Dakota Farmer

Full text of letters received about Hutterite Colonies.

May 14, 2008

17 Min Read

We received several long letters regarding our February cover story "Simple Success" about Hutterite colony farm management practices. We were able only to publish excerpts in the magazines. The full text of the letters are published below.

Hutterite colonies unfair
Lon [Tonneson, editor, Dakota Farmer], your February cover story with the smug, dictator-looking man, really upsets me! (Simple success, Feb., page 1.)

Comparing him to Donald Trump? I believe Donald made his wealth from his brains and actually paying his help. [You are] either an idiot or [you are] very intelligent. Only you know your true motives! If you're glorifying their way of life than you're an idiot! if your exposing Dictatorship, kudos to you.

Let me start out with I'm not picking a fight with the Hutterties. I have some that are my friends. As individuals they are good people, but as a colony they are bad!

Let me explain myself. They have an unfair advantage; it's called Capitalism, Free Labor! Dictatorship! Wars were fought over these very same issues. The village idiot would appear to be a genius if he didn't have to pay his help! How fair is that? I actually have to pay my part time help plus I feed them, and the rest of the work load I do myself. It's a great scam, control the mind and you control the body, sure they may be free to leave this jail without bars, but they are socially inept. Most come back because they can't handle it on their own in the real world. Congrats to the ones who have!

I know one thing; I wouldn't want someone finding my "groove." I'll find it on my own!

My wife works off the farm like most farm wives. Why? Because we can't make it if she doesn't. I can't imagine me telling her you can't do this and you can't do that! Because it doesn't fit the "groove." She'd tell me where to go real fast!

Lon, next time interview one of the Hutterite women and see how lucky she has it!

Furthermore, my family has a rich history in serving in the military. True story: My Grandpa, W.O. Staley, was the head of the local draft board. The first name drawn out of the box was John F. Staley, his only son. When asked how he felt about sending his only son he replied, "I can't send someone else's son if I'm not willing to send my own!"

No one knows if he had John's name in the palm of his hand or not, but he sent his only son to World War II and thank God, John did return plus two other uncles who fought in World War II. I also have brothers-in-law who served in Vietnam who were either drafted or volunteered to fight for their country, like many other American soldiers who gave their all! And yes, two of my uncles including John, had a 21 gun salute at their burial out at Sturgis. It was, without saying, beyond words a very emotional experience.

I will ask you how many Hutterite veterans do you know? Do you see any walking the parade route carrying a flag? Furthermore, have you ever heard a 21 gun salute at a Hutterite funeral? The answer is no- no- no. They get way too much protection for what they are willing to give. Didn't we fight wars over dictatorships because us Americans hate that?

Maybe Veterans Day means more to the Hutterites than the rest of us. They offered nothing lost nothing but had everything to gain! Kind of like the old Russia isn't it? Work for food clothing housing and I will find your "groove." But that kind of thinking, "I'll find the groove" didn't last.

In conclusion, no, I am not picking a fight with Hutterites. With their wealth and power I will lose, but I think my family has earned the right of freedom of speech. If any Hutterite takes offense to this then it's their guilty conscience bothering them. I guess. Lon maybe you're saying, "Wake up America, perhaps it is time to put a cap on how much they can own." Make it fair for the good of all.

R. M. Gassman
Howard, S.D.

Praise for Hutterites
There are many glaring mistaken statements in Mr. Gasman's letter ("Hutterite colonies unfair," March, page 14).

My wife and I farm in Hutchinson County and the Hutterites farm land one mile from our farm yard. We consider ourselves average farmers in the area. We raise corn, soybeans and cattle and farm fulltime.

I called John Wipf at Oaklane Colony and asked him to give me two numbers: The number of acres they farm (rent and own) and the number of people in their colonies.

The acres are 6,000 and 110 people reside at Oaklane. They are living on 55 acres per person.

I challenge any fulltime farmer in South Dakota to do the math for their own farm. Divide the number of acres in your operation by the number of people in your household.

I am a little bit embarrassed to admit we farm 900 acres of row crop, divided by two people in household, which equals 450 acres per person. If Oaklane used 450 acres per person, they would need to farm 49,500 acres instead of 6,000. Fortunately, they have an extensive livestock operation, primarily drug-free hogs and turkeys, utilizing South Dakota grown corn and soybeans.

Mr. Gassman, would you print your numbers for the next issue of this paper? If you are fulltime farmer and support your family farming 55 acres person like John Wipf, I salute you. You have my congratulations. Tell me how you do it!

John Wipf was elected by the members of Oaklane to be the financial manager for Oaklane. He and the elected board of elder are responsible for providing house, food, clothing, utilities, all health care costs, transportation, fuel, entertainment, church, school building, along with making land payments, purchasing machinery, vehicles, crop inputs, insurance and paying all taxes for the 110 people in Oaklane. The colony will pay the hospital bill when you are born and the casket when you die, and everything in between.

