Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Amish Neighbors

The rain today has me thinking about my dad's Amish neighbors. They planted five acres of alfalfa on our farm and it was cut on Wednesday. We haven't had good drying weather lately and this morning when I woke up it was raining. So, I thought of the Amish neighbors and their alfalfa sitting in the field ... in the rain ...

When my family moved to the area over 10 years ago there was not an Amish community. This group moved in about 5 years ago, with most of the original members coming from Wisconsin with lots of money in their pockets. They quickly raised the price of land in the area by offering large amounts to buy out people so the could live relatively near each other. It has been very interesting watching the Amish interact and live in their community.

On one hand we sort of regard them as a joke. The Amish in this community do very little farming or riding around in buggies. Most of them work some sort of construction job and have drivers that they hire to take them all over the place. In fact they have become so dependent on their drivers that they call them up when the only have to go a short distance. Which brings up another point ... they have phones ... not in their houses, but rather in little "phone houses" outside of their homes. It almost seems like the are marginally living the Amish way. When riding in the car they want to listen to Amish music, they buy the same junk food for their lunches that we do, and in this community they all have running water in their houses (no toilets though).

On the other hand though we have a lot of respect for them because of their community driven lifestyle. One example that I find very interesting is of a man who was having some serious financial problems. He wanted to start up a saw mill so we began taking out loan after loan after loan ... well, he had some problems with his partner so he decided to build his own mill a couple years later ... which meant he took out loan after loan after loan! One day we drove by his home and saw the beginnings of a large new building to house his saw mill. Two months later we drove by and nothing had happened on the work. I assumed that he had run out of money, but in reality the elders of the community had stepped in and taken control of his money. The community came together and paid off his loans and then the men (I believe there was three) that were in charge of helping him put together a plan for him to begin work before he spent any more money. Now, his new mill is up and going, and if the number of logs and the piles of cut lumber mean anything I believe he is going on the right path now.

This type of community is unheard of in our self-isolated 21st century world, but I have a feeling that we would be better off if we could take some advice from this Amish community. As my thoughts turn to building a small family farm that is profitable and provides a comfortable living for my family I realize that a community will need to be a part of the equation. I don't know how it will work out, but I know that a community will make life much better!

On another note... Bill Wilson of the One Acre Farm Blog sent me this LINK to an article by Joel Salatin that was original printed in ACRES USA. It is a very interesting article about promoting polycultures on the farm and I encourage you to check it out!
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