The View From Inside

Written by: Paul Wipf on Thursday, April 26th, 2012

seeding

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133). On Hutterite colonies the overarching aim, beyond earning an honest living, is to create an atmosphere that is conducive to a Christian life as King David mentioned above.

There are approximately 31,000 Hutterites in Canada, living on 340 colonies. Each colony has approximately 18 families working together to farm an average of 8,800 acres, or about 490 acres per family. A five hundred acre family farm would not be sustainable with today’s high start-up and input costs. On a colony, families pool their resources, and since there are more than enough operators, equipment costs are minimized by sharing fewer pieces of machinery.

With that many families on those few acres, Hutterites have the ability to be self-sustainable in many areas. We are able to raise and process our own beef, pork, poultry, and dairy. On-farm carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics and welders take care of building and repair needs. The ladies can be full-time moms and concentrate on homemaking, housekeeping, cooking, canning, and so on.

The basic Hutterite business model is mixed farming consisting of dairy, beef, poultry, hogs and agricultural land. But we have to take into consideration that some colonies are situated in areas that may be better suited for either crop farming or ranching, or they may be closer to certain markets such as hog-slaughtering plants, oilfields, manufacturing or other opportunities. There is emphasis on marketing and promoting our production as fresh and good quality and adding value rather than shipping the raw products. For example, some colonies are now selling processed meat instead of live beef.

Hutterite colonies have different levels of decision making, but virtually no decision is made alone. There are the elders, who consist of the minister, financial manager, field manager and one or two advisers, and the members who consist of all baptized males.

The elders have a brief meeting every workday morning to discuss things like the day’s plans and activities. Subjects are first brought up at these everyday meetings. For instance, while the manager decides what to plant and what levels of input to use, his decisions are made with input from these meetings.

Equipment purchasing is also discussed and prices from various dealers are gathered by the financial manager. Major decisions such as equipment upgrades and purchasing are then made at a general meeting with all members attending and providing input, preferences, and the pros and cons.

The key to marketing the production of the colony is knowing your cost of production (ie the break-even prices) and then trying to sell into a rising market. Marketing decisions vary from colony to colony depending on financial situations, bin space and cash flow, and production marketing is the financial manager’s decision with input from the elders. The key is not to get too greedy.

Colonies work closely with financial advisers, keep good records and continually monitor their cost of production. The goals which Hutterite colonies set are very simple ones. Our whole objective is to put a roof over our head and food on the table. Like any other family farm, we are consciously aware of our needs and pay attention to planning.

To savour the well-earned fruits of a hard career or endeavour, Hutterites are not get-rich-quick, build-a-mansion, retire, or travel-the-world type of people. No, it’s about leaving the colony’s land and barns in better shape for the next generation, preferably in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way, for we are working with God’s creation (the land, earth) and we respect and honour that. It’s all about caring for our children and children’s children!

The real strength of a Hutterite colony is being interdependent, working together, and the belief that the community is more important than any individual. There is no room for selfishness. One could conclude that the strength comes from leaders who are gifted and can inspire the members, and from members who treat their peers with dignity and respect.

Other strengths or advantages include the willingness to share the workload, which provides the labour force needed for farming. Also important is a willingness to share the vision of profits going towards a common good (such as caring for the elderly, widowed and disabled) while providing a stable, if somewhat sheltered upbringing, for the young and providing for future generations.

Our goal is not necessarily to get rich. It is to sustain a lifestyle that is conductive to a Christian life for us and for our children.

Other than pooling our labour and property we have no big advantage over other farms. We pay taxes and are price takers when we buy and sell commodities just like all other farmers. Non-Hutterite farmers could realize the same benefits by getting together and forming a buying company to purchase multiple pieces of equipment or other farm inputs.

Farming is what Hutterites want to do. However, it is tough adjusting one’s heart and mind to the fact that it may not be possible and or profitable to do so. We understand very well that for the Hutterite community to sustain an agriculture livelihood, there will be challenges and uphill battles, just like for anyone else.

With farming and the challenges that we face, we recognize that more proactive planning will be necessary, such as better knowledge of the cost of production, future marketing, and working with consultants.

A successful Hutterite farm could be described firstly as a place where you would want to raise your family and where children can be children, growing up riding horses, climbing trees, adventuring outside during the summer holidays, but also having the responsibility of certain chores such as helping in the summer garden, yard maintenance like cleaning up or mowing grass, helping with livestock, feeding calves, gathering eggs or many other things young people can do around the farm.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that we too are human and an imperfect people who from time to time make mistakes. We certainly don’t claim to be utopian. Really, we are all the same, just living out the challenge of life in different ways. We labour, worship, relax, chat and have fun living in peace with our loved ones as well as our neighbours.

I would like for my fellow man to know it is these similarities of the human existence that unite us. We are all God’s children.

Hutterites are a mosaic part of the multicultural Canada and we are thankful to call it our Home and Native land, thankful for our freedom of faith and livelihood.

It also helps that Canada is the best country in the entire world.

Paul Wipf, Farm Steward
Viking Colony,
Viking AB

First printed in Country Guide, November 22, 2011.

 

 

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Showing 14 comments

Linda said:reply

Thanks Paul! I thoroughly enjoyed this article! Besides being interesting and informative, it is also insightful and eloquent. I look forward to seeing more of your posts in the future!

Conrad said:reply

Nice article, but you didn’t mention Jesus or Christianity once. What do you think of Jesus? You paint an interested picture of things. I guess that’s the ideal, but things are not just quite as rosy as you’d like us to think, are they? It seemed you were describing a sub-culture, not a faith community. How many converts live at Viking? Wonder why not?

    Paul Wipf said:reply

    The above article was a response to a series of question from a reporter who writes for a farm newspaper. Had he posed questions in regards to my faith I certainly would have addressed them.

