How Do The Amish Make Money?
I thought it might be interesting to write about the different types of businesses the Amish work for and own. Farming is still thriving in Amish Country, however, there are way too many people for everyone to own their own farm. In today’s world the Amish have become quite innovative in how they make a living. I’m going to make a list of some of the jobs and businesses Amish work for or own but I know my list will not be exhaustive.
Farmers have one of the most labor intensive jobs around. The work has gotten easier for the New and Old Order Amish in the past 20-30 years as they have adapted to more of the modern conveniences of the day. Many of them have solar power to run their milking parlors off of. It is an interesting sight to behold, the behind the scenes of what a solar power system looks like. It is expensive to invest in solar power but once they have it installed they are ready to go. The way they farm today is much different here in Ohio than how they used to. The Swartzentruber Order and probably a couple other sects of Amish still farm the age-old way. Milking by hand, using the old fashioned equipment in the fields, no help from tractors or any modern conveniences.
Work Crews usually have a two seater pickup truck so they have room to take their Amish employees with them. The pickup truck has a large work cap on back and oftentimes towing a trailer behind with equipment and/or material the crew needs for the job. The driver of the pickup truck is generally a young Amish boy who has not joined the church yet. He drives the truck because he has driver’s license and then works on the job with the rest of the crew. The types of jobs typical work crews do are the following:
- Trim Carpentry
- Heating and Air Conditioning
Cleaning Homes and Offices
Amish women make a nice paycheck cleaning. Some of them will clean new construction and their paychecks are really, really nice. ;)
Amish folk drive horse and buggies. Horses need shoes. It makes sense there would be a few blacksmiths in the mix.
Machine Shops/Welding/Motor Repair
Just because an Amish fellow doesn’t drive a car doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know about motors. You will find Amish men working as mechanics, welding, repairing motors, and working in machine shops.
Harness and Shoe Stores
Harness makers and selling shoes seems to be a nice compliment to each other. You will find businesses with both incorporated in the same business.
Many of the Old and New Order girls are leaving their 8th grade education and getting their GED, then taking some typing classes and learning how to work with Microsoft Office and then gobbling up office positions in the area.
The types of factories Amish folks work in are many. If the company provides transportation they are more apt to get the Amish to work for them.
Artisans are unique with what they do. They are often incredibly talented and have found a way to make a living off of their talent. It doesn’t matter the sect of Amish nor the gender. If they have a talent or an interest you will likely find them working at something they love.
- Basket makers - mostly Swartzentruber Amish
- Quilting - Usually older ladies who need a bit of a past time. Any order of Amish do quilting for money.
- Quilt top sewers - I was talking to a lady last week who pieces quilt tops for others. It takes her two days on an average to sew a quilt top. She gets orders from individuals and from churches. Oftentimes the churches are donating those quilts to a fundraiser like the Kidney Fund Auction. After she has pieced together the quilt top then someone else will quilt and bind the quilt. All she does in put the top together.
- Leather vests, purses, and belts
- Doll maker
- Candle maker
- Wooden frames
- Cedar chests
- Clock makers
- Hickory rockers
- Posts for clothes lines
- Rag rugs
- Lazy Susans
- Bread boxes
- Baked Goods
This has become a huge industry among the Amish, and all orders of Amish. Some specialize in vegetables while others devote their time and energy on ornamental gourds and pumpkins. Some Amish also have small apple orchards and a lot of their apples get made into cider. There are one or two cider presses they can take their apples to and get the apples processed. Others have their own press at home and they labor to make the best cider possible that way.
There are many Amish schools dotting the countryside and each school holds about 25-45 children. The first eight grades are offered and German classes. On an average each school has two teachers. The teachers pick which four grades he or she will teach and they work with each other to get the work accomplished for the day. If a school is on the larger side they will also hire a teacher’s helper who might only work part time, coming in to help everyone stay caught up. Sometimes a school will have problems; meaning there might be disrespect for rules or bullying going on and so after some time the school board of that specific school might look for a man to come in and take over the school. This happened recently, the children were incredibly disrespectful and the teachers could no longer handle the students so the board found an Amish man who consented to come and see what he could do. From what I understand things have been alleviated and the disrespect has discontinued.
