It’s a Hutterite Life

2 Jul

When we chose to set up camp in St. Claude, we had no idea what was in store for us. We rolled into town and were just trying to find the campground on the giant map, when a man wearing dress shoes and also riding a bicycle caught up with us. It turned out that he wanted to offer us a place to stay for the night! That’s how we met Robert and Josiane from St. Claude, and through them we met a lot of other amazing people.

Robert is a high school teacher. In the past decade or so, he has been teaching over an interactive television system to students from several Hutterite colonies. There are actually several hundreds of such colonies in Canada and we probably passed some, but as Robert wisely says, if you aren’t looking for it you won’t see it. Who are the Hutterites? We were able to see for ourselves.

Hutterites live communally: they share work and money, and they eat and pray together. The colony sustains its members spiritually and physically. In addition, Hutterites often help surrounding communities: for example, some are trained in first aid and emergency response, and will often be the first ones on a scene of emergency. It was really interesting to see the benefits and challenges of this radically different way of life.

Robert took us to two different colonies, where we saw the eating area, kitchen, chapel, school, some new homes under constuction, and a car repair shop. A common misconception about the Hutterites is that they shun new technologies. On the contrary: they have pretty much the latest and greatest in farming machinery, computers, industrial-grade ovens and breadmakers, fridges, washing machines… everything they need. Some members are talented carpenters, electricians, or general do-it-yourselfers, and everything is done in-house. And we mean everything: from repairing electrical appliances to building entire houses, complete with cabinets, electricity, and plumbing — all top notch quality. (Anya had never seen such a clean car repair workshop in her life! And working in construction she has seen more than a few.)

Hutterites have a lot of opportunities for learning various skills and trades, and sampling a wide variety of jobs. Rotating responsibilities and sharing the work assignments is encouraged. In the colonies we visited, everyone can complete high school, and beyond that there are opportunities for becoming certified in various trades. Sometimes, they will send a member of the colony to earn a university degree. As for work, they get their first small jobs at 15 (adulthood) and can move around between working in the field, building constuction, helping in the machine shop, or at the school. They can really find the work that fits, and if they prove themselves to be trustworthy, can take on greater responsibilities.

While no one on a Hutterite colony has any personal funds, there is money for exchanging goods with the outside world. Hutterites are shrewd businessmen: once the needs of the colony have been met, all surplus goods can be sold. One can often see them selling produce at farmers’ markets. Each colony may specialize in its own area. Some colonies have a big production of grain feed, henhouses, or pig and cattle farms — just a few examples.

In this form of society there are no medical bills that can’t be paid, no unemployment, no mortgages, no hunger and no homelessness. Changing careers is easy, and education doesn’t cost anything. Want to be a Hutterite? Sorry, they do not usually accept new members: you must be born into the colony.

As if that were not enough information for one day, Robert also took us on a tour of St. Claude’s dairy museum, where we got our brains wired with more interesting stuff:

And also a tour of the highway ditch to get us acquainted with the local flora:

These are lady slippers, which are wild orchids that are sometimes dug up to be transplanted to a garden, but the survival rate is low. That’s why no one will tell you where to find them! (Unless you are on a bicycle and certainly aren’t going to take one away.)

5 Responses to “It’s a Hutterite Life”

  1. Larry July 4, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Did you discover whether these folks have a landfill? The City of Richmond has set a goal of diverting an additional 20% of its waste from the landfill by 2015; up from the current rate of 50%. How might that rate compare with that of your hosts?

    The aspiration for the City’s target may be more financial than altruistic. Tipping fees at the landfill were $97 per tonne in 2011 and are expected to be $205 by 2015.

    • Maria July 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      A very unique question, Anya and I were pretty overloaded with info so we didn’t think to ask. We didn’t see their compost but we are sure it exists. As for other waste, they don’t seem to buy much food so they wouldn’t have garbage from packaging. For other things… Dunno.

  2. vj July 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Are the women also communal? I strongly feel that all notions of communism/communal life are bullshit unless this is the case. If your significant other is an ugly frigid bitch while your neighbor’s is a stunning nympho, what equality is there to speak of?

    • Maria July 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      If you like polygamy perhaps Judaism is not for you? Also, Anya and I would be more interested in communal men, so we didn’t ask.

  3. Kevin September 26, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Nymphos keep to themselves in Hutterite societies. And from what I saw in the discovery channel, I’m not sure if looking stunning is any of the women’s goals.

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