MARILYN HAGERTY: Hutterites tend their gardens and amass amazing produceYou go west three miles out of Inkster, N.D., and 2 miles north on a gravel road. Then you dip down into the Forest River Hutterite Colony. Harvest season in the vast gardens is under way.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
This is the second of two columns about harvest time at the Forest River Hutterite Colony.
You go west three miles out of Inkster, N.D., and 2 miles north on a gravel road. Then you dip down into the Forest River Hutterite Colony.
Harvest season in the vast gardens is under way. In the morning, the women jump on a trolley wagon that takes them down to the lower land along the Forest River. And they reap the bounty of a summer’s work by the people of the colony.
“We farm 4,000 acres,” said Tony Waldner, the garden supervisor, as he drove along the trails, weaving in and out of a 16-acre garden.
Recently a large greenhouse has been built to enhance the growing season.
The Hutterites also for 25 years have run a salvage business that involves demolition of elevators and buildings. They run a hog operation, and they raise chickens. They sell their eggs to area markets.
“We didn’t have a surplus of peas this year. We planted three times. We go to another colony to pick up chokecherries for jam and syrup,” Tony said.
Some of the cucumbers are turned into bread and butter pickles. And the women usually make 300 jars of tomato soup. They also make their own V8 juice from vegetables. They make salsa and sauce for pizza. They pick juneberries.
And green beans — they put up 200 to 300 quart jars. They freeze some vegetables. Their cooler is almost empty in early summer. But it is methodically stocked in the days of summer and fall. Early on, they put up peaches from South Carolina. They processed 150 jars of raspberries on a recent day, along with 120 jars of chokecherry jam and 40 of chokecherry syrup.
Along with the garden, there are 800 to 1,000 acres of potatoes waiting to be harvested and 2,000 acres of corn. In late July, the corn was standing straight and eight feet high.
Tony drove along the trail where there are 200 acres of carrots. The Hutterites sell some of them to a dehydrating plant at Fosston, Minn. He drove farther through the orchard where the harsh winter took its toll on apples.
The strawberry patch is dormant now — mowed down and ready to grow and produce again next year.
The Hutterites use a lot of irrigation on the sandy soil. “We are not,” Tony said, “like the Red River Valley.” The land originally was part of a bonanza farm.
He drove through dill and then beets. He said, “We harvest them three times so the beets don’t grow too big.” There was zucchini. And horse radish for use only at the colony. Waiting in the wings are tomatoes on 970 plants, along with various kinds of peppers. And there are watermelons that will be ripening after Labor Day. Beyond, there is a pumpkin patch .
“The onions are the most content vegetable in the garden,” Tony said. “They don’t give us any problems and they need no spray. They are just there. The deer don’t even like them.
“Of course, they need to be hoed.”
He pointed out cantaloupe ripening and broccoli. The cabbage he said, “we use for sauerkraut. We must be Germans!”
The asparagus patch is now at rest after producing early in the season. When he passed a series of beehives, he talked of the need for pollination. The colony hires a beekeeper who tends the hives. The vast gardens include such items as fennel to give a licorice taste to tea. There was rhubarb still coming. The Hutterites keep cutting dicing it and selling it all season.
Saturday mornings, Tony is up at 5:30 a.m. loading the trailer for the Grand Forks Farmer Market. Friday is when he needs help to get everything ready. The group of women who work with him to market have enough customers to use 200 to 300 bags every Saturday morning. They believe if they offer a good product, the buyers will be there.
The Hutterites have a sign near their eggs at the market, saying “Laid yesterday.”
Soon, the business of summer will subside. School will start at the end of August at the colony. School supplies are provided. Tony Waldner teaches German. His son, Jesiah Waldner, teaches English. And Eleanor Maendel is teacher for the lower grades.
The Hutterites wear serviceable clothing, most of it sewed by women of the colony. The women wear blouses and colorful dresses with black shawls for their heads. They sew shirts for the men.
When babies are born, the women have a choice of giving birth at the colony or going to a nearby hospital. Two infants were delivered recently with the help of a midwife who comes from outside of the colony.
They have more time to visit and relax in fall and winter. While they don’t watch television, there is limited use of radio. They enjoy board games. For Tony the gardener and teacher, Scrabble is a favorite.
He said he loves words — especially if they are German.
Members of the colony attend church Sunday. There also are services during the week, mostly attended by women.
The Hutterites are connected to the world of 2011, and in a way, they are remote. A child born at Forest River probably will be with the colony for an entire lifetime.
There are a few who leave. More now than years ago, they say. Usually, they are welcome when they come back to visit.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 772-1055.