Honey Bee Farming
It seems like every other Amish person has a bee hive or two or three sitting around and they make their own honey and might have a little leftover to give away or even sell from time to time.
There are a number of Amish butcher shops around these parts. You take your beef or hog to them and they will butcher it for you, cut it up and even package it for the freezer if you like.
There are a number of larger greenhouses in the area and what seems like a multitude of small scale greenhouse dotting Amish Countryside.
Furniture and Finishing Shops
Furniture stores are big employers here in Ohio’s Amish Country. Furniture gets shipped all over the USA and Canada and they are always busy it seems. The finishing shops employ a lot of Amish young ladies. The young ladies I’ve talked to who work there like the hours. They like coming home at 3 in the afternoon and not having to work evenings and Saturdays.
Ladies sew for the local Amish stores or for custom orders they might have.
- Organdy capes and aprons.
- Coverings or “caps” as some call them.
- Heavy winter coats.
- Custom made dresses
- Black shawls for church
- Black bonnets for over their coverings
- Children’s dresses, pants and shirts
- Broadfall pants the Amish men wear.
- Mutza suits. - This is “church garb.” They wear this to weddings, funerals, church, etc. A mutza suit is what an Amish man wears once he joins church. The men on the “preacher bench” have to wear their mutza suit every time they go to church. The other men in the church only have to wear their jackets or vests that goes with their mutza suit during the warm summer months.
One young lady was on her company’s radar earlier this year. She is so high up in the ranks of her company that the company had to come up with an alternative “prize” for her when she won a Cadillac. The story I heard was the company shipped a horse from overseas (her father and brothers helped her pick out the horse) and they built her a carriage that is supposed to be quite impressive.
How did the young lady get to that point? By hard work, pushing through her obstacles and making her way to her local library a couple times a week to use the library’s computers to input her orders and to catch up with her company. What others might have seen as the obstacles too great to overcome and might never have thought of utilizing the library, this young lady was innovative and used all the tools she had to become successful.
There are other Amish in network marketing businesses as well. I was talking with a local blacksmith and he was telling me how his wife is with a company that is all about health care and she is on the phone much of the day helping and advising folks on which products to use from the company she is in. He told me she is about as high up as she can go in the company.
Restaurants and Bakeries
Holding jobs such as assistant manager and manager to dishwasher, line cooks, prep cooks, salad bar prep, hostessing, waitressing and baking. If you are a youngster, maybe 14 years of age you will be clearing off tables and washing dishes. As you get older you get more responsibility. Oftentimes older Amish ladies want something to do for one or two days a week and they take jobs such as prep cook, cutting up meat and vegetables and making dressing and peeling potatoes so they are ready for mashed potatoes.
Amish country holds a variety of stores. Some are Amish owned and others are not. Amish folks work at either and usually hold jobs as a stock person or a cashier. You might find them in middle management also, supervising a department depending on how big the store is.
- Bulk food
- Bent and Dent
- Lawn care equipment
One of the frustrations I’ve been picking up from employers is that they are having a difficult time getting Amish folks to come work for them. Depending on the type of job, the hours and the pay the Amish won’t touch them with a ten foot pole. A few short years ago businesses like restaurants had more than enough applications to pick through but in today’s world the Amish don’t like to work late, nor do they like to work on the weekends and they like better pay than what they were used to getting. The businesses who have late hours and require working on the weekend will not be as appetizing for the Amish folks to work at.
Recently, I spoke with a business owner who makes furniture and they are incredibly busy but they don’t have enough help. He is having to hire Swartzentruber Amish men to come work for him because the Old and New Order Amish don’t want to work for the wages he wants to pay them. The Swartzentruber Amish folks will still work for less money because their church kind of monitors their money intake and they aren’t really supposed to make a lot of money. That is another story, for another day, though.
Cauff.com has been partnering up with some of these Amish artisans and businesses and helping them sell their products via the internet. We are the bridge that helps out of town customers find Amish made products at good prices and it helps the Amish artisans move their product a little more quickly than usual.
8797 James Road
Wooster, OH 44691