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Spring Prairie Colony a Life Centered on Faith, Family, Farming

Aksamit, Nichole. "Spring Prairie Colony a Life Centered on Faith, Family, Farming." Forum, 14 November 1999, sec. A.


The modest women of Spring Prairie Colony share a quiet moment in the early morning sun on a trailer behind a tractor headed for a cucumber field northwest of Hawley, Minnesota.

You have probably seen them at least once in your life - at the doctor's office, perhaps, or at Wal-Mart, where their handmade clothing is an anomaly.

You probably wondered for a moment who they were - the bearded men in black jackets and wide-brimmed hats, the kerchiefed women in ankle-length skirts and aprons, the ruddy-cheeked children in caps and bonnets.

Perhaps you assumed they were Amish.

Chances are, you didn't know you had glimpsed a few of the roughly 38,000 Hutterites now living in North America, a devout people who for more than 450 years have been trying to live like Christ's apostles.

Chances are, the reason you didn't know about them is because, in their efforts to keep worldly influences outside the periphery of their communal Christian colonies, they have kept a great deal to themselves.

Their lives - unencumbered by radio, TV, crime and politics - focus instead on faith, family, farming and communal living.

In agricultural communes along the dusty backroads of five Midwestern states and four Canadian provinces, they pray, work and eat together and follow a biblical directive to have "all things common."

Enveloped in a unique Germanic culture, their Puritan way of life and their reasons for it serve as indelible barriers between them and the outside world.

Unlike their Amish counterparts, many of whom still farm by horse and shun modern conveniences like electricity, Hutterites have incorporated technology to stay afloat in the modern farm economy.

But, in many ways, the Hutterites remain a world apart.

You'll find a rare glimpse of that world in The Forum this week in a five-day series exploring the apostolic undercurrents of everyday life at Spring Prairie Colony, a few miles northwest of Hawley, Minn.

This colony and its people trace their roots in America to Bon Homme Colony, founded near Yankton, S.D., in 1874.

Hutterite crews began working the land and building homes at Spring Prairie in 1977.

Thirteen families from the White Rock Colony near Rosholt, S.D., agreed to settle there in 1980.

And today, 125 souls live in three- and four-plexes on the equivalent of two city blocks and collectively farm the 3,000 acres surrounding Spring Prairie Colony.

They eat together in a communal dining hall. They attend church every day and twice on Sunday. They are managed by an elected board of elders and share a single bank account.

Faith and family are forces that bind their community.

At Spring Prairie, the basic way of life remains simple, and the emphasis is always on hard work and faith in this life, rest and reward in the next.

Our series, "A World Apart," begins in today's Metro & State section.

Reprinted with permission of The Forum

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