5 Facts On The Lancaster County Amish Population

A recent article (Lancaster Online) on the Lancaster Amish and development pressure brought some interesting facts about the county’s Amish population to the forefront.

Most of these are from that article, with some additions and explanation by me.

5 Facts About Lancaster County’s Amish Population

1. The largest community – Lancaster County is home to an estimated 33,143 Amish, according to estimates from the Young Center.

The community itself is larger than this, since the county’s borders do not contain all the community’s Amish. Some live in neighboring Chester and York counties, and are still considered part of the Lancaster settlement.

There are an estimated 38,095 Amish in the settlement as of 2018, when adding in the Amish living in Chester and York counties. This is the largest Amish settlement in the world.

2. Much of the county’s total growth – The Amish population in the county grows by over 1000 per year, which makes up 41% of the county’s total annual population growth. They are a big part of Lancaster’s yearly population increase.

3. Amish in the minority – Yet the Amish are still a minority in the county – they make up only about 6% of the total county population, which exceeds a half million.

We think of Lancaster County as an “Amish place”, and in a lot of ways it very much is that. But other Amish counties like Holmes County, Ohio, and Lagrange County, Indiana, are much more Amish as a proportion of the total population.

The Amish have long had an outsized influence as far as the identity of the county. And they have been a key economic driver especially when considering tourism dollars (over 8 million people visit Lancaster County annually). I would also guess that when it comes to land ownership, they would well exceed 6%.

4. Long-term growth trend – In 1970 the Lancaster Amish tally stood at about 7,000. Having reached 33,000+ in the ensuing half-century, that means a nearly five-fold population increase.

The overall Amish growth rate works out to the population doubling roughly every 20 years.

What’s the cause of this growth? Amish have big families, and most of their children choose to be baptized into the church. Few outsiders join and stay within the Amish church, so their contribution to growth is negligible.

amish landscape lancaster

5. Development pressure – More than just about anywhere else, Amish in Lancaster County face development pressure. This has the negative effects of raising land prices and creating traffic congestion.

Last week we saw the story of a proposed casino on the edge of the community, which would bring with it additional concerns.

Meanwhile, another land use issue has been unfolding. A developer would like to build a 75-acre residential community in Manheim township. This would mean over 550 new residential units. About 1200 Amish from 250 households live within 2 miles of the proposed project.

At a recent public hearing, Donald Kraybill gave the Amish perspective, sharing that about a dozen Amish had told him road safety is a big concern. Kraybill suggested that Amish may leave the area if the development was built.

A decision on the development is expected next month, which is also when the Gaming Control Board plans to vote on the casino.

May will be an important month shaping future development in Lancaster County, and its impact on the local community, Amish and others included.

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    1. J W

      This is how it starts. History repeats itself.

      This is the beginning of the breaking point. The developers and casino would love to move into these areas.

      They love the farm land/open space because it’s easy to develop. They pack in as much as they can…homes, shopping centers, bars, restaurants, hotels…get their money, then leave.

      Taxes will rise as well as the water bill, electric bill, sewer bill. School taxes will increase to handle the growing population.

      Water pollution increases. I live in an area that had all this development done. The drinking water now has a CANCER CAUSING CHEMICAL! The water company says it is safe to drink because it would take 70 years of drinking it to cause cancer. That’s not comforting.

      If you allow this type of development to continue, then Lancaster as you know it will disappear. I live in an area that used to be farm land/open space. It is gone. It has become an extension of the city. That’s how crowded and loud it has become.

      Put your foot down and say no. Or the developers will walk over you.

      Open space, farm land, clean air, and clean water, also have value. But some people don’t know that until it’s gone…

      1. Daye Delan

        re:development in/near Amish farms

        I take great interest in this site. Thank You. I live in the province of BC (British Columbia) in Canada. We have ALR …the Agricultural Land Reserve.This protects agricultural land from being plundered by developers. The ALR commission has an iron clad grip on the land specifically to thwart oportunists. Because BC is a land of mountains and valleys, prime bottom land is a primo commodity and really must be protected. I would encourage Amish to consider our part of the world if relocating.

      2. Tim Scovill

        Lamenting the Lancaster Demise

        As a child growing up in New Jersey in the fifties, my dad loved the Amish area and we took many drives to explore the beautiful and pristine area. My dad would strike up conversations with shop owners roadside market folks and farmers whenever he could and as a child, I came to understand and respect the Amish. That has stayed with me until this day.nearly 60 years later In the early 90’s I took my wife on a drive through the area. I was disheartened to see, even then, that the development, commercialization and overall change was overtaking the area. Fast forward to 2018 when I delightfully sold my historic farm place in Buckingham County, Virginia to an Amish family. The place was 50 acres on which stood a magnificent pre-civil war heart-pine, balloon-frame. hand built home with a roof of slate indigenous to the area; world-wide known and appreciated Buckingham Slato. I spent 40 plus years modernizing and taking good care of the place. It was a veritable ‘treasure’. As I and my wife aged and also maintained another home some 50 minutes away near which we have four delightful grand children and their parents, it became increasingly difficult to give that historic home the care and attention it needed . It weighed heavily on me that I could not provide the care, maintenance and attention commensurate with the reverence I had/have for the place. I could not have been more pleased to know that a family from the Lancaster area was purchasing the place and would likely carry on the care and reverence the place decidedly deserves . A smart an enterprising realtor in the Farmville area began developing his understanding of and relationships with, the Lancaster community a few years ago. He made the effort to know and understand the Amish and as important, to respect their customs and how to transact such things like real estate business (without fax, email, phone, etc). Furthermore he understands the value of personal connections and he very much accommodates the cultural differences which require a lot more effort that usual and customary real estate transactions as we know them. For me, my interest, respect and good feelings about the Amish, since I was a child, have come ‘full circle’.

