Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hutterite Myths, Fact or Fiction?

Hutterites Myths debunked by MaryAnn Kirkby (Author of "I Am Hutterite) with input from Paul Wipf and Louie Vetter. 

Myth #1: Hutterites don't pay taxes. 

Fact: This is complete fiction. Far from being tax exempt,  Hutterites pay more taxes than the average citizen and considerably more than neighbouring  farmers. Colonies pay taxes on net income divided among all colony workers over the age of 18. They file taxes with the IRS under the Revenue act 501(d). Taxes are determined by dividing total colony income by the number of residents, then adding deductions. They pay income tax (federal and state), sales tax, school tax, health and education tax, property tax, etc. 

Myth #2: Hutterites collect “welfare” and other social benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc. and get government aid for school lunches on colonies.

Fact:  Hutterites do not collect welfare nor social security and other benefits despite the fact that we pay into them.  Some Hutterite Colonies in Montana do accept food vouchers for school lunches where they are offered and qualify, just like all the other beneficiaries.  And why should they not?  We struggle like everyone else and all we ask is to be treated fairly.  The bottom line is, we pay more and get less than average citizens.    
Myth # 3
Hutterites are thieves.  Hutterite women have to be watched in stores or they might steal a TV or a tricycle under their dress.

Fact: How ludicrous.  This is like saying Italians are members of the Mafia or Black people are gangsters. Hutterite women are not sophisticated enough to steal a bike or a t.v., neither of which are approved items. Notwithstanding the perils of store security and video cameras it would be far too risky to bring these to the colony and next to impossible not to be found out.  
This myth is a blatant case of discrimination.  It does not match up with police reports which instead of corroborating this myth establish that Hutterites have among the lowest crime rate in the county and that includes theft.
 Hutterites follow the commandments in the Bible and stealing is forbidden and there are serious consequences especially for adult members of the community.  I remember only once when I was a young girl that a woman on my colony was caught stealing a package of jujubes from the Woolworth’s store.  Everyone knew about it because she was required to stand throughout the church service and be made an example of.  I remember how she hung her head and how humiliated she was.  It made such an impression on me.  Who would risk that?
The irony of it was that after I left the colony I found to my great surprize that stealing was considered a rite of passage in mainstream society.  The kids at school thought nothing of going to the local drugstore and stealing a candy bar or items of jewelry over the noon hour.  And for the most part there was no consequence unless they got caught.
When it comes up during question period at my public speaking engagements I always ask, “tell me honestly, who here has ever stolen something” and inevitably almost every hand in the room goes up.

Myth #4: Hutterites are trying to buy as much land as they can get their hands on and can outbid almost anyone who purchases it.

Fact: Hutterites are farmers. That's who we are and what we do. To be sustainable and stay ahead of inflation we buy farmland. We will not pay more than the land is worth, to do so would guarantee our extinction. Farmers who live near a Hutterite Colony are guaranteed to get fair market value for their land when they decide to retire and/or  move on to other ventures.

Myth #5: You could stay on Hutterite land from Lewistown to the Canadian border.

