Ruth, whale watching in Iceland. Photo taken October 4, 2012.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Osgoode, Ontario, Canada. Just south of Ottawa.

And where are they going next? We leave November 1st for a six week trip to Romania and Moldova.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A visit with the Hutterites

One of the reasons that we love to travel to different countries is that we like to see how other people live. But you don't have to travel to a far off land to experience a different culture...sometimes you can find them in your own backyard as we learned yesterday when we visited two different Hutterite colonies.

But before we get to that, we should give you some background. The Hutterites arrived in North America to escape military and religious persecution in western Russia. They arrived in three separate groups from 1874 to 1879, and all groups originally settled in the North Dakota area of the United States.

But the Hutterites refuse to participate in war. And they don't believe in paying taxes to support any kind of war. And they don't believe in conscription, so when World War I came along, they had a problem.

"We reply that we do not wish to resist the government. Far be it from us to resist what is neither against God nor our conscience... However where the government or power expects something beyond the order of God and its demands... such as taxes in war and similar things which contribute to the destruction of men, then... we must obey God more than man."
Jacob Hutter (ca.1535) in Klaassen, p. 252

The country of  Canada offered them freedom of worship, as well as freedom from military service in exchange for developing the land. As of 1918, some 50 families had emigrated to Canada. 

Now, there are approximately 30,000 Hutterites living in Canada. The 346 colonies are concentrated in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

There are also about 50 colonies in Montana and Washington.

The first colony we visited is located only 22 kms (13 miles) from the park. We knew of it's existence, but we didn't know exactly where it was located. It's called the Pennant Colony, and it's a fairly new colony. It took three years to build, and it became an operational colony in 2002.

The little blue car at Pennant Colony.

A couple here at the park arranged our visit for us. The Hutterites are by nature friendly and accommodating and don't mind showing outsiders around and talking about their way of life. We were introduced to Debbie as our tour guide, a Hutterite woman about our age. I asked if we could take photos, and she said sure, but she didn't want a photo of herself taken!

The first thing we noticed is that everything is spotless. I mean, neat, clean, and organized. In fact, you wouldn't know that everything is 14 years all looks like it was brand new yesterday.

There are 11 families living here, and a total of 55 people. The colony was designed and built for 100 people, and it will grow to that point eventually. As a colony grows to more than 100 people, plans are made to branch off and over time a new colony will be built.

The first place she led us was to the main building that contains the dining hall, the kitchen, and the church.
Ruth in the dining hall. 

The men sit on one side, and the women on the other. There is a separate room for children. Children at this colony are allowed to join the adults at age 14. Breakfast is served at 7:00am, lunch at 12:00pm and dinner at 6:00pm. They go to a short 1/2 hour church service every day before dinner.

The church.

The kitchen. 

Everything is top quality commercial equipment. And like I said, everything is spotless.

The bread oven.

The refrigerators!

We were walking from the main building to the schoolhouse when we came across a group of youngsters. Two of them are sisters and so are the other three.

But one of them was shy. You can see the top of her head in the background!

At the schoolhouse, there are only six students. And only one child in kindergarten. Our guide Debbie is actually the kindergarten teacher and she said that its not the best situation to have only one child in the class. 

Classes are run by the local school board and they follow the same curriculum as the pubic schools do from grade 1 through to grade 10. The teacher is also supplied by the school board, although the colony supplies a German teacher. School ends at grade 10 (around age 15) when the student then is assigned a job in the colony.

Their home language is German, and they are only taught English as they grow up. Therefore, most people including our guide speak very good English, but with a German accent.

We were then led to the farm buildings. The Hutterites have embraced mechanical technology when farming, and again everything is the best of the best and very high tech. They grow all of their own food, and breed all of the poultry, beef, and pork.

They grow so much food, that they sell most of it. This is where the majority of their income comes from. 



Straight from the beehive!

What we didn't know, is that now that we know Debbie and we have her phone number, we can stop by all through the season and buy fresh produce...including chickens and eggs. A dozen eggs are only $1.75 CAD...far better than the going price at the stores which is around $2.50 CAD per dozen.

We've been here three years and never knew we could do this!


The bags are marked potatoes...but they are filled with onions!

Young chickens.

Debbie and Ruth. Debbie didn't want her photo taken.

She led us over to the shoe making shop. They call it that, but they don't actually do much shoe making anymore. Debbie's 82 year old father was there to show us around. Because when he got out of school many years ago, he was taught how to be the shoemaker and that was his job at the time. Now, he makes gloves "mostly to keep myself out of trouble" he says.

The different types of gloves made by the 82 year old father.

Next, we made our way to the welding and metalwork shop, and the woodworking shop. The men are all out working the harvest right now, so nobody was working in the shops.

The welding shop.

The woodworking shop.

Again, the best equipment. The shops are apparently much busier in the middle of winter.

Wow...what a tour! Seems that the Hutterites sure aren't lacking for anything. 

