Amish - Economy
Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Farming is the occupation desired by most Amish. All family members are integrated into an agricultural way of life. Beginning at an early age, the young assist in farm and household chores. The Amish keep their farms small enough to be handled by the family unit. Family-size farms have consistently been productive, serving to meet the needs of the community rather than to earn large profits. Farms average between fifty and ninetysix acres; the larger acreage occurs in midwestern areas rather than in eastern regions such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The lack of concern with high-income productivity is evident in Amish farmers' choosing to concentrate on raising livestock in small numbers and on growing a variety of crops. Farm size is limited not only by the amount of land that can be managed by one family but also by the prohibition on the use of electricity.
On New York farms, if tractors are used at all, they provide the power source for other types of farm machinery. Often these vehicles are outdated and have steel wheels Instead of rubber tires. In some parts of Ohio, for example, the prohibition on technological dairy farming has meant the abandonment of farming, resulting in a change in the nature of the Amish community. Some nonfarming Amish work within their communities, serving traditional needs such as the repair of farm and household equipment and operating horse-and-buggy trades. Work outside of farming in some Regions has become increasingly necessary because of the declining availability of affordable land. Ironically, however, nonagricultural employment has also created the financial security that allows many young families to remain within the Amish fellowship. Newer occupational opportunities include service industries and shops where Amish work for non-Amish ("English") employers, often saving their earnings to buy a farm. More women are now being trained as teachers for Amish schools.
The Amish depend on outsiders for medical and legal services. When making loans to Amish clients, bank managers rely on the system of mutual aid for church members to back up buyers who become financially overburdened.
Division of Labor. Mainly, women are employed in the home. Besides attending to children, house, garden, and chickens, the Amish woman also sews clothes for her family, cooks and cans food, and engages in quilt and rug making and embroidery. Both sexes handle household finances; Children have both parents as role models for learning behavior appropriate to Amish society. Members of the congregation, both male and female, work cooperatively to build and rebuild houses and barns.
Land Tenure. The Amish are often forced to migrate to areas where cheaper farmland is available. They save to buy additional farms for their children, giving young married couples financial and other forms of assistance in establishing their own farms. It is not uncommon for members of the Community to provide low-interest loans to young people starting out.