5 Surprising Modern Conveniences Amish Use

We haven’t done a “5 Points” list in quite awhile, so I thought it might be a good day for one.

Below are five modern conveniences that you’ll find in some or even many Amish settlements. The usual caveats apply – not all Amish use all of these.

Ever encountered anything on this list in your dealings with the Amish?


1. Solar Panels – Ever drive through an Amish community and find yourself surprised to see a solar panel on the roof of the home or other building? I remember when this sight seemed unusual, now it seems commonplace.

Solar panels are how many Amish tap God’s natural power bank to recharge batteries, for instance. Some of these can even be mounted on the roof of the buggy, as seen in the photo above.

2. Cigarette Lighters (In the Buggy) –  For those Amish who smoke, this must be nice to have on those long late-night buggy journeys home after a date or a singing.

Curious Cow Ethridge

3. Bovine Artificial Insemination – Some Amish rely on artificial insemination techniques to increase their herds. Donald Kraybill describes this in the Lancaster County as one of the practices which “may be tolerated–put on probation–for several years to assess their long-term impact” (The Riddle of Amish Culture, p. 299). Lancaster County is more technologically-progressive than many other settlements.

4. Chiropractors – Chiropractic care is quite common and popular in many Amish communities. Amish people in general are quite health-oriented (with both conventional and unconventional approaches common).

It makes sense why chiropractor care would be so popular when many Amish occupations are manual. Some will even travel 1000+ miles to visit a special clinic.

5. Voicemail – Getting hold of an Amish person can be an exercise in patience which we are less attuned to in our increasingly speedy and connected world. But odds are if you are calling an Amish number, you’ll be leaving some voicemails, whether it is a business or private phone.

Amish phones are often located in an outbuilding (such as a barn or shed) or off the property in the case of phone shanties shared between multiple residences. Lines are often shared so you’ll have a menu of choices. Be patient and you should get a call back. But it might not be til tomorrow.

What others could you put on this list?

Images: Cow – Tonya Clifford; Chiropractor – bruhsam/flickr; Telephone – kino/flickr

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    1. Eva Jaunzems

      Amish working outside the Amish community

      I was surprised (and delighted) to find a young Amish lady working alongside me at a plant nursery where I work part-time. I’ve been careful about how many “Do you …..?” “Do the Amish …..?” questions I pepper her with. But I am wondering? Is it common for Amish to work for nonAmish employers?

      Thank you!


      1. Hi Ava, it is not uncommon. Examples include young Amish women working in restaurants as waitresses or cleaning homes for non-Amish people or Amish working in non-Amish RV factories (common in northern Indiana). Though if I had to purely guess, overall I’d say Amish more often work for other Amish people than for non-Amish (taking into account all the Amish-owned businesses out there).

        1. Forest Hazel

          In our area there are several conservative Mennonite business that employ Amish.

      2. Lisa Myers

        Some Amish will work for “Englishers”, but usually only if they have no other choice. A lot of Amish are farmers, furniture makers; businesses they can run from home. Several have construction businesses, but there are a few that don’t have those options, so they go to work for the “Englishers”.

    2. Jeff


      Don’t forget cell phones. Seen so many using them. I wonder if texting while driving their buggies is illegal?

      1. Texting while buggying illegal?

        Good question Jeff. I would imagine it is based on how the law in question is written. There was a recent story of an Amish couple who appeared intoxicated, who were stopped traveling in a buggy the wrong way down I-69. They were not charged with drunk driving, apparently due to the specifics of Michigan law:

        Assistant Branch County Prosecutor Scott Smith said Michigan’s drunk driving law is very clear. As adopted in 1949, Section 257.625 of the Michigan Vehicle Code deals only with “Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated” and does not include a horse, a horse and buggy or a walking person.


    3. Amish and Modern Conveniences

      In the Book “Called to Mexico” an Amish teacher in Mexico recalled having to take a cold shower because the water heating system was not ready in her new apartment. Taking a hot shower was fairly common for this teacher. In some Amish homes indoor plumbing like showers and flush toilets are not unusual.

    4. Lisa Myers

      Grabill, Indiana Amish

      The Amish of Grabill, Indiana are Old Order, but they have solar & wind power, as well as indoor land line telephones. Some have smart phones as well.
      Even though they have solar & wind power, they don’t use it for everything. We have Amish friends there in Grabill. They still use gas lights throughout most of the house. Their garage/gathering area does have electricity in it.

      1. Alternative power in Allen Co. IN

        You’re right Lisa, on one of my last visits there I noticed alternative power seemed to have really taken off in the 5 years since my previous visit:


        1. Nicholas

          Allen County

          I have long noticed the solar panels in Allen County. Some of my friends there are ex-Amish and told me that when they left, they no longer needed their solar panels, so they took them to Haiti and put them on a school down there! They would have left about 10 years ago, so solar panels have been common there for a long time. Interestingly, the more conservative Allen County folks use them, too. A few of the Amish business have lots of electricity usage, to the point that it’s noticeably different from other Amish communities.
          Thanks for the fun post, Eric!

          1. And thanks for adding these interesting details, Nicholas.

    5. Amish workmanship

      We had Amish workmen build our porch this summer. They are extremely honest, careful and just great at their jobs. They all used cell phones and took the porch design off of the web site I showed them on my iPad. Their phones are left out in the shop at night. No surprise here, however, we drove up to finish paying our bill and found the owner of the company lived in the cutest red barn, that he had built. His shop matched., it was a smaller red barn out back. This was a surprise.

