Amish agriculture - could it be more efficient with more tech and less Amish rules?

AFAIK Amish don’t own and/or operate farm machinery to run their farms. So, suppose they just cannot do it and stay on the right side of the tradition.

Question one. Could an Amish farmer just hire a guy with a tractor to do the plowing and the reaping and hence be able to, well, work with a bigger farm, I guess?

Question two. If no, Amish farmers cannot hire technology for this purpose, could he instead get a job (part time or otherwise) as a manager on a more mechanized farm where equipment is owned and operated by non-Amish? So maybe he would be really the brains of the operation and so forth, but formally he is just an employee and the technology is used and maintained by the worldly heathens who don’t care? Plus, he probably couldn’t maintain it himself anyway, lacking experience, so this appears to be natural synthesis of skills - his farmer’s skills and the tractor mechanic’s technology skills.

Amana Corporation

The Amish are not against technology per se. Their guiding principle is that they’re supposed to live a life that fosters a sense of community. They feel technology would divide them into those who have it and those who don’t.

Hiring employees to work on the farm in order to expand or getting a job in a modernized farm would also appear to seperate the individual from the Amish community and therefore would probably also be prohibited.

The Amish and other Pennsylvania Dutch (including Mennonite and the many flavors of Brethren) can and do operate machinery on their farms. They also use insecticide, in frightening quantity.

I understand their guiding principles to be more aimed at avoiding persistent and lasting ties to the English (that is, the rest of us). So, for instance, owning rubber tired automobiles and telephones are both most useful within a larger environment than their neighborhoods, but borrowing them is not. Having occasional access to a neighbor’s phone usually does not imply that your teenagers are getting calls from classmates every evening. Working for a company outside the community is probably much frowned upon, though groups of PD will hire themselves out (for example in construction) and work together.

What exactly is permitted varies between groups, and I’m not sure where rubber tired tractors fit in all this. There are also steel-tired tractors for those groups that won’t allow the rubber.

Actually, they do. What type, and what it runs on, is limited by which Amish group they belong to but they do most certainly use farm machinery. Also occasionally have Gruesome Farm Machinery Accidents with it, just like “English” farmers.

Probably not. You see, the Amish aren’t driven to extract the maximum possible money from their lands. They do value money, of course, but it’s not the only thing they value. You are starting with the assumption they want to be more efficient - whatever “efficient” means. I question if that assumption is valid in all cases (the Amish do vary considerably amongst themselves, just like everyone else).

Amish do seek employment in the “English” world even if their cultural ideal is to be farmers. When employed they are permitted to use any and all technology required by that employment, including things like telephones and computers and stuff like that, at least the Amish I’ve met are from groups with such rules. So Amish Dude might work in a call center, on a phone all day, using a computer then go home to kerosene lanterns and a wood stove. It’s probably not the sort of employment an Amish would seek out as a first choice but certainly if they wound up needing to do that to feed, house, and cloth their family they would. Likewise, they can use any and all medical technology required to sustain life, such as motorized wheelchairs for the severely disabled. They reject technology not simply because it’s technology but because of the effect they believe it would have on their community, which they hold to be a higher good than mere personal convenience.

I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here, but the Amana Society and the Amish are two completely different groups.

Would a better example have been Scotty trailers and campers? I believe they were and may still be owned by what most would consider an Amish family - at least one of the camper companies was at one time. (I met a family member ages aback - like 30 years or so. He was proud of the company and the product but refused to stay in one himself on “religious grounds”)

(Sometimes “religious grounds” is code for “it would take too long to explain to you English and it would just frustrate us both”.)
Talking “Amish” is almost like talking “New Yorker” or “Native American”. There is a wealth of different flavors under that lid. I know some who make the folks in the movie “Village” (not about Amish culture but one I figure folks know) look like Bill Gates and some who aren’t that different from you an I except in sense of community and a willingness to adhere to those community standards. I have sometimes been “hired” by Amish to do things they prefer not to do themselves and I have known them to allow themselves to be hired to work on things like rollercoasters and the like. Depends on the place, the parson and the people in his community.

Very well said.

The Amish in my grandparents’ community are pretty well “industrialized.” They can use gas to power their tools but not electricity. The guy across the street was a dairy farmer before he left the Amish. No way they were milking all those cows by hand. They were all hooked up to milkers. And while he didn’t have a tractor for his field, he made short work of things with his work horses and children.

There are also a lot of chicken farms in my grandparents’ neck of the woods. I can’t imagine, other than fancy heat systems, that there’s much to do in the way of modernizing a chicken farm.

The Amish aren’t trying to fill all the grocery shelves with their farms. They’re trying to feed their families and make a little profit to buy the things they can’t grow or trade for. They are not trying to be rich, just pious.

The Amish embrace a lot of technology. They even use electricity, they just don’t bring it into their homes. NPR ran a piece a few years back on how many Amish used cell phones, and recharged them by plugging them into the outlets on power poles near their homes.

I also learned that Amish people roller-blade.

This gave me the image of an Amish man, all in black, with a big beard, roller-blading down the road, talking on his cell phone. Or even texting.

The question “Could the Amish be more efficient with more technology and fewer rules?” is a little like asking, “Would devout Catholic couples have fewer children if they used birth control?” Sure. But the “rules” are what define Catholicism or Anabaptism or any other belief system.

What is permitted or rejected is determined by the bishops in the community. And as kopek and ZipperJJ noted, it has more to do with maintaining a community apart rather than an outright rejection of all technology. So, one family with a phone that can be used to call 911 is generally OK. While our Walmart has a hitching rail in the parking lot, there are also the Yoder Toters (very un-PC, but the term cracks me up) – a 15-passenger van full of Amish people, driven by an Englishman to places like Walmart. Think about the difference between riding in a mass transport motor vehicle and owning a car in terms of what holds a community of faith together and what makes it easy for outside influences to enter.

QtM, I’ve seen them on roller blades and bicycles. When I lived on the other side of Ohio’s Amish country (Geauga County, as opposed to Wayne/Holmes Counties), there was a rash of robberies – CD players being stolen out of buggies. Until young men join the church, they aren’t bound by church rules. There are buggy DUIs. Mostly, the driver falls asleep and the horse knows the way home, but this sometimes has disastrous consequences.

BTW, the Wiki article on the Amish is pretty thorough.

Re: insecticide. Really? I’m not arguing with you; I’m just shocked. We have Mennonite (fairly strict, prayer bonnets, drive cars but only in dark colors) and Amish (horse and buggies) farms, shops, and roadside stands in our parts, and my understanding is that they use organic methods in farming. As in, “Lovely neighbors, but I really hate the turkey shit fertilizer when the wind is blowing from that direction.” The shops I have been in only sell diatomacetos earth for insect control. Wait, maybe it’s a huge joke on us English, and the back storeroom is full of bootleg DDT and turkey dung is just a cover…:smack:


Sorry…I live in Lancaster, PA. I’ve never heard that term before but I love it! What makes it really funny is that my partner (of Mennonite stock, but not faith) is a Yoder…

So the next time your partner says, “Can you give me a ride to work after I drop my car off for an oil change,” you can say, “Sure! I’m a Yoder Toter!” :slight_smile: