I got a kick out of this story, about a Colorado resident who hired a Lancaster Amish crew to travel 1,700 miles to build a fence.

No doubt Colorado being the destination had something to do with their willingness to go. A less picturesque part of America may not have enticed the crew.  As a largely Midwest and Eastern people with a soft spot for the outdoors, the majestic West captivates the Amish imagination. A popular trip for young Amish men involves traveling by bus or train (or car) cross-country. Only a relatively few Amish have ever made Western states home, though (see Amish in Montana or Amish in Colorado for examples).

Amish Fence BuilderIn the interest of staying close to home Amish builders like to limit their work to about a 2-hour driving range. Sometimes Amish crews do go further, even staying overnight and for multiple days.   For example a northern Indiana Amish acquaintance I spoke with last summer had a bid out on a pretty significant job in Kentucky, a project which would require extended stays away from home.  Amish also consistently volunteer in disaster areas and will be gone for a couple of weeks at a time.  Not being married or having a big family makes it easier.

The three-man crew of State Line Fencing, led by 33-year-old Jonathan Esh, jumped at the chance to do the Colorado job for a homeowner living in Parker, a Denver suburb (more on Denver Amish furniture). What is interesting is that this doesn’t seem to be a particularly elaborate job, no offense intended to Esh and Co. The crew built a split rail fence, which I’m sure takes attention to detail, but it’s not like they were restoring a hundred-year-old barn or creating someone’s dream kitchen. I can see getting an Amish crew across the country for a big extensive project; this, not as much.

But I may be wrong on that. The homeowner apparently had a bad experience with a previous company: “It wasn’t that easy to find someone who does this kind of work to the specifications that we needed.” Plus it sounds like this was a chance for a little sightseeing while doing a quick project. Esh called the opportunity “out of our dreams”. No info on who paid travel costs. It sounds like they will be invited back, though.

Casting nets further

State Line Fencing crew did something else that certain Amish would consider “going a long way”–they created a website with the help of a third party.  This Colorado job happened, according to the story, thanks to an online ad the crew had posted.

I don’t have statistics as to how many Amish businesses advertise and sell online.  There are Amish companies who have their own English-run websites. There are also companies who have an online presence by virtue of their products being retailed by non-Amish firms. If we count Amish furniture businesses who sell through third parties, the number could be significant. In this group we would also include Pennsylvania Dutch markets, builders and remodelers, and tourist-oriented businesses. If I had to guess…a fifth to a quarter, maybe?

As Amish advertise online–and competition increases–will the geographic scope of their work continue to expand? This blog and my email inbox often get requests for Amish builders in out-of-the-way places. If it’s the right project, they may hit the road for you, as Esh and Co. show us here.  According to their site, State Line Fencing “will quote on a job in PA, MD, NY, NJ, DE, VA, and WV”.

Any Amish “business travel” stories you might have are especially welcome.

Photo credit: ghbrett/flickr


Amish-made cheese

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