Fact: The colonies own about 1,000,000 acres in Montana. According to the 2004 census there are 60 million acres of farmland  in Montana. Comparing the 1,000,000 to 60, 000,000 and the Hutterites immediately fall into their proper perspective. Again according to the 2004 census there were 28000 farmers, 50 of these farms are occupied by Hutterites. Let us be fair and multiply the 50 colonies by 10 so as to make them average farms and we have 500 farms occupied by Hutterites. Again compare the figure of 500 with 28000 and the Hutterites "problem" is viewed in its proper perspective. The 2004 census showed that the farm population in Montana is 70,000 to the Hutterite population of 4000. Take the total acres of farmland in Montana,  60 Million and divide it by the farm population of 70,000, you have 857 acre/person, let’s take the total acres owned by colonies of 1,000,000 and divide it by their population of 4000 and you get 250 acres/person. With these figures in mind, can any fair-minded person say that the colonies are occupying more than their share of farmland of Montana?  In conclusion Hutterites farm 1.67 % of all the farmland in Montana.
Myth #6: Hutterites don’t buy implements and farm equipment locally, so they buy up all the local farmland and then don’t patronize local business.
Fact: When Hutterites buy a piece of farm machinery, they not only get that machine but the service that comes with. Today's machinery is not your grandpa's machinery. Its fully computerized and needs highly trained personnel to troubleshoot and repair. Minimal downtime is critical. So to buy out of the local area would be counterproductive. And as far as patronizing local businesses, why should Hutterites drive out of area to buy? Time and travel cost money in today's word. Hutterites also stay on-farm year round and don't take weeks and months for vacations in exotic destinations. No, they stay at home year round and consequently all their hard earned money gets spent locally and not in some foreign country.

Arguments are being made that if the Hutterites are permitted to expand, it will seriously threaten the family farm and local communities, claiming family farms (some owning in excess of 1000's of acres) can't compete with the colonies.  Hutterites are not in serious competition with anybody who wishes to purchase land. The main competition comes from all farmers who have a surplus of funds for investments. Also Hutterites are no more a threat to smaller communities than those who live in and about these communities and who do their shopping and hairdressing in larger towns and cities. In most cases the Colonies spend far more in local communities than those farmers that they replace. Some of the places that a colony will support within local Communities are, lumber yard, tire shop, fertilizer and chemical, grocery store, insurance, meat shop, drug store, automotive, banking, Lawyers, body shops, Veterinary clinic, Farm equipment and vehicles, grain and livestock dealers, etc.  Just ask around in Lewistown and it is obvious that Hutterites are very important to the economy of  smaller communities.

As far as the businesses in smaller towns disappearing, that's a North American and maybe even a Global phenomena. Amalgamations, buyouts and takeovers are happening at an increasing and alarming rate,  i.e., smaller grocery stores replaced by Walmarts and Superstores, Lumber yards and Hardware stores by Home Depots, Alberta Wheat Pool by Agricore, Agricore by Viterra, Viterra by Glencore. The likes of One Earth Farms. And that it is happening throughout the country, even where there are no Hutterites. At least Western Canada and the Northern States can be thankful they have Hutterites that they can blame...

Another point to take home is this; Hutterites are Primary Producers. They hand raise fresh vegetables of every kind at Farmers Markets. The milk, eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, potatoes, etc that fill the shelves of your local grocery store are more than likely to come from a Hutterite farm. Hutterites have their roots firmly entrenched in the original family farm, where every farm was self-sustainable and existed to supply food and clothing to the rest of the world.

Myth #7: Hutterites aren't allowed to read the Bible or study it on their own.

 Fact: Everyone on a Hutterite Colony receives their own Bible (in High German ) from the Colony upon being baptized.  This is a tradition and usually occurs in your late teens or early twenties. Until then it is expected that you will share your parents Bible.  In our home my father read to us from the Bible every evening.  We were very well versed in Bible stories as are most Hutterites.  My father also recorded all of our births and other important pieces of family history in our family Bible, as did other colony members. Every home has a Bible and families are encouraged to read it daily.
Myth #8: Hutterite land is all owned by Canadian elders, who can take away everything from colonies that “get out of line.”

That’s like saying the Pope owns the property of Catholics in the U.S.   and can take it away from them when they “get out of line.”  

Fact:  Not an acre of American farm land is owned by Canadian Elders.  Every Colony has their own Elders and is an entity unto itself.  They decide what and where to buy according to their means and the financial goings on in each community is decided by the Elders that live there.  Period.  If they however face undue hardship and financial crisis they can and do ask other colonies for help.
Myth #9: Hutterites don't teach their children basic farm safety and so they have a high right of serious or deadly accidents.

