Village News

Five Hundred Years

   Last Sunday the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church, my home congregation, celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. In providing the audience with a brief historical background of the church, Walter Fast referred back to the beginning of the protestant reformation 500 years ago.

   Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born in Eisleben, Germany and developed an early interest in personal piety and a monastic lifestyle. He began his university education in 1501 achieving a Master’s degree in 1505. Later that year a dramatic incident in his life, which he perceived as a sign from God, caused him to terminate his study of law and enter an Augustinian monastery. In the ensuing years Luther continued his studies, received his doctorate, and became a professor of biblical studies.

   In 1517 Martin Luther published documents which refuted some of the teachings and practices of the church of that day. He had two major emphases: The Bible, not church officials, provided ultimate authority in matters relating to Christian faith; and salvation and the forgiveness of sins could only be received from God and not through “good works” or the purchase of “indulgences”.

   At that time the church and the state were virtually one and the same. This put Luther at odds with both, and in 1521 he was excommunicated from the church.

   Luther’s teachings had by this time initiated a broader reform movement, part of which included the Anabaptist movement. Anabaptists were those who set aside the practice of infant baptism, a fundamental practice of the day, in favour of adult baptism where adults made a choice to receive baptism. Felix Mantz, Conrad Grebel, and Ulrich Zwingli were some of the more prominent leaders of this movement.

   Menno Simons, the one whose name the Mennonites adopted, provided significant leadership to an element of the Anabaptist movement some years later. Our gallery describes the work of Simons as follows: “Menno Simons left the Catholic priesthood in 1536 to give new direction to a demoralized and violent Anabaptist movement in the Netherlands. He emphasized peace, the separation of church and state and a Bible-based faith and life. His motto: ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 3:11”

   Since then this group of Mennonites has migrated from The Netherlands to Prussia (Poland) to Russia to Canada, and to Paraguay, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, in search of farmland and freedoms to live out their beliefs relating to religious practices, education and exemption from military involvement. Migrations have typically been precipitated by severe persecution or a loss of these freedoms.

   While Mennonite Heritage Village remembers the culture that this people group developed during their migrations over almost 500 years, it is important that we also remember the faith movement that gave rise to these migrations and this culture.

Village News

2016 in Review

   As is usually the case at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), 2016 was a good year in some respects and a difficult year in others.

Exhibits

   The Gerhard Ens gallery exhibits were highlights for us. Our curatorial staff created a wonderful exhibit in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women being given the right to vote in Manitoba. Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women discussed and illustrated four areas in which Mennonite women have sometimes stepped into less-traditional roles and excelled in them: Uprooted – Women bringing their families out of the former Soviet Union, particularly during the Great Trek; Working 9 to 5 – Women working in professions such as midwifery and nursing; Church Work – Women serving as missionaries, Sunday School teachers, etc.; Unhitched – Single women taking on roles uniquely suited to them because they didn’t have traditional familial responsibilities.

   For part of the summer season we replaced this exhibit with Ray Dirks’s Along the Road to Freedom, 26 paintings and stories of women who had to take on heroic roles to get their families out of the Soviet Union under dire conditions.

Artifacts

   Our collection of Mennonite artifacts, now well over 16,000, continues to grow. We received and accessioned items that tell an important Mennonite story, that we don’t already have, and that we have room to store properly. This year we refreshed our Collections Policy, our Collections Conservation Policy, and our Collections Disaster Management Procedure. We have also installed new climate control equipment in the galleries, lab and artifact storage room.

Visitors

   Due to weather and a few other situations beyond our control, MHV’s festival attendance was considerably lower than it’s been in the last few years. This has had a significant impact on our general revenues. However, participation in our Education Program was similar to last year. We are very grateful for all the volunteers who supported us during our various events and programs despite an unusual number of alternate volunteer opportunities in our community around the same time.

   Our daily attendance, rental revenues, and gift-shop sales have all increased somewhat over last year’s levels. Restaurant meal sales were down from last year, due largely to the lower attendance at our festival days. Support for our sponsorship program and for our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign has also been very good. We are deeply grateful for the financial support we receive from our constituency.

Foundations for a Strong Future Campaign

   The encouraging progress of our Foundations campaign has allowed us to move forward with our facility restorations and new construction. Early in the year we installed new furnaces and air-conditioning units in the Village Centre. During the summer we repaired and painted the exterior of the Old Colony Church. The Windmill received fresh paint on all the white surfaces, as well as new louvres in the sails. The Waldheim House is currently having its log structure refurbished, and the construction of the new Summer Pavilion is well underway, with a planned completion date of mid-April.

