Agricultural Hall of Fame: Selma Maendel

Four Manitobans were inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Portage la Prairie July 14. Over the next few weeks, we’re featuring each one with their citations

Selma Maendel was the eighth daughter of Sarah (nee Wurtz) and Peter Maendel of Fairholme Hutterite Colony. Selma has been described as a staunchly proud member of the Hutterite community who exhibited all of the qualities often associated with this background — those being unique, distinctive, industrious, humble, caring, deeply religious and very private.

Selma has been noted to combine these traditional characteristics with an enhanced leadership style, respectful nature, courage of conviction, tolerance of others and inquisitiveness, which made her stand out and allowed her influence to extend well beyond the borders of colony life. It was Selma’s hard work and determination that contributed to the colony and, as most are aware, it is these colonies that have contributed extensively to the agricultural industry in our province.

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As a research collaborator, Selma worked with a number of medical industry professionals in order to further understand the genetic basis for many of the disorders seen in Hutterite children and adults. Selma arranged for students on the colony to visit the University of Manitoba to see first hand how genetic research was conducted and championed. Town hall meetings were held within her community in order to ensure Hutterite families would receive the latest information about medical issues that affect them. She travelled widely to speak at public forums including a conference in Ottawa on ethics in research to tout the fact that knowledge, even in the most controversial of topics, was empowering and the best way to achieve understanding between people. And in many circumstances, Selma knew the power of working together to move forward in this world.

Selma’s astute computer skills and organizational skills proved extremely beneficial in two major projects. Noticing that a lack of software for farmers was hampering productivity, the development of Selma’s Farm History Manager software program for recording and maintaining crop records was made commercially available to all farmers in many agricultural communities.

And Selma’s technical skills came into play again during a schizophrenia research project conducted by the University of Pittsburgh. Selma had documented highly complex Hutterite genealogies that assisted researchers greatly in their conclusions that this community had lower rates of schizophrenia and other related illnesses than the local populations. These results, co-authored by Selma, appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry and are cited in various psychiatric textbooks. Selma has been praised for her contribution to substantially important scientific discoveries that have had a lasting, international impact.

Selma was instrumental in providing a look inside the colony by penning articles published by the Manitoba Co-operator and Farmers’ Independent Weekly. Her articles took readers through many aspects of Hutterite life on the colony and in rural Manitoba, thus opening a window on the Hutterite community and its contribution to agriculture in the province.

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