The 20-family Smyrna Mills, Maine Amish community, founded in 1996, is the oldest in a state with relatively few Amish.
A recent article in the Bangor Daily News visits a Smyrna Mills Amish business, Sturdi-Bilt Storage Buildings, a maker of portable structures including sheds and tiny homes.
You can lean more about it in the short video below.
You’ll also notice one unusual element in this community – the unshaven upper lip of the men, which you find in a few Amish communities (and another example of why it’s often tricky to say things like “the Amish always…” or “the Amish never…”):
Sturdi-Bilt produces structures like sheds, camp structures, and “premium buildings” which go up to a max size of 14 x 32 feet (dictated by legal limits for shipping by road).
Oh, and if you have $350-400 to spare, you can also pick up an outhouse.
I liked this quote in the video, from Jonas Yoder: “I find it a big challenge, but the most fulfilling life I’ve ever had. Because it’s a life of serving. True joy comes from serving.”
A desire to be apart
The Smyrna Mills community has been featured in news pieces before, such as in this 2005 article in the Boston Globe.
In settling this remote corner of one of the northernmost states, the founders of the settlement located a place well off the beaten path.
This wish to be apart was reflected in a pair of quotes from Amish members of the community in the 2005 Globe article:
”I feel very protected and shielded from worldly things,” said Daniel Esch, 20, a member of Smyrna’s Amish who breeds horses and builds barns for two of the Amish-owned businesses that have sprung up along Route 2, Smyrna’s main road.
The first Amish family moved to Smyrna in 1996. Today the town’s Amish community numbers about 100, comprising families from Amish settlements in Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan, and Iowa, places they say had grown too large and had been overrun with outside influences.
”We wanted to be in an uncontaminated community,” said Norman Kauffman, a church elder whose family was among the first Amish to settle in Smyrna. ”One less populated with plain people,” he added, using the Amish term for themselves.
This suggests that Amish who settled here were seeking a fresh start in a place away from “faster” communities which likely have problems with youth, or other issues.
Though the Amish who founded Smyrna Mills were seeking a purer setting to live their lives, an Amishman quoted in the recent BDN article suggests that his community meshes well with outsiders:
Johnson said he really likes working with the public outside of his community.
“Our being Amish and our customers not being Amish does not cause any difficulties,” he said. “We like to look at the larger picture, [and] we are not here for ourselves, but to serve Jesus, and if our customers see what we do as good, it is because we are doing it in service to God.”
This is a common attitude for successful Amish business owners dealing with a significant non-Amish clientele.
Could you live in a tiny house?
Circling back to Sturdi-Bilt’s products, how would you feel about living in a tiny house? I didn’t grow up in a huge home (especially compared to the sizes of suburban homes being built today), but at something like 1800 square feet for a four-person family it certainly felt large enough.
Now I live in a much smaller loft-style apartment (under 400 square feet), but living alone, suits me just fine. Sure, sometimes I feel like I could use more closet space, but it also encourages you to be minimalist and get rid of things you don’t need.
I remember hearing about the tiny house movement several years ago (here’s a post on Amish in Colorado who also build them), and found it appealing. I don’t know if apartments count, but if so, I guess I qualify as a tiny home person.
In the end I think what matters is your attitude to “stuff”, and also how many bodies you need to fit in that tiny home. For instance, though they build them, I don’t see a ton of Amish with the typical six, eight, or ten-children families, being candidates for a tiny home
How about you – could you live in a tiny dwelling? Wikipedia suggests that we are talking about structures under about 500 square feet in size….about the size of a two-car garage.