   We celebrate all the successes of 2016 and remind ourselves where they have come from, and as we consider the things that didn’t go quite according to plan, we look for ways to make improvements for next year at MHV.

Village News

VN 2016 12 29 photo shoot
   

The Curatorial Department at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) recently participated in a photo shoot. No, we didn't get glamour shots of ourselves taken among the collection. A professional photographer came in and took photographs of our sixteen Mennonite-made clocks; i.e., our Kroeger, Hildebrandt, Lepp, and Mandtler clocks. This was in conjunction with A Virtual Collection of Mennonite Clocks, a project led by the estate of Arthur Kroeger, late Mennonite clock expert. This project is a continuation of the work that began with Arthur’s book Kroeger Clocks, published in 2012 (and available in MHV's gift shop). A Virtual Collection aims to collect and compile as much information as possible about individual Mennonite clocks, starting with ones in southern Manitoba, with the goal of publishing this information online to make it "accessible to all who are interested in these iconic touchstones of Mennonite heritage." The estate of Arthur Kroeger plans to launch this website in the fall of 2017.

   Mennonite clock-making tradition goes back to 18th century Prussia. The Kroeger family in Rosenthal, in what is now Ukraine, made most of the clocks that survive today. But Peter Lepp, Gerhard Hamm, and Kornelius Hildebrand (in the Chortitza colony) and the Mandtler family (in the Molotschna Colony) made distinctive wall clocks as well.

   These clocks are an important part of Mennonite material culture. Parents often commissioned clocks as wedding gifts for their children. With regular maintenance and repair, they lasted a very long time, becoming heirlooms passed down through the generations. Despite being heavy and unwieldy, families still brought them along whenever and wherever they immigrated. There are Mennonite clocks now in Ukraine, Canada, the United States, Mexico, and South America. Even in a new country, these clocks helped make new houses feel like "home." Many people recall their loud ticking and the bell that could be heard all through the house.

   Taking part in A Virtual Collection has given MHV the opportunity to learn more about our collection of clocks, the way they work, and their individual histories. We took photographs of the clocks both with and without their faces, making visible the serial numbers and maker's marks we did not previously know about. This information will go into our database for future reference. Before this photo shoot I had no idea how to set up a Kroeger clock. Now I'm not only able to install the pendulum and weights but can also take off the hands and face, adjust chains, and recognize different functions according to weights. For example, an alarm function requires extra weights, but a calendar function does not. Opportunities like this photo shoot give us the chance to engage in detail-oriented work related to artefacts in our collection and provide important professional development for us in the Curatorial Department.

   Last, but certainly not least, our participation in A Virtual Collection will help make our clocks more accessible. Unless we have researchers using our collection for a project, public access to our collection is usually limited to exhibits. Since we do not have enough space to display all of our artefacts at one time, and constant switching of exhibits is expensive and time-consuming, we do not have the opportunity to showcase all the items in our collection. But once this website goes live, anyone with an internet connection and an interest will be able to learn everything we know about our clocks, helping us to fulfill MHV’s mission to "preserve and exhibit, for present and future generations, the experience and story of the Russian Mennonites and their contributions to Manitoba."

(Note: MHV is closed till January 9, 2017)

Village News

The Clear Springs Settlers

   *When Dominion surveyor Thomas Cheesman was laying out Township 7-6E in 1872, he found three cabins already there on uncharted bushland. One of them, perched on the bank of a small creek, belonged to Thomas and Clementina Rankin, a young Scottish couple from Ontario. Thomas had been there for three years but Clementina had just arrived as his new bride.

   Their simple cabin sat on the present-day grounds of the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, just beyond the ornamental bridge in the south-west corner of the property.

   After the survey was completed, the Rankins promptly filed for a homestead on the quarter section now known as SW11-7-6E. Technically they should not have been allowed to homestead on section 11 because it was designated as "School Lands", but they got the title in due course and lived out their lives in that spot, developing it into a prosperous farm. Within 20 years a handsome two-story house with a pillared veranda and ornamental window lintels stood next to the creek and Clydesdale horses were proudly trotted out front.

