January is Potato Conference month for us: National, Idaho, Washington and Oregon are the primary ones my Hubby attends. This week was the Washington and Oregon Potato Conference in the TriCities. Evergreen Implement’s Potato Central, along with industry vendors attend this three-day opportunity to visit with customers who attend workshops to update certifications, hear about the most current concerns, trends and technology as well as kibitz about the economics of the potato industry. There is a ‘Ladies Program’ that took a group of us to the Stanfield Hutterite Colony (Stanfield Hutterian Brethren; SHB) outside of Stanfield, Oregon (aerial photo) (about an hour from the convention site); a friend and I enjoyed our day visiting this Colony.
As a religious agricultural community with traditional values attempting to be as self-sufficient as possible they are commendable. I have had the privilege of visiting other colonies in Washington as I tagged along with my Hubby, but this time the men were attending the Potato Conference, so it was mostly women and children to host us. They fed us, showed us around their buildings and grounds, and explained their lifestyle with great joy and pride. There is a commercial kitchen most of us would love to spend a day or two working in just to experience it; when you are cooking for 65 people every day you don’t use a recipe geared to single-family meals. Look at the size of this kitchen, the appliances and imagine the meals they make!
There is a separate room for bread baking and noodle making, a room the size of my small bathroom to store spices and basic dry cooking ingredients; then there is a larger pantry, a walk-in cooler and two walk-in freezers just for storage of everyday items. Out at the dairy and chicken barns there is a two-car garage sized cooler that acts as their root cellar. Scale is everything! My kitchen would fit six times in the work room where butter making, canning and butchering take place. There is a home-made machine to clean massive amounts of vegetables at a time and a commercial machine for peeling vegetables. Our hand-held peelers just wouldn’t due here. They raise their own animals: Leghorn chickens (remember Foghorn Leghorn?), turkeys, Wagyu beef cattle and Jersey cows for milk. There are also pigs for meat and horses for working the smaller gardens as I understand it. Are you ready to work with them for a day or two yet?
The dining hall where two columns of cafeteria tables parallel each other, one side for the men and one for the women. We ate our lunch of home-grown vegetable salads, taco soup, perfectly grilled chicken and cheese sandwiches, and dessert of spiced apple pie with ice cream. Delicious! Even with my food allergies and sensitivities I have no problem eating most of this food; that itself is a wonderful treat. Did you notice the beautiful woodwork? The colonies pride themselves on their excellent woodworking skills. They build their buildings themselves (for the most part, contractors do have to do some specialty stuff) and furnish them with as much Colony-made material as possible. The townhouse-style homes are simply lovely and beautifully appointed with hickory cabinets, maple doors and frames, as well as bed frames, benches, tables and stools. The rolling pins they use are all hand made; we were each gifted a rolling pin and hanger of maple and walnut. I am eager to find a suitable home for mine now.
The church and school house are in the same building, all appointed with minimal ornamentation (except the lovely woodwork). The elementary grades are on one side of the large school room and middle and high school grades on the other side. Computer based curriculum for academic and religious education (A-Beka Academy) enable the two teachers and their aids to give one-on-one attention to all students and still keep up with the planning and correcting of lessons as well as PE and special programs. Low German is the common dialect spoken daily. Church services and prayers before and after meals are conducted in High German, so young children are taught English and both German dialects. They are given opportunities to participate in various chores, observe others and eventually, as they mature, they are encouraged to pursue a colony job that will suit their talents and temperament. Although men are the primary farmers of the commercial ground, the women participate in both planting and harvest as all hands are needed for a short time each season. Women plant, tend and harvest the gardens, preserve, cook, make soap, do the finishing work on the wood pieces and maintain the buildings and grounds. (In Ephrata, while I was working the Farmers Market at the Master Gardeners table, the Marlin Hutterite Colony women had a larger table where they sold fresh bread, rolls, sweet breads and cakes. I am sure this was additional work, but the benefits must have been substantial as they were there each year throughout the season.)
When we returned to the Potato Conference all of us were treated to glasses of Mercer Estates Wines; my choice was the Reserve 2011 Ode to Brothers Rhone Blend (GSM). Mercer farms potatoes as well as grapes and make their own delicious wines; their generosity was very appreciated. As an aperitif before our big Washington Potato Foundation Leadership Banquet it hit the spot. It was a very eventful week, yet my exposure to a relaxed day in the lives of the Stanfield Hutterian women makes me aware of how much I can take for granted each day. Hope you enjoyed this vicarious visit with such neat people.