    6. Amish workmanship

      We had Amish workmen build our porch this summer. They are extremely honest, careful and just great at their jobs. They all used cell phones and took the porch design off of the web site I showed them on my iPad. Their phones are left out in the shop at night. No surprise here, however, we drove up to finish paying our bill and found the owner of the company lived in the cutest red barn, that he had built. His shop matched., it was a smaller red barn out back. This was a surprise.

      I just wrote this, how can it already be pasted ?

      1. Barb in most cases when you hit “Submit Comment”, it’s posted immediately. Sometimes a comment will land in moderation (if there is language or, in other cases, for reasons unbeknownst to me). I am notified of that and then I take a look and approve it assuming it’s family-friendly. But otherwise most comments should appear right away.

    7. Judy

      Modern Conviences

      Many of the Amish now use fax machines/copiers!

    8. jerry

      Five Conveniences

      Last summer I noticed a few Amish “phone booths’ (shed which house the land line phone) were being sold at a charity auction. Cell phones are common. Smart phones not so much here in South Central PA.

      I personally know two Asian sisters who own stands at local markets who hire only Amish to present the feeling that they are Amish owned.

      I’m also seeing teens wearing dental braces in the Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and upper Dauphin counties.

      I’m eating a late night snack of carrot cake made by Amish from McClure, Pa right now. Yummy.

      1. Interesting observations Jerry, thanks for sharing. And carrot cake, yum. Lucky you.

    9. Linda Laws

      So many things surprise me about the Amish.
      When I had yo use the laundromat I was surprised to see all the men there and not any women???

      1. Just curious what community that was in Linda?

      2. Loretta Shumpert

        Men doing laundry

        It’s possible the wife had recently had a baby and dad was needed to do some laundry. I know that they have helpers come in to help but dirty clothes accumulate so fast.

    10. Alice Mary

      I had to laugh about the bovine artificial insemination.
      The very land I live on used to be a commercial (Searle Co., I think) farm where artificial insemination went on, Just after our house was built, the kids and I took a walk through the fields just a couple blocks south of us, and found the ruins of the building (with stalls) for the cattle.

      As far as solar goes, last year on my trip to Shipshewana, we toured a young family’s buggy making shop, where we were shown a buggy with SOLAR panels on the roof (for lights at night). We were impressed and many in our group were very surprised (me, not so much, since I’ve been following your blog for a while, Erik!)

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary, now I’m waiting to see a wind turbine on the roof of a buggy 🙂

    11. Sally


      I enjoy your articals so much. My Grandmother lived in Odom , Indian my Mother grew up there. That is a large Amish settlement. When we would go to visit my Grandmother it was always a blessing to be so close to SIMPLE LIVING. Do they still have pegs for the chairs on the Walls After you eat it is time to work not time to sit

      1. Thank you Sally! Sounds like you’re talking about the Daviess County community, nice place.

    12. Al in Ky

      I haven’t noticed much new in the Amish communities I have visited in the last year, although it seems like I do see more solar panels in the Elkhart/Lagrange communities than in previous
      years. One thing I do notice is that when I visit several Amish stores which I have visited for many years, they seem to get more modern as they enlarge their stores — with freezer cases, refrigerator cases, etc. I’m not sure of the source of the power. I have observed this at E & S Bulk Foods in Shipshewana, the discount grocery between Arcola and Arthur, Illinois and Graber’s Discount Grocery near Montgomery, Indiana. I mentioned in a previous post some time ago, that I was surprised when I visited E & S Bulk Foods, that they now have a loudspeaker system — just like I hear at big box stores. While you’re shopping there you often hear on the loudspeaker things like, “another bagger is needed in line 3” and “customers, we will close in 5 minutes, please bring all items to the checkout counters now”.

    13. Tom in Kentucky


      Hey Erik,
      I thought you might be interested in this bizarre story. The above link is from ABC news 36 out of Lexington KY

    14. Oldkat

      Late to tthe party ... again

      This past summer we attended Horse Progress Days (HPD) in Howe, IN, which is also part of the Elkhart/Lagrange communities, I posted on this at the time. I think I also posted about the tour that is “affiliated” with HPD. My most surprising modern convenience, or in this case, technology, was at an Amish owned chair shop we visited on the tour.

      Several things surprised me; the fact that this facility was housed in buildings comprising 20,000 square feet, at the very least, but probably much more … was just the first.

      Next, was the fact that they had twin diesel generators with an Uninterrupted Power Supply system that would instantaneously support the power needs of their computers (more on this below)while the secondary generator was spooling up to come on line, in the event the primary generator failed. Then there was the fact that they manufacture in excess of 80,000 chairs a year and ship to vendors all over the U.S.

      The thing that surprised me beyond all of that though, was that most of their power equipment; shapers, routers, finishing sanders, etc. were all managed by CNC. If you are not familiar with that term, it stands for Computer Numerical Control. CNC is a current state of the art manufacturing process. Some phases of numeric control have been around for decades, but what this shop was using was the latest greatest in manufacturing technology. Yes, I was surprised.

      Here is a Wiki on CNC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerical_control

    15. Hawkeye

      Wind Powered Air Compressor

      The Folks in Smyrna Mills, Maine use wind to power a air compressor that powers their overhead crane for loading/off loading much of their heavy products: metal roofing, etc. (When the wind stops they have a gas powered compressor. :Shhh…:)