We haven't yet talked about economics though. The colonies are essentially communes. Everything is shared, and everything belongs to the colony. Everybody is given an allowance for clothing and personal items based on need.

At this particular colony there are no televisions, no musical instruments (although they do a lot of singing) and travel? Nope, unless it's to visit and socialize with another colony. I asked Debbie where she has been, and they have traveled to both Montana and Alberta to visit other colonies. I asked if she would like to visit Germany (since they speak German) and she said "What for? We wouldn't know what to do there? There aren't any colonies in Germany.".

They have only had internet installed at this colony last year. But it is for the most part blocked, and is only used for the betterment of the colony. Mostly related to farming and how to make things more efficient.

But we learned that the Pennant Colony is a very strict colony. All colonies operate a little bit differently, and the rules do vary among colonies.


Tomorrow, we'll tell you about the second colony we visited. Very different!

For our pet loving readers...this seat protector is a great idea!

And in Canada, a great deal on the new Black and Decker hand vacuum...almost half price!


  1. We used to buy produce off the Hudderites at the Edmonton Farmers Market as they had a stand there. They are excellent farmers

    1. By looking at all their produce I would say that they are great farmers. Nice to know that there is a colony on my way to Swift Current so now I can stop in there first and see what they have available before going to town. :-)

  2. At several Hutterite groups exist a big animosity towards photography and they do not wish their members to be photographed for licenses or other identity documents. Here arise repeatedly practical problems with state authorities, for example when issuing a passport or the acquisition of a driver license. They base their position on the belief that images are prohibited by the Second Commandment.

    1. Hmm, I don't think that there is a problem with this in Canada. We certainly didn't have a problem taking their pictures and they didn't seem to mind, except that Debbie didn't want her picture taken but she no problem when we asked if we could take a picture of the young girls and they certainly didn't object to it either. Again maybe it just has to do with the rules of different colonies.

  3. They are interesting people, about 2 miles south of Plattsville here, there is 2 large colonies and we have visited many times years ago where we bought fresh produce, eggs, chickens, geese, pillows made from goose down, a great auto repair shop just to name a few things.

    1. Very friendly and accommodation people. It seems that anything they do they do well. Looking forward to getting produce from them next year.

  4. Pretty much the same story here in Mexico with the Mennonites. In fact, some Mennonites came from Swift Current! They were brought here after the revolution to develop Mexico's breadbasket, most of which as you know, settled in Chihuahua.

    1. We almost detoured to a Mennonite colony in Mexico when we were going north to the Copper Canyon. It was the one that is well known for it's cheeses but it was going to be a huge detour so we decided to forego it for that trip but we still may go sometime in the future.

  5. Hutterite colonies around our area are an important part of our community. They supply fresh produce for anyone who wants to buy it and they support most of our community efforts. They are a very caring people and valued friends of ours.

    1. We find the same thing here with the Hutterites. They are more than willing to come out and help in some communities where help is needed. Our first year here at the park we were having a new playground installed. They came and took away the old equipment which they would use at their colony and then helped us to install the new equipment and pouring the cement to hold the structure in place and when there was left over cement we decided to have it poured into the back of the shop where there was still dirt floor. Boy, were they fast and efficient at pouring it and smoothing it all out. Totally amazing to watch.

  6. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing -- I know about the Amish and Mennonites but have never heard of the Hutterites. Great education and nice that I can still learn new things at age 55. Looking forward to your next post!

    1. We hadn't heard of the Hutterites either, it was only after coming to Saskatchewan that we learnt about them. They are definitely very different from the Amish and Mennonites. We sure enjoyed both of our visits and already we are thinking of more questions to ask when we see them again some time.

  7. Interesting, different for sure from the Amish and Mennonite cultures. thank you for the walk through.

    1. Very different from the Amish and Mennonites in many ways but in other ways they are similar. It was very educational for us.

  8. Thanks for sharing. I love learning about new cultures.

    1. You are welcome Misty. We love learning about other cultures too! :-)

  9. Thanks for the interesting look into a culture that's different.

  10. I'm surprised (and annoyed with myself) that I've never heard of this group (sect?). Very interesting. In an age where heritage, tradition, and the past in general is not as revered as it once was, it's kind of refreshing to hear of a group of people who––perhaps in the extreme, in our opinions––hold fast to their traditions, culture and lifestyle.

    1. We find some of these groups (sects) are a little extreme as well but the Hutterites don't come across that way which makes them more normal, for a lack of a better word. They just want to be a peaceful people that will help where help is needed and live a relatively normal kind of life within their colony. They embrace technology for the most part but avoid some of the things that are looked upon as sinful, such as TV (which to our mind is mostly garbage anyway ;-)). They live off the land as much as possible and they don't try to live the high life, they just want to enjoy life and it seems that they do. We enjoyed being able to a have a small look into their lives and it certainly gives us a better understanding of their group now which we find very interesting.

  11. Fascinating! And that is one big combine!

    1. Yes, it was a very interesting tour!


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