In an Amish barn north of Knox County voices rise up from the wooden benches in song, "Please bind us together Lord". Here at the Amish youth sing, I am reminded of the importance of family ties. For the new order Amish, religon, family, life, and farming are all interconnected.
Over the past twenty years more and more Amish families have been moving into Knox County. The Amishmens's beliefs as members of the Amish church help shape their interactions with others and their day-to-day life on the farm. I have found the Amishmen are often the first to admit the inconvenience of their buggies on the roads. Like most farmers who have received complaints about large farm equipment on the road, the Amish speak of a need for the community and the farmers to come to a greater understanding of each others' views. Although they do not participate in community life, the Amish feel a strong need to create and maintain good relationships with individuals in the county. One example of this is the increasing number of Amish farmers who are working with local extension agents to improve their farming techniques.
Outsiders are often confused as to why the new order Amish church allows only certain types of technology. For the new order Amish, religion is based on a firm belief in their church, community, and family. Any technology which threatens the strength of these institutions is often banned from use. The Amish farmer I visited used tractors, dishwashers and automatic milkers did not have a car. The reasoning behind this seemingly contradictory stance is that a car would allow members of the family easy access off the farm. Thinking of my family's hectic life of school, sports and work - everyone going different places all at the same time, I understand the Amishmen's reasoning.
By choosing to farm the Amish are making a commitment to a way of life which fosters family unity. On the farm the family works together. The Amishmen I met spoke of the need to keep the family together and not let each member develop his or her own special interests. Amish children are always involved in the day to day workings of the farm. Unlike farm children who come in contact with town life at school and community activities, Amish children are taught through eighth grade at Amish schools or are home schooled. Separated from town life, these children learn how to farm from their parents. Many have a hard time imagining life off a farm.
Because most Amish farms are small family run farms, Amish farming techniques provide a plan for the future of family farming in Knox county. Some Amish farmers have begun to use rotational grazing. This farming techinque develops grass which withstand most of the winter. The cows graze for more months and the farmer grows and harvests less hay. They don't have to fertilize, spray, and seed each year for the cows harvest the crop. This technique works best on a small scale farm which does not have large and expensive machinery.
At the heart of Amish farming is a commitment to family. An Amishman's plan for the future is just that, a plan that ensures that he will pass down the farm to his sons. Within Amish farming there is a lot of stewardship and tradition which is created from a rich past and the promise of a strong future. photo credit: Gregory Spaid