   The Rankins were not alone. About a mile north, John Jamieson, another young Scot, had also put up a cabin, and a mile and a half northeast were John and Bertha Mack with their bachelor friend Thomas Slater. The three cabins were the only buildings marked on the surveyors' maps for all eight townships in Hanover, so we can assume that they were the only permanent residents with existing buildings in that vast area at that time.

   Jamieson was a former Hudson's Bay man who came to the wilds of Assiniboia by way of the Hudson's Bay route. The Macks and Slater had come from Ontario by the American route, trekking from Moorhead by wagon. They were the first settlers to arrive in the Hanover area, a good five years before the Mennonites came.

   The three families were soon joined by dozens of other Ontario emigrants to form the vibrant Clear Springs Settlement, mostly confined to the south-east corner of township 7-6E, but spreading east and north into township 7-7E in the RM of Ste. Anne. At its height the settlement comprised about 50 families, most of them Scottish Presbyterians, with a few English Anglicans, and at least one Swedish Lutheran. Quite a few of the settlers were demobilized soldiers from Colonel Wolseley's expedition, who got their homesteads as Military Bounty Grants. 

   The Rankins had ten children but unfortunately lost their youngest son John just before his second birthday, and their youngest daughter Nellie tragically at the age of 7, during the great Hanover diphtheria epidemic of 1900.

   The unnamed creek flowing past the Rankin farm was a ready source of water and the deep loamy soil promised great crops after the hard work of clearing the poplars. In the clearings grew the tall prairie grasses, and just a few miles to the east were great stands of tamarack, pine, and spruce, ideal for construction and fencing. Water, soil, wood, and hay -- almost everything needed for the good life of a hard-working pioneer family.  Wild saskatoons, cranberries, and hazel nuts were there for the picking, and game animals were abundant. All you needed from the store was yeast, flour, salt, thread, and the occasional bolt of cloth.

   In the early years such things could be gotten at the Hudson's Bay store in Pointe des Chenes, just eight or nine miles to the north, in the Metis parish of Ste Anne. This rough village was on the famous Dawson trail, the main Canadian route from East to West, a thoroughfare for adventurers, soldiers, settlers and Metis freighters. The Pointe was one or two days of muddy travel from the big city of Winnipeg.

   With the coming of the Mennonites in 1874, the Rankins could soon do their shopping in Steinbach, where Klaas R. Reimer set up a store in 1877. This is the little white building at the Mennonite Heritage Village, now sitting within calling distance of the Rankin's place. Rankin soon realized that his farming and entrepreneurial talents matched those of the most progressive of the Mennonites and within a few years he was in the lumber and shingle-making business with Reimer himself. He also partnered with super-entrepreneur A. S. Friesen to introduce a reaping machine, which served the entire community. Other Clear Springs farmers introduced the Mennonites to threshing machines and steam engines.

   Although the original Selkirk settlers of the early 1800s had occupied the banks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, the Clear Springs settlers were the first Europeans in Manitoba to farm the unbroken land between the major rivers. Theirs was a rich land of springs and creeks, hayfields, and woodlands. The Rankins, Jamiesons, Macks and their neighbors deserve to be called pioneers extraordinaire.

*We are grateful to Alice and Ed Laing for providing much of this information.

Village News

Snow slide

 

Winter in Burwalde

   Regular readers of this column will recall that I spent the first 20 years of my life in the Burwalde School District between Winkler and Morden. The Dead Horse Creek runs through that area and was a source of great entertainment for me during those years.

   I learned interesting things about beavers as I observed them building their dams and “houses” in the creek. Whenever we needed to open their dam to allow water into our farm’s irrigation reservoir downstream, the beavers would quickly patch the dam in an effort to keep the water level above the entrance to their “house”. I also enjoyed watching families of ducks swimming in the creek on quiet spring evenings.

   In the wintertime the creek was a source of water for our cattle. Many days either my father or I would chop a hole in the ice and let the cows out of the barn to have an ice-cold drink. If the creek froze before there was a lot of snow, it became a scenic skating trail.

   The Burwalde School was also located beside the Dead Horse Creek. During the summer months, when there was running water in the creek and the Peters’ cattle were grazing in the pasture around it, we were not allowed to play in that area. But in winter when the creek was either dry or frozen and the cattle were in the barn, it became a wonderful playground. We had the most fun immediately following a storm when there was a lot of fresh snow with new drifts to capitalize on. Tunnels and snow forts were great entertainment. We also learned that snow is a very effective sound barrier. It was very unlikely that we could hear the bell signaling the end of recess if we were inside a tunnel. On occasion we would build a snow slide into the creek.