        at times I regretted not installing any modern HVAC utilities but I’m confident now that the current residents are making good use of the extremely large windows, the wood stove and the super insulation I installed 50 years ago. Whew, feels good to share!

    2. Barbara

      Agree with J.W.

      I don’t live in the Lancaster area, but my Grandmother did; and, I spent many summers there during my childhood. It is my favorite area to visit and it would break my heart to see it overrun with developments and casinos. Not to mention the danger to the Amish from the overload of traffic on the roads. I believe it is a tradition for Amish fathers to give a plot of land to their offspring? We need to leave Lancaster as is – wide open fields dotted with Amish farms. There has been enough development in the area to already meet every need except maybe housing for “infiltrators.” NOT needed! I’ll sign any petition started to keep this from happening!

      1. Right Barbara, a common goal for an Amish farmer is to be able to provide a farm for each of his sons. But that has become a near-impossibility for most in Lancaster County, given the land prices. The more successful Amish business owners might be among the few who can still do it.

        1. JoAnne Chisholm

          Casino and Development

          No Casino and no development! Please put out a petition, I believe many will sign it!
          There is power in unity! I live in Massachusetts, I consider the Amish, Christian brethren! We need to pray and stand together!

          I appreciate Amish America, nice to be informed of what’s happening! God bless!

    3. Nancy

      Please start petitions!

      I have visited Lancaster County many times, particularly during the 6 years I lived near Philadelphia. I even enjoyed a year living in the ‘daudy’ end of an Amish house with a young Amish family in the other end. I agree with J.W. Someone needs to start a petition drive against these developers swallowing up more and more of Lancaster County farmland. The irony is that new development is partly because of the beautiful farmland, which will be lost through over-building, and it will mean the loss of Amish families who will be forced to leave to find land for their families, and thus cripple the tourism which having the Amish there generates (through no effort of theirs)! Save Lancaster County!!

    4. Carla

      Developers & Casinos

      This farmland should stay as farms; This is a beautiful area
      and I visited a couple or more times a year from 1990 & 2000.
      I hope to visit again in the near future. I do not see building
      more housing for outsiders. Nor is there a need for casinos!

      Stand up & stop this invasion of a truly wonderful area.
      Save Lancaster County and the surrounding counties of farmland.

    5. Developers and Casino's

      Lancaster County PA is a beautiful place to visit. I grew up in Harrisburg and while I now live out of state, I still go back a few times a year just to visit the area. I go back because of how the area is now. To bring in the developers and casino’s would just ruin the area and the tourism would drop dramatically. Why can’t the developers find another place to build more housing? The Amish live a peaceful lifestyle which we could all learn from. Let them have their space and in return, we can all enjoy the beautiful scenery and the good food and great furniture products they sell. To the developers and casino organizers – STAY OUT OF LANCASTER COUNTY!

    6. Wev

      Developers are motivated by greed. The problem is that they build unwanted and often unused developments. There are shipping plazas and malls that are half empty all over the place. What is the need for even more?

      America needs to be more organized with respect to development planning. There are so many empty and abandoned spaces already in developed areas to redevelop, but instead of developing those properties that are already built they want to develop open green farm spaces. It doesn’t make sense.

      1. The thing about this area is that it is a growing, desirable part of the country to live in, so there is demand for it and unlikely that these developments would be unused, like in some areas of the country which are not as economically prosperous. On the contrary, the developers no doubt stand to do well from this project.

    7. Dale Ann Harsh


      I’ll pose the same question my Kansas uncle asked when he visited us when I was a child: “Where’s the food going to come from if you plant houses in all the fields?” That was about 50 years ago and most of you know what the Los Angeles basin looks like now.

      If they must deal with development (and it’s hard to stop) the community really needs to look to Seattle as a model. Up there they build on small lots and the houses have small foot prints, hence all the tri-levels, so they can maintain the green space around them. They also need to insist that by-ways be built for their buggies off all of the main roads so they can travel safely away from the increased traffic.
      As to the casino…. whatever claim of increase income to whichever area of the community people think important…schools, roads, senior services…the increase in traffic, crime, road accidents due to fatigue and drinking and the heartbreak of gambling addiction will more than offset the minimal benefits. Ask communities where it’s happened.

    8. Dollie deaton

      I agree with everyone. I live in jessamine country Kentucky. This is one county next to Fayette County home of UK. Until 1989 jessamine country was a farming community. That is until the by pass was extended. Almost over night people discovered land was cheap
      On one year the population doubled.it went from roughly 5000to 10000. Today it’s 50000. Land prices have gone through the roof. Traffic is a nightmare.