    In regards to your question of what I think about Jesus. I see Jesus as my Savior. No one can follow him while being afraid of talking directly to him. “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away . . .. I am the way . . .. Everyone who looks to the Son and believes on him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” It is the spiritual dimension that concerns me; the reconciliation of the soul to our Creator. The forgiveness of our sins that are many, and reconciliation to our fellowman, and in the case of the Christian Hutterite Brethren the urge to worship our Creator, and our resolve to live or die as nachfolger Jesus Christus.

    Certainly our Church needs to be led by the Holy Spirit, needs to consider many factors – first and foremost Gods Word, then the convictions of it’s members, the lessons of history, traditions and practices of godly forefathers, and present dangers and trends. But the individual must yield to the brotherhood or there can be no New Testament (Christian) Church. How people live their lives is their concern, God in His wisdom has given us freedom of choice and I certainly do not have permission from God to remove their freedom or to enforce God’s word. This task has been assigned to the church as a body and not to any individual like the Pope or such like. But I believe the word of God instructs us to stand firm on His Word and not to compromise it with false teachings.

    As for how many convert live at my colony, I’d like to say I don’t make myself the judge or God of who is saved or condemned. The challenge is for all mankind to examine their values and how well they match up to the lifestyle they lead. This very same challenge exists on my colony. (I think it has something to do with Adam, Eve, an apple and human sin.) To further comment on your question if there are any converts at my Colony, if being born again and and baptized in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit counts, then yes we do have converts.

    So yes based on my upbringing and my life experiences, I think I have a very good understanding of Christianity and the principle of faith ,and the Hutterite way of life, which may not be perfect, however if followed as lead by the Holy spirit is the best show in town. Well in my humble opinion anyway.

    May the grace of our God, Peace and the blessing of his Beloved [Son] be with us always and keep us united in the mind of Christ forever.

      building crews said:reply

      To whom it may concern:

      I would like to know if there any colony’s in Alberta that woul dhelp me put up a commercial metal clad building in Millet, Alberta? Thanks, Thomas

    Michael said:reply

    Conrad… I find your judgmental assumptions that there are no converts at Viking disturbing. If you consider yourself a convert, I would suggest that you re-visit Matthew 7 prior to posting such a comment.

Joel Pena said:reply

i enjoyed reading your posting. I am a devout follower of Christ, I am a member of the Assemblies of God in San Antonio Texas, and a practicing physician. I rejoice in reading your description of your way of life. God Bless you and yours and prosper your efforts on His behalf.

lisa said:reply

I found this to be very informative & interesting. I’d never heard of Hutterites until recently. Thank you, Mr. Wipf, for your insightful commentary regarding the Hutterite community. It sounds like a fantastic place to be & to raise one’s family.
Please continue to post, as I’m sure many are interested. No place on Earth is Utopian, but it sounds to me like you all come pretty close.

J. Eustace Purdie said:reply

Sounds like a co-op farm to me, sort of like a joint-stock company. THen again, it almost sounds like the old Soviet style communal farms. Nothing particularly Christian or spiritual apparantly, just another extended-family farm.

Christina Stanley said:reply

As I get older..I’m 36..I have found the desire to escape the stressed of modern society overwhelming from time to time. I would LOVE to move out in the woods in a cabin and hunt and live off the land..or have a farm…I am a recovering addict..I have 3 children..and I am in debt up to my eyebrows. I cant take it most of the time. Have you ever had an outsider come to join your community?

building crews said:reply

To whom it may concern:

My name is Thomas and I would like to know if there are any Hutterite Colony’s
in Alberta or close to Millet, Alberta that would assist in putting up a metal clad
commercial building of approximately 12000sq feet? I can be reached at thomasdeak@yahoo.com Thanks, Thomas

joy said:reply

Mr. Wipf, i really enjoyed reading your blog, and reading the website, in general. Its very interesting and informative. I am wondering, does your colony interact with non-hutterites? I mean as in having friends who visit, or you visit, having get-togethers and such, perhaps doing or going to functions for recreation, like festivals or fairs, farmers markets, etc.?

Jordan said:reply

Dear Mr. Wipf, I compliment your thoughtful expression of your unique life. As a Canadian of Jewish heritage, your world intrigues me in many ways; in the strength of your beliefs and values, in the diligence and practicality of operating an efficient and productive business that serves a singular and important purpose (“to sustain a lifestyle that is conductive to a Christian life for us and for our children) and in a communal values you share with your brethren (“the real strength of a Hutterite colony is being interdependent, working together, and the belief that the community is more important than any individual). I lived for a number of years on a Kibbutz in the Upper Galilee, right at the time that kibbutzim began a painful process of reform leading ultimately to degrees of privatization. I still visit and love the place and the way of life its founders were able to create, but recognize that something has been lost. I thought you might enjoy to read this article where at least in some cases and despite these changes, some families are ‘coming back’:
http://thejerusalemreport.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/

I thank you for sharing this window into your way of life. You make me feel proud to be Canadian and perhaps surprisingly, to feel a desire to find a way to unite you and your community with my friends on Israeli kibbutzim. Knowing, however different cultures and communities can be, that there are ‘others out there like you’ can be empowering. This said, I appreciate that Hutterite communities may not wish to engage in this sort of exchange.

Do Hutterites consider performance of a pilgrimage to the holy land? I suspect that you would find the experience to be both eye opening and spiritual; the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Multiplication and Mount Tabor (the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus) are some of the truly special places I’ve seen in my life.

Jordan

Monika Heuer said:reply

liebe hutterer, schöne grüße aus tirol.
ich interessiere mich sehr für euer leben und hätte gerne email kontakt mit eurer colony.
danke, freue mich auf eure antwort.
monika