Fact: Hutterites value apprenticeship and as such young boys tag along with their fathers, hang around farm equipment, play near augers and sit on tractors at an early age.  There is some truth to the fact that there has been an unnecessarily high incidence of mishaps or even deaths that could have been prevented with the proper amount of precautions on Hutterite Colonies.   A concerted effort is being made to change that.  The same goes for drowning. As a rule Hutterites don’t teach their children to swim.  Last month, here in Montana a father took his young son to the creek to fish.  When the boy fell in the father naturally jumped in to save him but he couldn’t swim either and tragically they both drowned. It devastated that community.

Myth #10: Hutterites have a problem with in-breeding.

Fact: Hutterites have been the subject of many studies in relation to this topic.  In her 1998 study, Geneticist Carole Ober discovered that for the past 100 years Hutterite women have given birth to children with immunity to certain diseases because of an exceptional genetic disposition.
On the common sense front, there is a lot of pressure put on young people not to marry close relatives.  For years Hutterite couples including my own parents had to have government sanctioned blood tests before being allowed to marry.  Marriage to a first cousin is not allowed. Hutterites treasure their children. Incidences of handicapped, autistic or disadvantaged children are lower than the national average because care is taken when considering a suitor.   Publicly, Hutterite blood is prized by blood clinics and the young women are brought to town on a regular basis to give blood.
If there was a systemic problem with inbreeding as suggested, it would manifest in widespread syndromes and diseases and here again, the evidence doesn’t bear it out.
Myth #11: In order to address the (Myth #10) problem of in-breeding, Hutterite invite non-Hutterite men to the colony to impregnate their women. 

Fact: A variation on this myth claims that the women are covered with a sheet during the deed as to not make it "too personal."
Of all the myths about Hutterites, this one is the most ludicrous. You have got to have brain damage to believe it. The notion that we would allow our beautiful young women to be raped by some loser for $50 -$100 because we are “too inbred,”   is the height of insanity.
Think of the sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, (which is virtually non-existent among Hutterites) we would subject our women and men to!
And to all the male studs who claim to have provided this service it is a poor testimony to your manhood that not one of you has wanted access to your so-called children running around Hutterite Colonies.  These claims are patently false.  They were born out of too many drinks at the bar and there exists not a shred of evidence to substantiate a single incidence of this kind.
The way this rumour got started is when disgruntled farmers who felt that the Hutterites were unfairly advantaged started, unbeknownst to the Hutterite community putting ads in local papers saying Hutterites were looking for stud service.  It was malicious and bigoted but it developed a life of its own when the Hutterite community didn’t chose to even dignify it with a response.
Sex outside of marriage is considered a grave sin and a terrible shame on a Hutterite Colony. Incidences of teen pregnancies is very low and far below the national average.


  1. I have some questions. I hope I don't offend you, I am just very curious.

    What diseases are Hutterites more likely to be immune to?

    Also, what do the Hutterites believe on salvation? Do you believe it is freely available to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ? Or just Hutterites, alone? I know this is a tough question. I'm not asking in a hateful spirit, nor will I be offended or debate your beliefs. I just want to undstand, without assumptions.

  2. I'm not offended, don't mind debates and would be pleased to answer your questions.

    Q) What do the Hutterites believe on salvation?

    A) Hutterites view Salvation seriously, as a matter of Life or Death. We believe Salvation can come only through the name of Jesus Christ as we can read in Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

    As far as our doctrine on Salvation, Hutterites go and have always gone directly to the Bible for answers and guidance, and the clearest teachings on Salvation come from our Savior Jesus Christ himself when he delivered His famous "Sermon On The Mount" to the multitudes, which can be found in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 5 to 7. A thorough reading and study will help you understand the ideals Hutterites strive for in daily life like love and humility and their stance on subjects like divorce, adultery, pacifism, judging, forgiving, etc.

