Spokane Hutterian Brotherhood History
In 1960 a group of Hutterites, whose roots date back to the early 16th Century Switzerland, moved to the outskirts of Spokane, Washington, where today the work, dress, and play much as their ancestors did over 400 years ago. Originally settled in Pincher Creek, Alberta the colony quickly prospered and was formed to undergo a “split”. In 1956, under the leadership of the Reverend Paul Gross, his family and the family of Elias Wollman eventually established a new experimental enterprise near Ritzville Wa.. Desiring obtain more dryland farming land the Bretheren purchased several tracts of land from Alvin P. Brende in the Deep Creek area west of Spokane and eventually branched out to that location. There they established and operated a successful Dairy operation until 1998.
Ed Gross with sons Eli and Conrad and grandsons Jeremiah and Colin
Living in communes of usually not more that 150 people, the Hutterites typically practice dryland agriculture on a large scale. Hutterite communities or “colonies”, strive for complete self-sufficiency; they raise virtually everything they need for their sustenance, buying only what they cannot produce on their own land (notably coffee, tea, sugar, salt, light bulbs, chemicals, etc.). Though dressing and living by the guidelines hundreds of years old, the Hutterites, paradoxically, in the acquisition of the most modern farming technology – a practice that allows them to conduct extremely successful agrarian operations.
In 1999, under the guidance of Livestock Manager Edward Gross, the Deep Creek Colony entered the purebred Angus cattle business. Edward bought their first heard of 37 head of Angus cattle from a Connie Beck out of Micah Washington. Along with sons Eli and Conrad Gross, Edward began purchasing genetics from well established purebred Angus breeders such as VanDykes, Vermillion, and other companies. The Brotherhood currently runs approx 160 purebred Angus cattle and would like to eventually grow that to about 300 head. They also raise approx 450 cows on their commercial side of the cattle operation. Commercial Cattle are grazed in the winter on approx. 15,000 acres of land south of Sprague Wa., and head to summer on pasture land near Tyler, Wa.. The purebred herd is maintained on the colony land at its Deep Creek/Espanola location.
Around the end of December each year the purebred heard is driven from the summer/fall pasture at Espanola to the Deep Creek operations area to prepare for calving. The feed lot in Deep Creek is NHTC certified which certifies they use no hormones in the herd. In the early spring the calves are all tagged, vaccinated and branded. The branding is done in traditional fashions with much of the community helping out. This is an annual event that allows one generation to teach the new generation the traditional methods of branding and handling of cattle. Some of the youngsters are started out on riding horses at a young age and are groomed to carry on the cattle operations. Around June, the commercial heard is tagged and branded down on the land south of Sprague Wa., and eventually moved to summer grazing near Tyler.
Ed Gross lists their biggest challenge as being able to keep the newborn calves healthy until they are weaned. The operations uses the most reliable and effective vaccination methods for their calves and take extra care to provide bedding and other ground cover to mitigate the effects of dust on the cattle.
Although the community is steeped in many generations of tradition, they utilize the latest in technology and science in raising their Angus herds. Much of the use of modern equipment, medicines and scanning technology is not only geared towards efficient operations but also, more importantly, towards cattle health and safety. This results in a much higher quality of beef product for their customers.