Amish Population Growth: Numbers Increasing, Heading West

MARK SCOLFORO | 07/28/10 01:29 PM | AP

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Amish Growth
An Amish girl roller blades with her groceries along a road in Middlefield, Ohio on Wednesday, June 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The search by the booming North American population of Amish for affordable, fertile farmland has produced settlements in 28 states and Ontario – and has even led parties to scout recently for suitable properties in Alaska and Mexico.

A new study estimates the number of Amish has increased nearly 10 percent in the past two years alone, to a total population of 249,000, compared with about 227,000 in 2008. That figure was just 124,000 in 1992. Nearly all Amish descended from a group of about 5,000 in the early 20th century.

The study by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., found that about two-thirds of Amish still live in the traditional strongholds of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, but that they continue to spread west, particularly into the Midwestern corn belt.

Farmland in Lancaster County, Pa., can cost $15,000 an acre, compared with $2,000 or $3,000 per acre elsewhere.

"They are sort of challenging some of the mainstream assumptions about progress and how you achieve the good life and happiness," said Elizabethtown professor Don Kraybill, the study's director. "They're not merely surviving; they're thriving, and growing at this very rapid rate."

The highest rates of growth over the past year were recorded in New York (19 percent), Minnesota (9 percent), Missouri (8 percent), Wisconsin (7 percent) and Illinois (7 percent). High-growth areas for Amish in the past five years also include Kentucky, Kansas and Iowa.

The newest state to get an Amish settlement is South Dakota, after a group of at least six families bought several farms near Tripp in the southeastern part of the state. They have planted forage for their cows, built barns and established a weekly bake sale.

Myra Weber, co-owner of Weber's Grocery, said they've patronized her store for baking supplies and ice cream.

"We put it in paper sacks for them, wrap it up really well," Weber said. "They say they have to get it home right away and eat this."

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The study focused on all Amish groups that use horse-and-buggy transportation, so it excluded such automobile-driving groups as the Beachy Amish and Mennonites.

The Amish are a devout Christian faith dating to the 1500s, and their ancestors began arriving in eastern Pennsylvania around 1730. They generally eschew modern conveniences such as motorized vehicles, instead relying on horse-drawn carriages and permitting only limited use of telephones and electricity. Practices can vary from group to group, but their plain dress and use of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect make them distinct in modern society.

The remarkable growth is almost entirely due to the Amish birth rate – many Amish families have five or more children. Kraybill said the Amish retain about 85 percent of the young adults who have to decide whether to remain in the church. The Amish marry within the community, and the total number of converts nationwide is believed to be less than 100, he said.

About half the Amish are under 18 years old, meaning the community tends to focus much of its energy on young people and schools, Kraybill said.

Earlier this summer, a van of Amish land scouts from Prattsburg, N.Y., visited Alaska to seek a site for a new settlement but were unable to find anything suitable. Another group, from Illinois and Missouri, just made a return trip to Mexico on a similar mission.

Kraybill said there are no Amish congregations in Alaska or Mexico, although small numbers of Amish schoolteachers from Pennsylvania and Ohio have been helping improve education within an Old Colony Mennonite community in Mexico. That conservative Mennonite group has roots in Russia, rather than Switzerland and southern Germany, like the Amish.

The teachers' supporters produced a newsletter describing their experiences in Mexico, in an effort to raise money for the project.

In the new population study, Pennsylvania passed Ohio as the state with the largest Amish population, in part because the authors employed a more precise method to estimate the number, one that takes into account the different average size of an Amish district, or congregation, depending on the state.

The study says the Amish have targeted areas for new settlements judging by the quality and cost of farmland, the potential for nonfarm employment, a rural lifestyle, other factors conducive to their values and proximity to other Amish communities.

Their decisions to leave are often prompted by suburban sprawl, land costs, tourism and other intrusive activities, zoning or similar governmental disputes, the local business climate, employment needs and church-related conflict.

The Amish account for less than one-tenth of a percent of the U.S. population of 310 million.

___

Online:

Elizabethtown College Amish Studies: /web/20100730110138/http://www2.etown.edu/amishstudies/

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — The search by the booming North American population of Amish for affordable, fertile farmland has produced settlements in 28 states and Ontario – and has even led parties...
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The search by the booming North American population of Amish for affordable, fertile farmland has produced settlements in 28 states and Ontario – and has even led parties...
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socraticsarah   8 hours ago (9:46 PM)
I didn't even read this but I couldn't help but say that the main photograph is AWESOME.
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lillibelle   9 hours ago (8:47 PM)
Here's one of my Amish stories:

My husband, six month old, and I took a summer road trip to Amish Country in Lancaster County 24 years ago. They are notorious for not making eye contact with the outsiders/'English.'

