October 31 2012

Amish Country: Just How Fast are Amish Communities Growing?

Amish CountryA recent census reports that a new Amish community is founded every 3 1/2 weeks in the United States. Known for their idyllic and sustainable lifestyle that rejects modern technology, the Amish are found in 30 states across the United States, and in the province of Ontario, Canada. Researchers at Ohio State University predict that at current rates, the Amish could exceed 1 million people and 1,000 settlements by 2050.

The majority of the Amish population growth is taking place within their communities; the Amish do not proselytize. The main contributors of growth are high birthrates and high church retention. The average family has 5 children or more, and about 85% of children, ages 18-21, choose to be baptized and start their own families. As communities grow and expand it becomes more difficult to continue farming lifestyles because of limited land availability near existing communities. In response, the Amish have transitioned into new jobs such as woodworking and construction, or left their homes in search of affordable farmland. This has led to the creation of new communities.

Amish CountryLancaster County, Pennsylvania boasts the second largest population of Amish in the United States and exemplifies how the Amish have thrived and developed within a growing population. As the cost of farmland increased—farmland in Lancaster County, Pa., can cost $15,000 an acre, compared with $2,000 or $3,000 per acre elsewhere— the Amish sought new ways to earn money. They began working in labor-intensive trades, and created business start-ups such as furniture shops and farm stands. They also created a tourist market by sharing their culture through Amish themed attractions, antique shops, and buggy rides. Like other citizens of Lancaster County, they contribute greatly to the local economy and pay taxes. A self-sustaining people, their reliance on government-funded programs is minimal. Central Pennsylvania has coexisted with the Amish since the mid 1700s, and the relationship has been mutually beneficial and continues to grow with time.

What does the future hold for existing Amish communities, and future Amish communities? What are some considerations urban planners have to take into account when developing plans regarding Amish stakeholders?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by author.

Alex Riemondy

Alex Riemondy is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Environmental Studies, and a Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning. Her interests in urban planning first stemmed from a cross-country bicycle trip in support of affordable housing. During the trip she became fascinated with connecting communities through the development of safe cycling routes. On a bike, she is constantly thinking about her urban environment and how it can grow to meet the needs of her community. Although currently living in Hummelstown, PA - having recently returned from working on a permaculture farm in Costa Rica - she plans to pursue a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning in Southern California. Finding happiness through connecting with her community and environment, she is most interested in improving citizen quality of life though: bicycle and pedestrian planning, green street design, and increasing citizen participation in the planning process.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 at 8:07 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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