received training and mentoring through the WMCA Energy Leak Reduction Program, funded and supported by the JTG Foundation, the Sandy River Charitable Foundation, the Franklin County Government, the Tri-Valley United Way, The Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, WMCA, the Mission at the Eastward, the Ecumenical Heating Fund and the Western Mountains Alliance.

The vision for the grange includes becoming a vibrant part of community life once again. Around 1950 granges had an active membership of 50,000 to 60,000 statewide. The grange hall was the center of community life. Individual grange membership has dwindled to 40 to 60 members, predominately elders, with just a handful of folks who are actively engaged.

The town of Farmington has approved $10,000 for the project from the tax-increment financing reserve fund. Additional funding applications have been submitted to the Maine Community Foundation and other sources, said grange member Gerald Libby.

Grange member Richard Marble cited a recent World Bank study that warned the world needs to double its food production in the next 10 years. Marble explained the area is well suited for food production and the important role the grange plays in supporting local farmers, particularly in northern Franklin County.

The combined efforts of WMCA, the local certified energy auditors and the grange could mean a year-round source of locally grown fresh food, increased food security and the grange hall becoming, once again, a center for community life.

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