   I was reminded of those slides when I viewed the model slide gifted to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) recently. It was built by Harold Fast and illustrates a slide that was constructed annually in the 1930s and 1940s by Mr. Gus Reimer and his students at the Gruenfeld (now Kleefeld) School. Mr. Reimer’s slide was much more elaborate than ours in Burwalde. While his slide included a complete 180-degree turn in the track, which returned the slider to the starting point, ours at best had only a 90-degree turn.

   We experimented with various sliding devices and learned that the best sled was a round metal one then referred to as a flying saucer. Our six-foot-long wooden toboggan just couldn’t negotiate that 90-degree turn very well.

   Mr. Fast’s model slide is a great artifact for MHV’s collection. It may not tell a profound story of migration, suffering or settlement as many artifacts do, but it does tell a story of community and of the culture in that community during the ‘30s and ‘40s. And for those of us old enough to remember, it brings back some wonderful memories and may on occasion inspire us to tell these stories to those around us. And that’s at least in part what museums should be doing.

Village News

Museum Challenges

   Every morning I receive an email from a clipping service at the Canadian Museums Association providing me with museum-related articles from various media sources. One of this week’s articles was about the Philip J. Curry Dinosaur Museum in Northern Alberta.

   The Edmonton Journal reports that this $34 million museum, which opened to rather spectacular fanfare in September of 2015, is experiencing serious financial challenges and is looking for bailouts to allow it to continue to function. In its first year of operation, the museum earned nine museum and design awards and many press mentions. It attracted approximately 120,000 guests in that first year.

   The museum is located five hours northwest of Edmonton near Pipestone Creek, an area rich in dinosaur bones but far from major metropolitan areas. The admission fees together with a municipal government grant of $300,000 will not fund the $1.8 million annual operating budget. This is a sad story.

   A couple of years ago the Dalnavert Museum in Winnipeg had to close its doors for a period of time. We were given to understand that funding from a major source had been withdrawn, leaving the museum without the resources to operate. Happily a group of interested people stepped forward to reorganize the operation, and today Dalnavert is again functioning.

   More recently we learned that the St. Malo Museum had to close its doors this summer, due in part to a diminishing volunteer base. Most volunteer-based organizations seem to be struggling to find enough volunteers to maintain operations.

   Museums face a multitude of such challenges. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is not immune to any of them, but we are grateful for the stability that we have experienced over the years.

   One of our advantages is that we are located near a major metropolitan area, placing our museum within a comfortable driving distance for Winnipeg’s residents and visitors. During the recent FIFA World Cup tournament held in Winnipeg, we met guests from various countries at our museum. We have purchased advertising for the 2017 Canada Summer Games to be held in Winnipeg, targeting athletes as well as guests. Again, our location will serve us well.

   MHV has also diversified its operations over a period of years so that admission revenues are supplemented by food services, facility rentals and gift shop revenues. Our fundraising activities, donations and grants round out the revenue pool. So our “eggs” are in multiple “baskets.”

   We are fortunate to have a board of directors and a finance committee who carefully look at the long-term costs and benefits of capital expenditures, ensuring that the incremental impact on our future operating budget will continue to be manageable.

   Another significant benefit for MHV is our location in a community that values the presence of a world-class museum. This translates into funding and volunteer support, which are key lifelines for a museum.

Village News

VN 2016 12 1 Dyck family

   The Waldheim House, built in 1876 by Julius Dyck (1852-1909) in the former village of 
Waldheim (near Morden), is the oldest building on the grounds of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). It is currently undergoing extensive restoration to preserve it for future generations. We have been in contact with the family of Julius and Katherina (Unrau) Dyck (1853-?) over the past year, and we thought that the restoration of the house provided a perfect opportunity to meet some of these descendants and gather more information about the house's history. So on Monday, November 21, MHV Curator Andrea Dyck (no relation to Julius) and I went on a curatorial field trip to Morden.

