Sunday, March 22, 2009

Farms and Barns in Mennonite Country


My husband and I drove north of the city on Saturday to get maple syrup from a local farm and to buy some fresh citrus fruit that had just been trucked from Florida to the Orange Barn in Millbank. From Elmira to Millbank is Old Order Mennonite country and travelling the roads is a trip back in time in many ways. Wide shoulders along the highways are for horse and buggy travellers and they are frequently seen. Tidy mixed farms with large farmhouses and gardens feature colourful barns and outbuildings that brighten the dull March landscape.

Several farmers were spreading manure on their fields with horse drawn spreaders and curls of smoke from sugar shacks could be seen rising from many woodlots. We had hoped to see some maple sap collected but the temperatures were well below freezing in the morning so not much was running today. School aged children wrapped in blankets sat at the end of laneways beside small tables which displayed maple syrup, maple candies and maple butter for sale.

Earlier this week a fire destroyed a furniture business on an Old Order Mennonite farm in this area. No one was injured and no livestock was lost, but damage was estimated at $150, 000 dollars.

Pictures and text from The Record

These pictures were in our local newspaper and the destruction of the building was complete. The Mennonite community moves quickly to help a neighbour rebuild after such a loss. We passed the farm and dozens of buggies were parked at farms on both sides of the road.

A large new foundation had been dug and the new building was well under construction only two days after the fire. Some motorized construction equipment had been hired for the excavation. We were there just before noon and the men were taking a break for lunch which was being served at the farm across the road. I hope to go back early in the week to see what progress has been made.


The Mennonites have a strong social network with support and provision for members in the event of illness or other loss. They will also come along side neighbours who are not of their faith who have had a barn fire and rebuild for them in the same way. Many of them do not enrol in our public health care system and if hospitalization is needed, the $1000 and day bill is covered by their community.

There are many other generous people in our world who are quick to help out when they hear of a need. But it is easier to give money than to leave your own work at a busy time of year to help a neighbour. With these Mennonites, many hands finish the job quickly and everyone is back to their own business in record time.

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24 comments:

  1. There is something to be said for a strong supportive community. And crisis tends to pull people together.

    Nice post.

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  2. Mexico Mom12:24 am GMT-4

    What wonderful memories these pictures conjured in my mind! I remember how our family of 7 while visiting a Mennonite Church in Hawkesville had 4 invitations to Easter dinner 10 minutes after entering the church. We went on to spend 4 memorable years with these kind and friendly people, including evenings in March in their sugar shacks mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm------

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  3. How neat that they support one another in community so well. I love your photos Ruth.

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  4. They are a fascinating subculture. I didn't know that being in public health was optional.

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  5. Very interesting to hear about the Mennonites and leaarn something about their way of life.

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  6. Thank you for this lovely post. The pictures are beautiful and it has been interesting learning a little about their culture.
    Smiles

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  7. We should all take a lesson from the Mennonites. We do need to do more than throw money at social problems. Nice post and great photographs.

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  8. Community ... so lacking in our "modern" world!

    I love that first picture. Reminds me of my Mom's stories of her girlhood.

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  9. Very nice post. I don't know much about the Mennonites...and I guess i put them and the Quakers in the same kind of Category..
    Religious and determined to live simply...
    we could all learn a few lessons from them. I suppose some of it may be a bit to extreme in todays society..but the living simply and helping each other in need works for me.

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  10. So nice to see the "old ways" - love the photo of the sugar smoke, too.

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  11. Being a mennonite myself,although not of the old order,I can see where we have lost some of our heritage through modernization.I can remember some of the 'community'that used to exsist but now it is every man for himself in most cases.I agree that it is so much easier to give money than to go and do the work.
    Blessings,Ruth

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  12. Fascinating!! I love hearing about Mennonite and Amish living.

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  13. I love when you do these posts, Ruth! Fabulous pictures and tribute to this community.

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  14. I always enjoy your posts about the Mennonite people. I like hearing how others live. And it does look like they live in "bygone times." I did not know they pay for their medical care.

    They have a strong supportive community that I respect.
    I hope you got your maple syrup and citrus fruit!

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  15. The pictures are great. good write up, also.

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  16. It's valencia season down here in Florida. Honeybells are still around, but they are the last of the crop. Valencias are our workhorse orange: they are the primary one used for juicing.

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  17. On the many times I travel to and from Listowel I go off the main highway just so I can drive through Mennonite country. I find their lives very fascinating. They have a very strong community and us "modern" day people could learn many wonderful, life-fulfilling lessons from them. I remember the produce stand on highway 86 was ripped down by a tornado a few years back. It was cleaned up, a bigger stand (more of a store)built and they were back in business in less then week. Truly amazing!!!

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  18. They are an amazing bunch. These are wonderful shots.

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  19. Always nice to see how things were done in the old days.

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  20. This would put a lot of areas and people to shame these days, people pulling together for the greater good. Great post.

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  21. The old system of a working bee is
    great for drawing the community together and finishing the jon in record time to get everyone back to their daily tasks with a sense of satisfaction in having helped out a neighbour.

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  22. A very interesting way of life! And very different, but there are advantages of living in community!

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  23. i think we could learn a lot from the mennoite community. lending a hand is not that much when someone is in need.

    thanks for a great post and photos.

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  24. It's amazing how fire can destroy everything in a few minutes. Great post, Ruth.

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