    One of the main messages that come through in this sermon is living our life according to God's Will and Rules, so that when when the time comes to share His Kingdom we will be prepared. Also self sacrificing our needs and wants up to our fellow man, (like a candle or fire that consumes itself while serving others) All the while remembering that it's not our "works" that will qualify us for this Kingdom, but the almighty Grace of God, lest anyone should boast.

    Hutterites believe faith and works are seamlessly intertwined so that having one without the other is impossible and is best described by the Words of Jesus himself in John 15:5 "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."
    And in Matthew 7: 17) "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

    Yes, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is a hard and radical teaching to follow in these modern times and Christian apologist CS Lewis describes it quite accurately " If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity - CSLewis

    Q) Do you believe it is freely available to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ?

    Yes, and that belief is confirmed in the famous John 3:16 verse "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

    Q) Or just Hutterites, alone?

    A) Absolutely not! The Apostle John makes it all too clear in Revelations 7:9-10 "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."

    Hope this will work for currently working on a follow up post that will go into greater detail.

  3. Reading the myths that people actually believe about the Huyyerites, made me sick to my stomach! I have a friend who lives on a Colony and who obviously is Huttrite and I would want to smack ANYONE in the mouth if they accusede her or her family/colony of such disgusting things. I'm English and think you all are absolutely great all around! Any person who could believe these things really needs to wake up! I said that as nice as I possibly could, also it's wrong to hit anyone. i was speaking out of anger.. Turn the other cheek, and FOR GOODNESS SAKE, LOVE THY NEIGHBOR! Thank you Louie for taking time out of your very, very, busy day to write this. I think we ALL could learn alot from your culture. i know I have and want to continue!:) God Bless, Kathryne Hoxworth

  4. Thanks Louie for taking the time to answer my question about yourbeliefs on Salvation. I think the Hutterite culture is something to be cherished & admired.

    I'd still like to know more about the diseases that Hutterites have immunity to. If that is possible.

  5. Uncle Louie. My wife is by your terms, a run away. She was baptized and when she left the colony; they excommunicated her. In the thinking of the Hutterite Church; she has been taken out of the Book of Life and put into the book of death. Could you please expound on that Huterrian doctrine.

    1. If your wife was baptist, and she left the
      colony, according to our Hutterite teaching
      she has broken her commitment with
      God and the colony.


  6. Myth #9 - How many colonies have on going safety programs? Young children should not be on tractors and around machinery, also how many are wearing seat belts when there's 4 kids with their dad in a truck?


    1. Why should young children not be around machinery? This happens on every family farm there is not just hutterites. I was driving a tractor as soon as my feet could reach the pedals. And you can be sure we were well trained before we were turned loose on our own not only for our safety but because that equipment is very valuable. Farm kids are a whole different breed than spoiled city kids. We work along side our parents for the good of the family even more so now days then in years past because it's become so hard to make ends meet from farming alone many farmers work a full time job as well.

  7. I simply can not believe some of the things people believe. I have a great deal of respect for the Hutterites and any hard working person or group of people.

  8. I personally witnessed....saw with my own two eyes.... several hutterites (maybe late 20's, early 30's) steal a rather expensive item from a store in Billings, MT recently. I know for a fact that it was not paid for. This has really bothered me, knowing that they are supposed to be living by the commandments. They were brazen and didn't seem the least bit bothered by what they were if it was a common everyday occurence. No wonder everyone believes they are thieves.

  9. I work on a Hutterite Colony in Canada (and loving it!). We have Farm Safety people come into the classroom each year and give a presentation during the afternoon. They will talk about different situations the kids might come across on the colony and what the proper thing to do is. The children also take health class, and in the younger years they learn lots of safety tips (crossing the street- town or city, fire safety, etc). I think they know what's safe and what's not.

    One thing I find people forget when I talk to members of my community is that they are children, and sometimes curiosity or pushing buttons is just human nature!