   Our first stop was at the Kopper Kettle in Morden, where we met Alfrieda Dyck and Julie McNeice, Julius Dyck's granddaughter-in-law and great-granddaughter. They took us to the farmyard where the Waldheim House originally stood, which has been in the family since 1878. The property is currently owned and farmed by Alfrieda's son Larry and his wife Val. The only remaining trace of the log house is the concrete foundation of the barn's Owesied (lean-to), which is buried under the gravel in the driveway. From the yard, you can see the road marking what used to be the village of Waldheim, just half a mile to the east. This farm provided a start for several couples in the family who began their married lives there, including Alfrieda and her late husband, Frank Dyck (Julius and Katherina’s grandson).

   We spent the rest of the afternoon at the home of Jake (Julius and Katherine’s grandson) and Grace Dyck in Morden, where we met more of the Dyck descendants. John U. Dyck (1890-1968), the third youngest son of Julius and Katherina Dyck, inherited the farm after Julius’ death in 1909. At some point Julius, or perhaps his son John, built a larger house on the yard. This house burned down in 1935. Instead of using the insurance payment to rebuild his house, John used the money to pay off the debt on his land and moved his family into the old log house, which was still standing but serving as a machine shed, housing some blacksmithing equipment. Jake (John U. Dyck’s youngest son and Frank’s twin brother), remembers well what it was like to live in the old log house. He recalls the layout of the house (slightly different than it is now) and the place where each member of his family slept, which in some cases meant five to a bed! John and his eleven children lived there for seven years before he was able to save enough money to build another house. That house, built in 1942, is still standing and lived in today.

   Both Andrea and I had a lovely time with the Dyck family and feel incredibly privileged to have been a part of these family reminiscences. A heritage building is a very particular type of artefact, but like any other object in MHV’s collection, being able to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the object’s past helps us to share this history with our visitors.  Seeing the original location of the Waldheim House and hearing these stories about the home and the people who built and lived in it also provides a context for this history. We are excited as we watch the restoration of this significant building taking shape, which will continue next summer with the installation of a new and authentic thatched roof. We look forward to sharing that once-in-a-lifetime experience with MHV’s many guests during the 2017 summer tourist season.

Village News

Christmas at MHV

   It was a pleasure to have lunch with a small group of volunteers at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) today. Predictably Christmas became a key part of our conversation around the table. While a few had started their Christmas shopping, nobody in the group had finished. Some had already set up a Christmas tree, and at least one of those thought they might also be setting up another one. Apparently there are very narrow trees available now for those whose floor space is limited. Some individuals talked about including candles in their decorating, both real ones and those with electronic lights, while acknowledging that the former brings with it a fear that one day they might forget to blow out all those candles before going to bed. We also enjoyed conversation about some of the Christmas programs that will be available to us in the next weeks.

   In keeping with these timely conversations, today was the day we started getting our MHV Christmas decorations out of storage. The next three to four weeks will be quite busy with a variety of Christmas activities taking place in our Village Centre. On Saturday, November 26, the second annual Steinbach Christmas Market, sponsored by Canadian Gold Beverages, will take place at MHV between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you attended last year’s event, you will have an idea of what to expect. Some of last year’s vendors will again be in attendance, and there will be new ones as well. Food and craft vendors will offer products for sale in the Auditorium. Food items available will include quail eggs, perogies and baked goods from the Culinary Arts class at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School. One of the unique crafts for sale will be pedal go-carts. Village Books and Gifts will also be open, with its unique assortment of toys, books and other gift ideas. Admission is free, so bring the family.

   Our meeting rooms in the Village Centre provide excellent venues for both small and large corporate Christmas parties. Between now and the middle of December we will host many such celebratory functions. There are still a few choice spots available. Call Roger at 204-326-9661 if you’re looking for a comfortable place for your Christmas function. Our MHV Christmas trees will not have real candles on them as they did many years ago, but the atmosphere will still be warm and welcoming.

   MHV is first and foremost a museum. We are here to collect artifacts and tell stories so that our unique history will not be forgotten. But our facilities are not required every day for our programs and activities, so we are making them available to the public whenever possible. This allows us to serve our constituency while generating some additional revenue. Come and see what we have to offer.

Village News

   On an exceptionally beautiful November morning, with the sun shining and the temperature well above freezing, approximately 120 interested people gathered near the sawmill on the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) grounds. They had come for last Saturday’s official unveiling of a new cairn designed to commemorate the roles and contributions of Conscientious Objectors during World War II.

   During World War I, Mennonites had been exempt from military service as the result of an immigration agreement dating back to the 1870s. During World War II, however, Mennonites who were drafted for military service had to apply for exemptions based on religious convictions if they wished to qualify as conscientious objectors. Approximately 3,000 men from Manitoba were eventually granted Conscientious Objector (CO) status.

