The Amish, contrary to popular belief, are not self-sufficient.
In one of our previous “Ask an Amish Person” posts, PA Amishman John Stoltzfus addressed this topic. John noted that “we are very dependent on the outside world, far from self-sufficient, all of us are intertwined…”
It’s easy to see why some might think Amish live in a bubble. They’ve been called “a people apart,” and sometimes described as “closed” and suspicious of outsiders.
But as John suggests, Amish do in fact depend on non-Amish for many things. Here are five types of outsiders whom the Amish rely upon.
Five “English” People Who The Amish Rely Upon
1. “Amish Taxi” Driver
Amish taxi drivers are simply non-Amish people with vehicles who provide transport services to the Amish.
Every Amish community of size has people that provide this service. In the larger communities, you’ll find dozens of them. One of our readers recently wrote about picking up the job to fill a local need.
There are a handful of Amish who don’t hire taxi drivers except in emergencies. But besides them, most Amish make use of this service at times, for either local or long-distance travel.
2. Professional Medical Services (Human and Animal)
While more than a few Amish do follow unconventional health practices, nearly all rely on some degree of traditional care offered by English professionals, including optometrists, dentists, family doctors, and hospitals.
Additionally, their animals need professional care, be it to treat disease, or in some communities, to provide services like artificial insemination of dairy cows.
Since Amish formal education is limited to eight grades (plus limited supplemental training in some cases), they have to rely on outsiders for professional medical services.
3. Third-Party Business Helpers
Amish businesses have had a lot of success, thanks to things like work ethic and commitment to making quality goods.
But they also have to thank non-Amish people, who in many cases help them bridge the final gap between product and customer.
This might be in providing marketing services, directly retailing products for an Amish wholesaler (common in the furniture industry), or helping an Amish business maintain an online presence.
To take one example, an Amish builder friend has a website run by a third party. He receives monthly traffic reports updating him on on-site activity, with analytics showing pageviews and other metrics.
While many learn business through apprenticeship, some Amish entrepreneurs even look outside their own communities for training–attending seminars or reading business books written or led by non-Amish people.
4. Law Enforcement
Amish interact with law enforcement in various situations. These include responses to buggy accidents or while investigating crimes committed against Amish.
In one incident last year, Amish in western Pennsylvania provided female clothing to a male officer who posed as an Amish woman in hopes of catching a culprit indecently exposing himself.
Earlier this year, law enforcement officers visited a Nappanee-area Amish school to discuss bike safety.
The best-known example of Amish-law enforcement ties is probably found in the tragic Nickel Mines school shootings, and the relationships which developed afterwards.
Lancaster Online reported last month on officer Jonathan A. Smith, who “acted heroically during the shootings, and then became a hero to survivors and parents for years afterward.”
The Amish community was described as “mourning” Smith following his death from cancer. John Fisher, father of one wounded girl and another who was killed, said that “he has impacted many different lives.”
This may very well include YOU, so give yourself a pat on the back
While some Amish businesses have mainly Amish customers–buggy shops or plain-clothing makers come to mind–many depend on outsiders for their earnings.
Sometimes it’s obvious that your purchase is supporting an Amish family. Like when you buy direct from an Amish farm stand or variety store, or purchase an Amish-labeled product through a retailer.
But sometimes it’s less clear, because some provide products for retailers who don’t sell them as “Amish.”
For example, when researching my Amish business book, I learned the story of Jonas and David Stoltzfus. The brothers run a Lancaster County leather goods business providing products for the Ralph Lauren luxury line.
The reality is that Amish are less “frontier living” than some might think, and often rather plugged-in to the economy in 21st-century ways. And many survive and thrive thanks to non-Amish people who buy their products and services.
The above noted, it should also be said that non-Amish people depend upon the Amish in numerous ways too.
These include as providers of goods and services, as drivers of local economies (thanks to tourism and other business activity), and through community support (witness Amish aid programs in disaster areas, or local help for non-Amish neighbors).
What other ways can you think of that Amish and English people depend on one another?