The Amish, the religious sect that has determinedly kept the modern world at bay, have been leaving a quiet life of farming for jobs in small businesses — all the while trying to balance their own values with the culture of the marketplace.
“Their whole intent is to not be caught up in the hustle and bustle of the modern world,” said John Swaffer, advertising manager at the Keim Lumber Company, a lumber mill in Charm, Ohio.
The Amish move into the world of commerce has been more out of necessity than desire. Over the last 16 years, the Amish population in the United States — mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana — has nearly doubled, to 230,000, and the decreasing availability and increasing cost of farmland has forced many of these agrarian families, especially the younger generation, to gravitate to small business as their main source of income.
The businesses, which favor such Amish skills as furniture-making, quilting, construction work and cooking, have been remarkably successful. Despite a lack of even a high school education (the Amish leave school after the eighth grade), hundreds of Amish entrepreneurs have built profitable businesses based on the Amish values of high quality, integrity and hard work. A 2004 Goshen College study reported that the failure rate of Amish businesses is less than 5 percent, compared with a national small-business default rate that is far higher.
Photo by merlin1075.