He does not get paid anything for his efforts, worry and responsibilities. He along with all the others at Oaklane shares all they have with each other. There is no rich or poor, they all have the same at a Hutterite colony.

I want to see where the "free help" is that Mr. Gassman refers to in a colony. Rather than comparing Mr. Wipf to the village idiot, I feel he is the village genius for keeping all the wheels turning and keeping everyone fed, clothed, warm, housed and in good health and doing in on 55 acres of farmland per person.

With all of John's responsibilities, I certainly could not be smiling like he is.

Norman Hofer
Freeman, S.D.

No threat from Hutterites
Dear Mr. Gassman and whoever else it may concern. I read your [letter], ("Hutterite colonies unfair," Dakota Farmer, March 2008, page 14) and felt compelled to give a reply. I will try to keep my opinions to myself and state only facts but this is hard to do when talking about something VERY personal to me.

Please note that when I use words like "you" I am not addressing you specifically, but anyone willing to argue our way of life and whom the said comment may concern.

I don't know who you're calling a "smug, dictator-looking man' or 'village idiot' but I assume these comments were directed at our financial managers. You seemed to think it shouldn't offend us, which of course name calling always does, even if you add the overused cliché "if anyone takes offense it is their guilty conscience bothering them." Name calling is not 'freedom of speech'. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most fights start with someone offending someone else so unless you really are picking a fight you need to change your attitude or style of writing.

You seem to have a beef with our financial managers so I will address this issue first. (Please forgive me if I got the wrong impression here.) First of all he does not own all the wealth we supposedly have. It belongs to all of the people living here. I want to add that we live in community OF OUR OWN FREE WILL. No one has forced this upon us, as proven by those who chose to leave. Living in community is a choice, and to the faithful few who believe, it is the highest calling of love. Do you think it's easy? Imagine living with 100+ people. You have to consider everyone's feelings. It is a challenge, but one that we take with open arms for the chance to live as Jesus called us to. This will mean little to you if you are not a Christian but for those few reading this that are; I feel I need to add this. What is the Holy Trinity if not an example of togetherness and community?

You stated that we work without pay. You were wrong. Every one of us gets an allowance. That is not even the most important part of where you are wrong. Do you know what a great peace there is in knowing that if someone in my family had a medical issue I wouldn't need to worry about it being covered? Is that not pay enough???? I get everything I need physically, simply by asking for it. Just because I don't purchase my clothing, food, etc. does not mean I didn't pay for it…technically I did, because it was paid for from the money I helped earn for my community. MOST importantly even if there is money left over from what I earn for this community, [it] goes to someone who cannot earn as much for some physical disability they have. I give this with willing heart. That is the core of communal living. By serving each other we survive. Everything we believe in is scriptural, so if someone is getting the blame for how we live, it's Jesus, and I have complete confidence He's going to have no problem handling that accusation. If you have a problem with us living like this, take it up with Him. ? You may 'believe' he died 2000+ years ago and I agree with you, but I also 'believe' He rose again, so unless you want to start a theological debate I wouldn't go with the argument of saying that I'm asking you to talk to someone who's dead, because just as strongly as you might believe He died I believe just as strongly, if not more, that He's alive.

How can a group of good people be the result of something bad? I totally did not get your comment, "As individuals they are good people, but as a colony, they are bad!" I personally think it's an oxymoron but I said I would try not to let this get to be an opinionated match of wits so I will assume I just don't understand what you meant by it. I would like to suggest explaining such comments in the future for fear of all the assumptions that can be read into it.

How many Hutterite veterans do I know? Incidentally, I do know of a few, who either were forced to serve or left the community to do so. This is beside the point though, the point being WHY we choose not to serve in the military. We believe in serving our government in any way that does not go against our religion, and serving as soldiers does just this. It goes against the Ten Commandments. We believe that "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is a commandment from God and we will honor it even if it means offending our countrymen or our government.

We came to America for this specific reason. So that we could have freedom of religion and not be persecuted or forced to go against our beliefs. The Hutterites have been persecuted in every country they have gone to, for things they believe in, and while most of the accounts are terribly disturbing I would love to share them with you if you are interested. I am proud to be an American because of the freedom we claim to have, and I love my country, but not enough to kill someone and miss heaven for it. Why? Because missing heaven is hell, literally. Our homes on this earth are merely "guest rooms" and what we bring with us into eternity will be what mattered. I will NOT glorify America over heaven by losing my citizenship to the latter just to ensure the former's existence.

