As part of the joint AFHVS and ASFS conference at State College Pennsylvania, we had diner at an Amish farm on the Friday evening. Those who were early enough to subscribe had one of the 45 seats in the living room of the farm house.
We were being served by the family, traditional Amish food. It reminded me of grandma’s diners; with what I would call in Dutch ‘draadjesvlees met jus’. It was delicious and very special to get a glimpse of how the Amish live.
The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Southern German Mennonites, in 1693. The leader of the schismatic faction was a Mennonite Elder named Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Amman became known as Amish. They mainly immigrated to Pennsylvania. Nowadays they spread to other states as well, buying up farms for their sons. The family we stayed with had four children with 15 years in between the two oldest and the two youngest. The two youngest were still living at home, while the two oldest children had each seven children. The great number of children per family left grandma with 100 grand children, our host told us after we sang the song Amazing Grace together. Not surprisingly, they are one of the most fast growing minority in this country.
The Amish have their own way of dealing with ‘modernity’. New technology is assessed for its potential negative impact on the community by religious/community leaders. Not all technology is rejected, however most of it is. This family did not have electricity in their house, nor did they have a car. They were allowed to accept a lift or hire a taxi at the other hand.
For their dairy farm of 80 cattle they did use some electricity for milking for example with an electric generator. They also had tractors, however, here too the use of it was restricted. This could be noticed by looking at their hey wagons, which had no rubber but metal wheels, to prevent the seduction of using them on the road behind the tractor. Much of the thinking behind this is centred around labour force available and sustaining communities by not out-competing each other. At the other hand, they do use ‘modern’ instruments such as chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and artificial insemination of cows.