  10. Louie Vetter, I have a situation for you. I noticed the question of education was not addressed in your blog.

    I left the colony quite a few years ago. My colony has been going through a very sad period of internal strife for some time now. The management/Elders are severely abusing their positions and resposibilities, have been since they were voted in or otherwise assumed those positions, and gradually have lost the respect of most of the membership. It has come to the point where members cannot voice frustrations and Elders cannot enact punishments out of utter disrespect. Ministers and Eltesters from other colonies have visited and tried to help multiple times, they only made the situation worse. And I realize it may be very difficult to identify my colony from this description.

    Now Ministers from other colonies will not be called for help anymore, the Elders are ignoring wrongdoers in the name of peace. Nepotism, favoritism and alcoholism is running rampant. The women and young people have little hope for the future. I have watched the situation from afar and eventually for whatever reason it can only end up in a courtroom. I have done well for myself and think mainstream society has much more equality, freedom and social security to offer than any Hutterite colony. I can see it happening at many colonies: Elders have rights to vehicles, credit cards and cash that others don't; not very secure or egalitarian. I believe the situation at my colony comes from ignorance, lack of social skills and lack of education.

    How do you think the Hutterite movement could embrace higher education and still retain their egalitarian "Hutterite" philosophy?

  11. I worked retail security at a department store in Montana and refused to follow Hutterites around because I felt it was prejudicial. However, after having the tool aisle completely plundered of multi-tools multiple times and going back to the camera footage to see it with my own eyes I couldn't help but begin profiling in order to keep my job. The constant confirmation of this bias didn't stop me from feeling awful about it. I respect the local Hutterites, patronize their booths at the farmers market, and my wife does work for a local colony, and you are right to note that it is ludicrous to label all Hutterites thieves, however I cannot discount what I've seen with my own eyes time and time again; when it comes to personal property outside of the colony, there seems to be an unspoken cultural permissiveness about petty theft. For a long time I thought this was just directed at stores, but now knowing several teachers on colonies that have to constantly restock and lock up supplies I think it goes beyond this. I don't think this makes anyone a bad person, I'd chalk it up to a consequence of the meager allowance individuals are allowed for personal spending on the colonies in my area.

  12. The Ten Commandments are quite clear on the subject of theft, petty or not, inside the colony or out. Exodus 20:15 reads 'Thou shalt not steal". Shoplifting is a crime and it's your duty as security to stop it. Sorry for being so blunt but there are no excuses for theft.

  13. Out of curiosity, could the person who wrote about the colony where there is abuse and strife, be meaning the Hutterville Colony in South Dakota?
    That colony is a basketcase if there ever was one.
    The situation does not come from the lack of education, rather God and brotherly love was forgotten.
    If I had a PH.D and living on a colony. Yet loving myself more than my neighbour, there will still be strife and abuse. Each person MUST be a servant to the other, and value the other person higher that oneself.

    1. Absolutely correct and so well said! But why are Hutterites, who are supposed to be a light in the world falling deeper into sin? Because they are forsaking the Bible as the Word of God and going after false gospels and lusts of their own flesh! But there are still devout among us who strive for righteousness and godliness. To God be the glory!

  14. I moved from Los Angeles to Montana last year and never heard of a Hutterite and so far I have seen like any other member of society they aren't perfect. I saw tgee Hutterite women stealing at Target, they were stealing makeup. I passed by a Hutterite man who smelled of alcohol, and in a Sam's Club I saw two Hutterite women eating at the snack bar talking about their so-called physical encounters. I was shocked and decided to learn who these people were and found your blog. I am a Caucasian woman with a biracial daughter, so I have dealt with prejudice from my own family. So understand I would not pick on people for their clothing, religion, or language. Especially as a first generation Norwegian American who's parents immigrated here in the 1970's. I just really think when people have visited the Hutterites maybe the Hutterites gave a certain appearance. Being someone new in town I had no opinion at first. Now I definitely do. Oh... I forgot to mention the way older Hutterite man who checked out my daughter and I as we were walking to our car. Every part of society is capable of wrong doing

  15. Lanny Rafa.
    I can't post your comments for obvious reasons but there's one thing I can do. I will pray for you. Louie Vetter.

  16. I live in Craigmyle AB
    There is good and bad in all of us and good and bad amongst Hutterite Colonies.
    We have been stolen from and it was Hutterite-this has happened to others in the area as well.
    That being said, saying that all Hutterites are thieves would be ridiculous-there are colonies where women are treated well, others not so well, it depends on the leader-just like in any household or any church or any community.
    You have to take each group or person as they are and not paint everyone with the same brush. But as I said, people who romanticize any lifestyle or religion are also fooling themselves. Nothing, and no one in this world, are perfect-we are all HUMAN.
    Question: what do Hutterites do if someone on their colony is mentally ill. For example, if someone was depressed or very anxious or had post partum depression or schizophrenia
    Thank you

    1. We are all Human. Thank you and well said.
      Hutterites aren't immune to mental issues and will access the health care system to seek aid. Hope this answers your question.

  17. How do you guys grow such large chickens ?

  18. I have noticed your chickens are exceptionally large, are they a special breed or something ?

    1. No special breed, it's just that next level of care and attention that takes our chickens to the next level.

  19. Hutterites are just folks. They rent a lot of land around me and I enjoy my chats with them. Made a few friends that way.

  20. This has been a very good read for me. I have learned some things that I did not know before. Thank you.
    I used to do some price reductions on items, that I felt, were ridiculously marked up because they were Colony Shopper Requests. They were free to everyone else or at most, be priced at $1 per sack, before the ladies asked if we had anymore.they would buy all the polyester we had and at the price i had marked. After that, i was told that those bags were to be marked at $10.00 and sas shoes were to be pulled from free side and priced at $5.00-$10.00 per pair. I feel that greed has no business in donated items! So I called in some angels that helped me gather up and place aside, all the SAS shoes and Polyester remnants that came thru donations...for Joe, I dropped an 0 and sold those double-big sacks for $1 each.
    **I saw some of the beautiful rugs that were made with that ugly, thick, stretchy material.(my childhood nitemare... kids called me, Polyester Girl) After seeing those rugs, I have always hoped an angel would drop one on my living room floor! 18 years have gone past, since I worked for Family Service Inc. I haven't seen Joe and his family since approximately the farmers market, downtown Billings. I pray they are still doing well. If by chance someone knows Joe,(if I remember correctly, Martinsdale Colony?) tell him, please, that Sandie says,"Hello,Joe!"oh, and also,"I sure do miss your Wife's Scrumptious Breads!"

  21. My mother works at a thrift store. She is consistently aghast at the volume of goods that the local Hutterites steal from the store. Even toilet paper from the bathroom constantly goes missing after a Hutterite restroom visit. A Hutterite women will keep her busy while three of her friends stuff the folds of their clothes with goods. They remove price tags. They take jewellery. They switch price tags. My neighbour who briefly worked with them says they are simply thieves who believe they are taking what's rightfully theirs. Disgusting. Deal with this, please.

  22. Has your mother told the store manager?

  23. First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to clear thess sorts of myths. I have lived near Hutterites for most of my life, and, believe me, people believe all sorts of nonsense about them.

    Secondly, how do Hutterites view non-believers? I follow the gods of my ancestors, but I do not treat them like gods. More like teachers. I certainly do not make sacrifices or worship idols. Obviously, I don't share many beliefs with the Hutterites, but there are certain ones I do. I am a peaceful person who respects most anyone's religious and spiritual beliefs.

    Does any of that affect one's ability to associate with them?

    With respect,


  24. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
    People in general will resist what they don’t understand.
    Your question on how hutterites view non-believers. The bible teaches that we are all made in the image of God, therefore we are of incalculable and intrinsic value and worth, both believer and non-believer so that gives us a base and a bond with every other human being.

    Thank you for your questions.

    With respect,

    Louie Vetter


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