We may not have a 21-gun salute at our funerals, but we have something much more priceless. We have a huge family of support, our communal brothers and sisters in Christ. I recently lost my father and it was then I realized what a treasure this really is. There were 600 people there, holding my hand, crying with me, helping me to say goodbye. This was just the people that came to show their support. There were MANY more showing their support in prayers, cards and gifts. Our 21-gun salute is knowing that, as we lay our loved one's to rest in the ground their eternal souls are meeting Jesus to live with him forever. Can you imagine the comfort in knowing I will see my father again someday? 21-gun-shots and a flag are small comforts when compared to this. We do not wail at our funerals as if all is lost, we cry tears of "goodbye for a while" mixed with tears of joy that another soldier has finished his fight and won.

[You wrote,] "We "get way too much protection for what we are willing to give." What are you suggesting? The very core of our way of life is giving! We give to each other every day by serving each other. I am giving to my fellow American by serving my fellow colony member, for is he not also an American? I dare say what a great place this country would be if we all felt this kind of love for each other. No I did NOT just say you should all go live as we do, and accept ALL of our beliefs. I am merely stating that this country, or any country for that matter, would prosper if it's citizens showed the degree of love and caring I have seen of my fellow colony members to me.

What specifically do you mean when you say, "I am not picking a fight with the Hutterites. With their wealth and power I will lose?" What are you suggesting this fight would consist of? Are you implying we "buy" our way out of troubling situations? How do we have "power" that you don't have? We live in a democracy, Mr. Gassman. I suggest you wake up, for I think America is well awake.

In conclusion I CANNOT believe you closed with asking whomever it was you were addressing (I'm assuming the American government) to "make it fair for the good of all." Do you realize that we are supporting all of our widows, orphans, etc.? Start seeing our community as a town if you will, for that is also a community. Do you suggest putting a cap on how much a town can own? I really don't think you need to worry about the Hutterites being a threat to our society or government. We try our hardest to stay afloat in a stormy world, and if we ever do get ahead we donate our money to those less fortunate. If you want to start an argument about wealth I dare bring this into the picture. I have little fear in knowing that if you divide what we donate to charity by every member in our community it would probably be a lot more then what the average American gives.

You seem to have the impression that we don't love our country. (Again I may be wrong here since I am just going by what I think you are saying.) IF you were implying this, you couldn't be more wrong. Of all of the countries that the Hutterites have resided in this has been the longest we have gone without persecution. America is known for its freedom. You assert your right to freedom of speech and I assert my right to freedom of religion. Who of us is wrong? I say neither, according to the American way. We, as Hutterites, love our America, and are thankful that God granted us these many years of peace in the land of the free. May He grant us many more.

Sandra Glanzer
The Hutterian Brethren

Bravery not defined by war
In regard to Mr. Gassman's crude opinion of my and my people ("Hutterite colonies unfair," Dakota Farmer, March 2008, page 14)…

I believe you have fallen victim to the green-eyed monster: Envy.

I am a young Hutterite, and despite being only in my early teens, I believe I more know more about the important things in life than you.

I must inform you, there is truly more to life than walking around with a flag in your hand, 21-gun salutes funerals or marching down Main in your Army greens.

I, myself, and most of the intelligent people I know (not all Hutterites) realize that it is far more [important] for your name to be listed in the Book of Life than for your mourning family to receive a Purple Heart when there is no more life in you.

Being a veteran won't bring you salvation. Living for Christ and only for Him, will though.

Along with freedom of speech, our country has freedom of religion, which helps us to know the Ten Commandments by heart, one of them being "Thou Shalt Not Kill" -- no exceptions.

And I also believe that the only reason you added the guilty conscience thing is because you feared a letter back that would actually have a point. Yours was kind of pointless. Sorry.

Oh, not to discriminate [against] my fellowmen, but are your Hutterite friends true Hutterites or one of those just simply living in the colony? Many don't know this, but there is a huge difference.

And we do not wish for the people of the world to judge us by one certain individual, not anymore than you would wish for us to judge the world by what people of the world have done -- rape, murder, theft, drugs, etc. Understand?

Not saying we're perfect - I have never claimed to be.

My grandfather was burned at the stake because of his devotion to Christ. No, he had no medal to show his bravery, no parade was ever held in his honor, but he had so much more. God.

God sent his son to die for all our sins and in the afterlife that's what's going to matter. How many had Jesus in their heart, not how many lives you took, or how many medals you were presented.

You think we don't get payed. Daily, we get payed in ways that after reading your letter I know you would never understand. You don't have to worry about us anymore, we are well taken care of. Yes, we have our problems. Everybody does. But God helps us through them and everyday we see the joy of worshipping and working together. Grown men and women knowing it is good and right in life. Thanking God for bringing us to a place where we can praise Him in peace.

I am not guilty, my fellow American. I just wished to correct you about what is important in life. Not weather, nor brains, but God. May He bless you and may these words bring you closer to him.

J.D. Wipf
Mitchell, S.D.

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