In 1991, there were 215 Amish settlements in North America.  20 years later, the number was 427 (see this 20-year review at the Amish Studies site).

The Amish population doubles every 2 decades (give or take).  But this doesn’t mean that existing communities just double in size.

amish road traffic

Road traffic influences Amish migration. Yikes

As they grow, Amish move.  Big communities lose members to daughter settlements.  Smaller settlements shed residents too, as Amish form new churches with differences in Ordnung or find themselves drawn to new vistas.

This has meant Amish creating communities in places they’ve never lived before.  States like Kentucky, Wisconsin, and New York have seen their Amish populations rocket.

The Amish growth rate doesn’t seem to be slowing.  Coming years will only see more migration.  So if Amish don’t live in your area right now, there’s a chance they just might one day.

Where are the Tar Heel Amish?

That said, my hometown of Raleigh, NC–or rather, the general vicinity–probably won’t be seeing a lot of Amish moving trucks rolling in.

For one, it’s a pretty high-growth area, with the Research Triangle Park generating jobs, and the mild climate attracting northerners for some years now.  Land prices won’t encourage Amish farmers to the area–though I’m sure Amish businesses within 30-60 min of the Triangle would go gangbusters.

new amish settlements

New Amish settlements have arisen across the map

So to reach an Amish community from my stomping ground, you have to go about 2.5 hours west (to NC’s only Amish, at Union Grove).  Or, head 2 hours north (to the Halifax County, VA Amish settlement) .

For awhile there were Amish even closer (1.5 hrs away) near Yanceyville, NC near the VA border.  But for some reason(s), Amish have made only a few attempts to settle NC.

Other states have drawn Amish though, including some recent new ones (see the Amish Studies state population list).

Between 1991 and 2010, the number of Amish states went from 22 to 28, with new communities in such diverse geographic areas as New England (Maine), the Deep South (Mississippi), and the West (Colorado).

Choosing a destination

How do Amish decide where to move?  Some factors include:

  1. Land Prices– Want to start farming?  Land prices are your biggest obstacle.  By the same token, selling a farm in one high-priced area may let you buy 2-4 farms somewhere else.
  2. Land Availability– Are enough properties available within buggying distance?
  3. Legal – Conservative Kentucky Amish are currently having serious problems over the SMV triangle–that their counterparts in Ohio or Tennessee are not.  Amish left Nebraska in the 80s over school issues.  How does local law view Amish ways?
  4. “Local Climate”– This is about English locals and Amish newcomers.  Have Amish lived in the area before, or do any live in the vicinity now? Have there been clashes over roadways, manure, etc.?  Receptive local governments and citizens can ease a transition (putting up hitching posts in town, $ support of Amish auctions and businesses, etc).
  5. amish farm growing conditions

    Growing conditions factor into the Amish decision to move

    Actual Climate– How does the climate affect growing conditions?  And human comfort?  A beard and broadfall trousers get sticky down on the Bayou.  That said, Amish have settled in less favorable climes, with some success.

  6. Road Traffic and Population– Many Amish settlements have failed due to overcrowding.  Besides practical problems and dangers, closeness to the “world” is a spiritual threat.
  7. Closeness to other Amish– To survive, you’ve got to attract enough settlers–not to mention crucial ministry.  Visiting family “back home”, as well as young folk finding special friends (and eventual mates) outside their home group are also issues.
  8. Employment– If farming is not an ideal option (ie, in drier areas such as Colorado’s San Luis Valley), what scope is there for employment (either by opening small businesses or with non-Amish employers?)

So, has your area seen any Amish settlement in recent years?  How’s it going?

And if not, how do you think Amish would do in your neck of the woods?


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