Well, my baby woke up at about 4AM and would not stop crying. Afraid that we were waking up everybody in our lovely B & B, I brought my son outside where we sat on the lawn and watched the sun rise.

Slowly, a caravan of Amish buggies began their slow down our well worn, dirt road. Imagine my baby's delight at the horses!

Do you know that every Amish gentleman nodded his head and tipped his hat to me as he rode by, as if I were one of them that morning.

That memory will always stay with me.
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bonum   9 hours ago (8:24 PM)
Amish, wow, I don't know where to begin describing what it's like to have them nearby except to say: imagine a closed community that glorifies ignorance, values anti-science, and ONLY views "us" as a revenue source, all in the name of God, like I said, "wow"
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lillibelle   9 hours ago (8:38 PM)
Imagine what they say about us and how we glorify the Kardashians & x-boxes & fast food & you-name-it.

What I love is how they are a part of our country and are free to practice their peaceful religion which values hard work and family life.
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bonum   4 hours ago (1:36 AM)
"peaceful"??? wow ....(a) you obviously haven't seen the results of their "shunning" practices and successful suicide rates, and (b) you must be one of their "revenue sources", because they have no other use for you, other than that
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HUFFPOST COMMUNITY MODERATOR
marco01   3 hours ago (2:24 AM)
At least they're not war mongers.
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HUFFPOST SUPER USER
wildcinema   9 hours ago (8:21 PM)
great ! , more religious wakos comming this way.
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undsoweiter   9 hours ago (8:07 PM)
Once thou goest Amish, thou shalt never go back.
kcritter   10 hours ago (7:33 PM)
So they are expanding their cruel puppy mills businesses along with the moves as well?
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Ennui   11 hours ago (6:34 PM)
Considering that the Amish do not educate their children past the eighth grade thanks to a Supreme Court ruling exempting them from compulsory education laws on religious grounds, it's not surprising that 85 percent of Amish youngsters opt to remain within their communities. Not many other choices for individuals lacking a high school graduation.
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conviventia   5 hours ago (1:02 AM)
Most Amish can read at a high school level or better. Most graduates of American high schools can't.
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HUFFPOST COMMUNITY MODERATOR
iLoveOldNY   11 hours ago (6:10 PM)
Education makes baby Jesus cry.
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MajorKong   11 hours ago (6:04 PM)
We have a lot of Amish in Ohio. They seem nice enough.

I bought some furniture from one of their stores and they were very pleasant to deal with.
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undsoweiter   12 hours ago (5:23 PM)
The growing Amish threat. Thank God the public is being made aware of this before it's too late.
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ThePlague   10 hours ago (7:43 PM)
I truly trust that is a sarcastic remark. I am not religious, but the world could do with more peace loving folks like the Amish, and less neo-con nutcases like Bush, etc., who also claim to be "religious" but don't act like it. At least the Amish practice what they preach about loving your enemies, rather than pre-emptive strikes to take your enemies oil. So again, I am not likely to want to be an Amish person, but I'd rather have them moving in to my town than some neocon, crazy Palinites. Just to put things into some perspective.
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undsoweiter   9 hours ago (8:05 PM)
Oh, of course I was just funnin'. I honestly cannot think of anyone less threatening than the Amish.
HUFFPOST SUPER USER
ddemos   12 hours ago (5:09 PM)
Great...like there's not enough traffic out here...now we'll have to yield to horse and buggies....
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sheoples   12 hours ago (5:07 PM)
FARM DURING THE DAY

MAKE BABIES AT NIGHT

AWESOME!!!!!! :-)
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Cory111   12 hours ago (5:44 PM)
How big is your farm and how many children do you have?
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sheoples   13 hours ago (4:57 PM)
some curmudgeon earlier said amish have problems just like the rest of us and those who admire these amish are being overly romantic................

to which i say..............maybe..........

but they are making less impact on the planet and living a more sustainable and responsible life ........something we can't say for our crazy materialistic driven life.

we could all a thing or two from the way the amish live!

SIMPLIFY SIMPLIFY SIMPLIFY!!!!!!!!

LESS IS MORE!!!!

GOOD CLEAN LIVING HAS IT'S REWARDS........AND SOCIAL CONNECTION TO THE COMMUNITY AND NO TV IS A GOOD THING.
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Cory111   12 hours ago (5:45 PM)
Thanks, a good post.
c-tom   13 hours ago (4:56 PM)
It's a shame the Republicans are trying to take away their ability to vote (the Amish refuse to use photo id).
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originaldna   14 hours ago (3:52 PM)
Only true Europeans, the rest are just mad tribes out for self.

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