Farm Work

Abe J. Sawatzky was another CO who could have asked for a delay in military service for agricultural reasons. He was newly married with a newborn son. Without him, the farm would not be able to produce crops. Instead, he became a CO.  

“Through much prayer and complete obedience to the Holy Spirit, I had complete peace of mind, but I did experience some misunderstanding in the neighborhood. I found out later that 2 men had phoned Regina and complained about me being a CO, but I knew nothing of this at the time.” [MHC, 1015-18]

Peter J. Janzen could understand how others might feel towards him. For this reason, he made an effort to reach out to others. 

“I not only helped out on my father's farm during this time, but also helped in doing chores for neighbors whose son was in the armed service.” [MHC, 1015-49]

COs usually did farm work by themselves or with a few other COs. It was nothing like the large CO gatherings in the forestry camps of BC. Being alone and without support was perhaps more lonely, but farm work had its advantages. One CO appreciated that he was able to use his agricultural skills instead of being isolated in the woods.

“The fellowship in camp was a very good experience but our work in the bush we felt was not of very much value if we could of worked in the hospital or some other form of work we would of felt much better. In the bush we felt we were just hidden from the eyes of the public. On the farm later our work was of good value because the farm owners were happy with us because were experienced farm men and worked conscientiously.” [MHC, 1015-60]

John Friesen was assigned to work on a farm in Manitoba. 

“My employer (a dairy farmer from Germany ) was a Roman Catholic. He seemed to be satisfied with my work. My employer had another CO with whom he was not so happy. I helped remodel my employer's house and was also sent to help build a RC Church. At this project I met other RC farmers and their workers as this was a do-it-yourself church building job for the German RCs of the district. I cannot recall that I did any spectacular witnessing regarding my CO stand. It seems that no one ever asked me about it. I was never jeered for my CO status (as others seem to have been). Today I feel that I should have witnessed more.”

While Friesen may not feel that he should have been more outspoken, his quiet example seems to have been enough.

“My employer came to realize that even Mennonite COs were not all the same. My employer felt that his other CO was lazy. I feel that I convinced him that there were also eager workers. My employer's wife must have been favorably impressed with my religious life, because she at times would remind her husband that he did not always say grace before meals but that I never forgot to do so.” [MHC, 1015-38]

David R. Schellenberg also made a good impression on his boss. Schellenberg had initially done CO service for the Arctic Ice Company in Winnipeg before moving to a farm.

“I was about 2 years on a farm at Hazelridge. The boss had 3 brothers in uniform. They all came back while I was there. They all thought I had a right to my ideas and we were good friends. I was treated as if I was a member of the family. I got $25 a month and $25 went to the Red Cross. For Christmas the boss gave me a Fifty Dollar Victory Bond. I was there for 2 Christmases.”


“When I left the farm I had to report back to the CO office which was in the Paris Bldg. The judge said that my boss had sent in a very good report from me, which he didn't have to do.” [MHC, 1015-13]