‘We have to watch ourselves’: Hutterite colonies worried about COVID-19

WINNIPEG — Physical distancing measures put in place to flatten the curve of COVID-19 have affected a wide range of communities.

For Hutterite colonies in the province, working and living in close quarters is part of their everyday life.

Josh Waldner, secretary-treasurer for Springfield Hutterite Colony Farms, said that life is changing quickly.

“We don’t eat together anymore in the dining room,” said Waldner about his colony.

“So that not everyone is crowded in digging for food.”

Waldner said 108 people live and work on Springfield Hutterite Colony Farm, where they grow wheat, barley, canola, and soybeans; they also have a hog farm.

Waldner said the colony does everything together, but with physical distancing measures in place, they’ve been forced to keep their distance.

“We haven’t had a church service for almost ten days.” Said Waldner.

“It is a serious virus, and we have to watch ourselves.”

The Province of Manitoba said they’ve been in contact with all groups of Manitobans, including Hutterites, to talk about the risk factor of crowded spaces.

“We’ll continue to work with them, with all Manitoban’s to try and find ways to enhance the physical distancing strategies,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Chief Public Health Officer for Manitoba.

“StarLite Hutterite Colony has 160 people living on it; they farm pigs, turkeys, and egg-laying chickens.”

James Hofer, Manager for StarLite Hutterite Colony, said they’re not having any community functions while COVID-19 efforts are in effect.

He said the distancing measures are contrary to their way of life.

“In the colony, in the community, there’s a tremendous support system,” said Hofer.

“(By) caring for each other, and providing the needs for all members.”

Hofer said some people at his colony are more concerned about COVID-19 than others.

He believes that love, hope, and faith will get the colony through this challenging time.

On the Springfield Colony, Waldner said work still needs to get done – but everyone is worried.

“You can feel it when you meet somebody,” said Waldner.

“(You) can see their eyes are worried, and I’m worried myself.”

Both colonies said farm production hasn’t been interrupted by the physical distancing efforts.