A 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.
Lancaster 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.