Amish in Manitoba – A Closer Look

“My way of thinking is keeping it in the centre is the right path. One extreme is as bad as the other.” That’s Amishman Chris Hershberger, in a new CBC story on the Amish in Manitoba.

This summer reader Urs Christen shared a look at the first Amish community in the province. Manitoba had just become the fourth Canadian province with an Amish population, joining recent additions Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Manitoba Amish buggies. Photo by Urs Christen

Amish have in the past several years expanded beyond Ontario, which had been the only province where they were found for (almost) all of their nearly two centuries in Canada.

The CBC article on the Keystone Province community includes comments from Amish, as well as the response of locals to the Amish settling there.

The main Amish contributor here is 30-year-old Edward Miller, who shares why and how they came. The story is a familiar one:

Back in his parent’s community near London, Ont., most of the families made a living making various products to sell, but Miller wanted a different life.

“We kind of thought it was good for the young people to work on a farm, because in a shop, the father isn’t at home as much with the children,” he said. “If the children want to be out there [in the fields] with Dad, that seems to work good.”

The land Miller and the other Amish purchased has never been farmed, so they have spent the past summer weeding, clearing brush and pulling out boulders, all without the aid of machines.

Miller’s parents wanted his family to stay in Ontario, but he says land prices made purchasing a farm impossible.

“They weren’t really too happy. We didn’t really want to [move away], but there was no way we could farm back there. Any farm would cost you a million dollars.”

The families live on properties scattered over about 10 square kilometres. They started looking for property in the area about two years ago, when Penner said a group of Amish showed up on his doorstep.

Penner is Edward Penner, local municipality councillor, who helped the Amish to move to the area.

The article includes a nice handful of photos from the settlement, and as you might suppose from Chris Hershberger’s quote above this is not the plainest of Amish groups but likely somewhere in the center/centre, as they use the SMV safety triangle, and implements like the refrigerator and freezer.

The piece also draws a distinction between the Amish and Old Order Mennonites. Old Order (or “Team”) Mennonites actually outnumber the Amish in Canada.

In fact, a Canadian friend recently related a humorous story to me about how Amish are called Mennonites in Ontario. Both groups dress plainly (though differently) and use horse-drawn buggies, so people mixing them up is not uncommon.

The locals seem to have been welcoming, and overall like having the Amish around, despite some complaints about horse manure on the roads. The story opens with an image of locals crowding to windows to catch sight of passing buggies.

They also put up buggy warning signs well in advance of the first Amish arrivals, and installed hitching posts in the town of Vita. Edward Miller says all the people they’ve met in town “were good as pie.”

I visited a settlement in New York last week where this was the case as well – signs up before the Amish had even gotten there. That’s a good sign, pun intended.

An upstate NY welcome

Here’s one last detail I found interesting, on how Edward plans to deal with the frigid winter season:

Before then, the families already here will have to survive their first winter on the Prairies. By placing their water tank in the loft above their chickens, Miller hopes their body heat combined with the force of gravity will keep their water from freezing.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen when it goes down to minus 40,” he said.

I get the chickens, but does the force of gravity help prevent freezing?

Read it in full here.

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    1. Patrick J.

      Livestock waterer

      With regards to the water tank, I believe they are referring to a “livestock waterer” or in this case a “chicken waterer”. Basically, a large tank or barrel is filled with water and has a hose attached, at the end of the hose is a bowl or trough that holds enough water to create enough pressure to hold back the water pressure in the hose. As the livestock drinks the water it reduces the pressure allowing more water to enter the bowl. Moving water won’t freeze, so the thought process is that the combination of heat from the livestock and the action of them drinking prevents the water from freezing.

      1. Thanks for the explanation of the chicken waterer Patrick. I did not think of the movement created by them drinking. So it’s more about the fact that the water is agitated than gravity itself, which would seem to be in effect at ground level as well.

    2. Alice Mary


      I am always very interested in hearing about Amish branching out beyond their home communities in order to start new ones. I consider them modern day pioneers. They have to be brave. I find it interesting that this group is actually attempting to go back to farming, as Amish were known to do until farmland started to disappear. I wish them luck and prosperity in their new Canadian settlement.

      1. Amish settling in distant places

        I agree with that Alice Mary. These guys are really quite far from the Ontario Amish communities, but within a couple hours of Amish in northern Minnesota at least. There is something of the pioneer spirit to being the first in an area. I imagine they’ll get their share of curious visitors in the coming years.

        But as far as distance goes this group really doesn’t compare with the folks who tried to settle all the way over in British Columbia in the late 1960s. That community didn’t last long as they were over 2,000 miles away from their home communities.

    3. Tim

      Very interesting! I live in North Eastern ND and within a hours drive to our the closest Amish community in NW MN, although I have never ventured that way. We are also just south of Manitoba.
      I agree with Mary Alice that they are like modern day pioneers.

      Thank you for posting. Looking for to learning more about this new settlement.