   Eight of these COs were present with family and friends at Saturday’s unveiling ceremony. While the audience appeared to largely be made up of people with grey hair, there was also a significant contingent of younger people – the children and grandchildren of the COs. It was very good to see the interest displayed by these various age groups.

   Noting this interest, in light of the advanced age of these COs, causes one to wonder who will tell their stories to future generations when these men are no longer able to do so. Who will record and preserve them? How might MHV play a role in ensuring that these inspiring stories are retained? We hope this monument will serve that purpose.

   Since Canada has not had conscription to military service for many years, most of the audience at Saturday’s gathering have never had to examine their belief system and make the difficult decision whether to enlist or to apply for CO status. What happens to a belief system that isn’t tested rigorously from time to time? How strong will the Mennonite commitment to pacifism remain when it isn’t called upon to help make life-altering decisions?

    This is certainly not a call for a reintroduction of conscription to military service in our country. It is simply a reminder of the role museums and archives play in retaining very significant information from our past. At MHV we collect and preserve stories through our collection of artifacts. When we are offered new contributions to the collection, we make a point of interviewing the donor to learn as much about the artifact as we can. This information becomes a part of that artifact’s record.

   Every now and then family members ask for information about an object that originated in their family and is now in our collection. We are happy to provide them with that information and to make arrangements for them to view the artifact, if they wish to. Our collection and our archives are also used to create exhibits in our public galleries. In this way the visiting public benefits from the stories as well as the artifacts in our collection.

   The mission of MHV is “to preserve and exhibit for present and future generations the experience and the story of the Russian Mennonites and their contributions to Manitoba.” If the new cairn and this reflection on the unveiling ceremony will prompt a few families to ensure that the stories of their CO family members will be recorded and preserved, then all the efforts to create the monument have been worthwhile, and MHV’s mission is unfolding as it should.

 

Village News

“Mennonites, Land and the Environment”

   It might have been my farm background that piqued my interest in this year’s Mennonite Studies Conference at the University of Winnipeg. Or maybe it was the quality of presentations that are typically delivered at this annual event, which is sponsored by the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies under the leadership of Dr. Royden Loewen, Chair of Mennonite Studies at this university. Or perhaps it was simply the opportunity to rub shoulders with historians whose company and stories I have learned to enjoy. Whatever the reasons, I had the privilege of sitting in on part of Mennonites, Land and the Environment recently.

   Given that I’m a farm boy and this was an academic conference, there were certain presentations that I engaged in more readily than others. The lecture Hutterites and Agriculture in Alberta: Past, Present and Future, presented by Simone Evans from the University of Calgary, was interesting and engaging. While it would appear that Hutterites farm vast amounts of land, it actually works out to be only about 600 acres per family unit. Their agricultural practices are contemporary, in fact leading-edge in many cases.

   Daniel Leonard from the University of Winnipeg presented a paper on Manitoba’s Voluntary Mennonite Peasant Farmers. Peasant Farmers in Canada are largely professional and business people who have moved from urban settings to small farms. They are often referred to as “back-to-the-landers.” They are typically drawn to the lifestyle offered in a rural setting and the opportunity to grow much of their own food. Their farms range in size from seven to forty acres. In their quest for sustainable practices, some of these farmers will ensure that they have only as many animals as their acreage can support, in terms of both feed production and waste disposal. If the manure from the animals is more than the farm’s acres can utilize as fertilizer, there are too many animals.

   Farmers face challenges in balancing sustainable agricultural practices with economics and the need to feed a rapidly growing world population. In past decades the agricultural industry has significantly increased food production per acre in many countries, all the while seeing good farmland taken up by urban sprawl.

   Another recurring theme in many presentations was the acknowledgement that much of our farm land was originally land occupied by First Nations people.

   Royden Loewen is currently leading a project called Seven Points on Earth, which is examining Mennonite agricultural practices in seven communities in various areas of the world. These are Manitoba, Iowa, Friesland, Java, Siberia, Zimbabwe and Bolivia. Papers addressing each area were presented at the conference, some of which will be published in the 2017 Journal of Mennonite Studies. Subscriptions for this journal are available at [email protected].

   It’s good to see Mennonites engaging in these dialogues along with the rest of society.

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by SteinbachOnline.com

Steinbachonline.com is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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