July 29, 2011; Source: Dickinson Press | Social enterprises and the multiple skill sets they require can be a challenge for nonprofits to sustain. Monks at the Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota can tell that story firsthand. For over a hundred years, the monks have operated a diversified working ranch that has substantially contributed to the Abbey’s self-sufficiency. The operation used to be one of the largest in the county, but as farm technology changed it became hard to keep up.
Currently, two monks care for the ranch’s 260 cows, and one of the monks is an apprentice. The other, Brother Placid Gross, 76, has tended the herd for fifty-one years, but soon he’ll have more time for other monkish pursuits. The cows are being sold and the land will be rented to other ranchers because it’s just too difficult to find ageless monks who also happen to have wrangling skills.—Kathi Jaworski