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Gracevale Colony Spins Off New Hutterite Settlement in NE Lake County

Small-town South Dakota may be struggling to prosper, but our Hutterite neighbors aren't. On Tuesday, the Lake County Commission approved a new Hutterite colony in the northeast quadrant of our county:

Gary Hofer said the colony is a branch off of Gracevale Colony, also located in Lake county. Hofer said that when a colony gets too big, they branch off into another one. He said that 60-to-70 members will move there to begin, but will be set up to accommodate approximately 160 people [Sue Bergheim, "New Colony to Be Built in Lake County," KJAM, 2013.07.17].

The Gracevale Colony certainly hasn't grown to its splitting point with a clever marketing scheme of signs, banners, and promotional videos. But the colony does follow one key part of the South Dakota economic playbook: relying on government interference in the free market. Over the past 17 years, the Gracevale Hutterian Brethren, Inc., have received $2.66 million in federal farm subsidies. That's still less than the farm welfare checks of Congresswoman Kristi Noem's family, but it's enough to make them the 20th-biggest recipients of USDA largesse in South Dakota. Well done, brothers!


  1. Charlie Johnson 2013.07.20

    Individual families at the colonies still receive reduced price school meals, head start provided on site, and in some cases food stamps. The mother corporation owns all the land and assets. The individual families receive little in income and thus qualify for assistance. If anybody has evidence or facts to the contrary, I stand to be corrected.

  2. John 2013.07.20

    CJ, that's more likely than not the case; yet any farm could do that because with rare exceptions there are few family farms but are almost all corporate farms. The Hutterites are largely successful because they organize using a socialism economic and political model as opposed to a selfish capitalist model. By supporting the farm, their community, spurning most private ownership, then their families and individuals thrive to then grow new colonies. The 'what's in it for me' capitalist rural economic model leads to few 'winners' which drives folks away from farms, small schools, and small towns. Now we have counties without grocery stores whilst the well-intentioned but befuddled government spends hundreds of thousands in a vain attempt to attract a handful of lawyers to these new, growing frontiers. Go figure.

  3. Owen Reitzel 2013.07.20

    My wife has taught at a colony and she didn't know about food stamps but they do get WIC. They do qualify for reduced lunches but the colony my wife taught at didn't participate because of all the regulations involved-like raw milk and so on.
    they do have head-start on site but that's better then busing them to town school, which the colony wouldn't do anyway.
    They do pay property taxes and they do receive government aid. I'd put them with the other large producers.
    And they vote. Any candidate that runs for county wide office had better get the colony vote or they won't win.
    At the end of the day though they are good people. They've treated my wife great over the years.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.20

    The Hutterites do indeed pay property tax. Consulting the Lake County property tax database (every county should have this data online), I find 88 records under "Gracevale Hutterian Brethren," in townships all around the county, paying on the order of tens of thousands of dollars in property tax.

  5. Joan 2013.07.20

    Many years ago, when my baby sister was born in Madison, my mother had a woman from Graceville for a room mate, and she told my Mom, that when the day came for her to be dismissed, the head of the colony would come in and pay her entire bill. I have a niece that has taught in a colony in the Langford area for several years and we don't discuss it much. I do know they treat her real well, as far as things they give her for Christmas gifts. The one thing I really remember is one year they gave her a pair of goose down pillows and comforter, plus meat, and canned goods. When her kids were babies the women in the colony were always making them colony style clothes. I guess the little girl looked cute in the little dresses. I knew about the WIC and I have heard through the grapevine that they get the Senior Citizen Commodities that are available in SD. All in all I find all of this kind of hard to swallow, being the colonies are supposed to be so self-sufficient. I kind of look at it like this instead of spending money on the really fancy vehicles(I have seen them driving things like Lincolns and Caddies) in various towns, maybe they should distribute the money more evenly among the families. I also guess as long as they are paying taxes, that does put a different spin on things. The lady that was in the same room as my mother invited her to bring her family to the colony to visit some time, but at the ripe old age of 10, I was the only member in a family of six that wanted to to do that. I am the oldest of four and apparently that didn't carry any weight with the rest of the family. I would still like to do that, but have never found anybody that wanted to go with me, and anymore I don't have enough energy if I did find somebody that wanted to do something interesting like that.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.20

    Joan, elaborate on how the Hutterites' status as taxpayers puts a different spin on things. I pay taxes, but Uncle Sam hasn't handed me $2.6 million to help me sustain my business activities. (Actually, since 1995, you taxpayers have paid me more than $400K... but that's been my regular paycheck for educational services rendered.)

  7. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont 2013.07.20

    On a side note, I've heard through the people I know in the home birth circles in SD that Hutterite children are mostly born at home. I would love to know if others know if they are using hospitals now, because I have been told wrong if that's the case.

    I've also heard that Hutterite farmers were some of the first to successfully use hydroponics commercially. Isn't it alarming at how little we know about these neighbors? I do know the ones that came to FFA contests West River always did better than the rest of us back in high school.

  8. Carl Fahrenwald 2013.07.21

    "At the end of the day though they are good people." Well of course, and well said, Owen Reitzel. Cory, the federal subsidy issue is a bunny trail to where? What is the point of stirring this up ? All indications are they play by the rules. Their social structure and lifestyle traditions are huge factors that seem to further magnify their success, but good old fashioned hard work is behind it all. Our Rutland farm families understand this, "Reinicke said that all of the adjoining landowners signed off on the colony’s permit application and there was no opposition to it." This new colony will be located within the Rutland School District. The Camridge Colony will be a most welcome
    addition to our growing school community. Rutland Super

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.21

    The point, Carl, is to offer yet another example of economic success founded on government assistance. The Hutterites prove they can thrive under their socialist model. Gracevale is growing and expanding thanks to their rigorous practice of socialism and with the assistance of the outsiders' strands of social welfare, even as their free-market neighbors struggle to make their towns grow. Their socialism apparently hasn't tamped down their commitment to hard work. That's worth understanding whenever anyone in South Dakota screams about the evils of socialism.

    I am curious: given that you've got to have the Hutterite vote to win a local election, does anyone have a sense of how the Hutterite leaders prioritize fiscal issues and social issues on the ballot? Suppose they had a Republican fundamentalist breathing fire about banning abortion and getting rid of farm subsidies against a Democrat rejecting abortion bans and advocating a vigorous farm safety net. If those were the only differences, which candidate would the Hutterite leader tell his people to vote for?

  10. Joan 2013.07.21

    Cory, I guess the different spin that I put on things, was that when I thought they weren't paying taxes, I couldn't understand why they should get help, with food stamps, WIC, etc. I have known about the WIC since the late nineties, but just found out about the food stamps on this site. I know I do get government help, as a senior citizen, but it will never come to a 10th of what the wealthy farmers, Hutterites, etc. receive. I guess being they claim to be so self sufficient they should be refusing any type of government assistance. Anyway to me that is what being self sufficient amounts to. I also had to laugh several years ago I was in a grocery store and there were several Hutterite women buying a few groceries but what struck me as funny was that they were buying cases of angle food cake mixes, and I had always just figured they believed in doing everything from scratch. Live and learn.

  11. Joan 2013.07.21

    Tasiyognunpa, I hope I spelled that right. At the time that my late mother had a Hutterite woman as a room mate in the maternity ward of the Madison Hospital, was about 1950. I'm 73 now, and I'm 10 years older than that particular sister.

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