Hutterite Lives Comfortable Life
Spaeth, Pat. "Hutterite Lives Comfortable Life." Forum, 10 July 1986.
Valentine Waldner lives a life many would envy. He has never had
any money but he lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his wife
and children. He has no food bills but always has plenty to eat.
In fact, he is never wanting for anything.
But it is a life he figures not many people could live.
Waldner is a Hutterite, a member of a group of people who live
in collective agricultural communities. He lives in the Spring Prairie
Colony northeast of Glyndon, MN., with about 75 other Hutterites
who descended from German-speaking Anabaptists who fled South Russia
in 1874 and first settled near Yankton, S.D. The colony is one of
many that have branched out and now dot the Great Plains States
and western Canadian provinces.
Waldner was a host for a group of about 120 people who are descendants
of the Germans who fled Russia. The tour was a part of a Germans
from Russia workshop being held at North Dakota State University.
The workshop is being held as part of the Germans from Russia Heritage
Society International Convention Friday through Sunday at the Fargo
The Hutterites, who remain strongly attached to customs and traditions
of their heritage, have turned the colony into a thriving community
that includes a shoe shop, a print shop, beef, dairy, and grain
farming, and a motor repair shop. The backbone of the community,
however, is farming and livestock. The colony's turkey farm has
about 30,000 turkeys which are sold to companies throughout the
"It's a good life," Waldner says. "But it's not
a life people from the outside would probably want." No member
of Spring Prairie has come from outside the colony, but Waldner
said other colonies have taken in outsiders, and that all they need
do to become a colony member is ask.
"It's pretty tough for someone who isn't born here to come
in," he said, adding that Hutterites do not have access to
television or radio, just a single newspaper that is passed on almost
systematically among each member every day. Entertainment is minimal
because, as Waldner said, there is little time for it, with farm
chores keeping every member of the community busy from dawn to dusk.
"Young people don't go out," he said. "They don't
go to movies or anything like that." In fact, no member is
allowed to leave the colony unless it's for the benefit of the community,
mostly trips into Glyndon for supplies, he said.
Colony traditions are maintained by a board of five elected trustees
(only the men are allowed to vote), although Waldner said enforcement
is rarely necessary.
Hutterite children begin working young and there is no retirement
age, Waldner said.
"By the time they're 8 years old, they're probably already
on the tractor," he said. "And they work until they can't
The colony is part of the Hawley, MN., school system and Hutterite
children are educated through daily classroom instruction just like
a public school. Education ends, however, when a child turns 16
and he then begins working full-time.
Waldner said members of the Spring Prairie colony are happy and
no one has ever left it, but if one did decide to, he would be free
to do so.
"We will never give anyone permission to leave," he said.
"And we will discourage them from leaving, but if they want
to we are not going to stop them. And if someone isn't conforming
to the life-style, we'll tell them to go live somewhere else. But
they're always welcome back."
Reprinted with permission of The Forum.