Odd Amish Jobs

Last October we had a look at some unusual occupations in Michigan Amish communities.  I was recently going through an Ohio Amish directory while doing book research and came across more uncommon Amish jobs.

Amish JobsAmish church directories vary.  Some have the head of household’s occupation listed; others don’t. Sometimes the listing is just a generic description of the job (“Mason” or “Roofer” or “Bakery”).  At times just the company name is given.

Some of the more interesting Amish jobs I found include:

  • House Mover
  • Fur Buyer
  • Herb Store
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Buggy Rides
  • Draftsman
  • Sports Shop
  • Homemade Ice Cream
  • Electrician
  • CNC Technician
  • Plumbing & HVAC
  • Clothes Dryer Mfg.
  • Antique Mall Owner
  • Strip Miner
  • Book Rebinding
  • Ohio Central Railroad
  • Dispatcher

These relatively rare occupations are scattered among umpteen wood craftsmen, construction workers, and farmers, of course.

But this list does give a sense that “Amish work” means more than building cabinets and milking cows.

House move photo: Lyle58/flickr

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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      I can only imagine how short this list would have been say 40 or 50 years ago, with the word “farmer” being right at the top of that list. Richard

    2. Lee Ann

      It’s sad to see that so many must work outside of farm or woodworking jobs. But its also interesting to see the variety of jobs that are held by the Amish.

      1. I don’t know Lee Ann, I don’t really see it that way.

        Amish society might idealize farming as an occupation, but I know Amish who would be close to miserable if they had to farm. Some people just aren’t built for it.

        I’m glad if people can find something that suits them better. The outside-the-mold occupations can allow for family life and involvement as well. Of course not all do though.

    3. None of the uncles on my Dad’s side of the family were farmers. They excelled in shop work like horse shoeing etc.

    4. Amish occupations

      Hi Erik,
      I don’t remember if these occupations came up in the last discussion,but I have done business with an Amish sharpening shop – they sharpen scissors, chain saws, push and gang reel lawn mowers and more. I also bought some linen and sewing thread from an Amish fabric store. These businesses offer high quality products and services at a good price.

    5. Alice Mary

      When in a bind...

      “Book rebinding” brought a smile to my face! I wonder if they use some of the same techniques and materials libraries use (I work in a public library)? I can imagine an Amish man (or woman, as binding often requires sewing) hunched over an ancient copy of the Bible or Martyr’s Mirror (I think that’s the title), repairing it for another few generations’ worth of use. It’s a dying art, but still a necessary one, as long as we still value books (I do own an e-reader, but refuse to give away my books!).

      I’m pretty surprised about the plumbing/HVAC job for the Amish—at least the HVAC part!

      That’s an interesting & thought-provoking list, Erik!

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary I don’t know much about bookbinding techniques, but here is a piece by Brad Igou on an Amish bookbinder he knew: https://amishamerica.com/abner-the-bookbinder/

    6. Carolyn B

      Loved seeing the book re-binding myself. Would love to know where and to what capacity a person can become a dispatcher or a nursing assistant. Erik, any elaboration would be appreciated.

      1. Good question Carolyn–I’m not sure what “dispatcher” actually means in this case, though I’m assuming it’s probably for some sort of commercial company. “Nursing assistant” is also vague, I wonder if it has to do with midwifery or work in a nursing home. That appears a couple of times.


      Where I live I see Amish roofers and contractors. I wish I could hire an Amish handyman to fix things around my house.

    8. Christine

      Kind of odd to see electrician considering they don’t use electricity.

      1. I thought someone might notice that Christine 🙂 Sometimes Amish develop a proficiency in an area they may not be completely free to accept into their own lives. As another example I once had an Amish alternator/engine place do some work on my pickup.

    9. OldKat

      CNC Technician

      I missed this the first time around. Does anyone have any idea what a “CNC Technician” is?

      1. Amish and CNC machines

        Alice Mary is on to it, the CNC machines are used to create highly precise parts and components for various industries. For instance there is one business I am aware of where an “Amish engineer” uses one to create specialized tools which are then used in manufacturing vinyl products.

        As you can imagine these have been a point of contention for Amish due to their computerized nature. I’m not sure how many have accepted them at this point. Old Order Mennonites have more readily accepted them. Kevin Kelly (who will be speaking at the Amish Tech conference) writes about them in a Mennonite shop in a post for his blog here: http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/02/amish_hackers_a.php

        “…they manufacture very precise milled metal parts for pneumatic motors and for kerosene cooking stoves, an Amish favorite. The tolerances needed are a thousand of an inch. So a few years ago they installed a massive, $400,000 computer-controlled milling (CNC) machine in his backyard, behind the horse stable. This massive half-million dollar tool is about the dimensions of a delivery truck. It is operated by his 14-year old daughter, in a bonnet. With this computer controlled machine she makes parts for grid-free horse and buggy living.”

        Also Kraybill and Hurd discuss their acceptance by some Old Order Mennonites vs. the Amish in “Horse and Buggy Mennonites”: http://books.google.pl/books?id=3xipnM7PArIC&pg=PA328&lpg=PA328&dq=cnc+machine+amish&source=bl&ots=ox6WJ99wI-&sig=GV8wocY2B-Qv0Ayzq0CbXigDvNY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Yp2DUb-KI829ParJgaAN&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=cnc%20machine%20amish&f=false

        That book is almost 7 years old and I do know that this issue has been in the mix for Amish in the past few years. I’m just not sure if and how many Amish have permitted these at this point; I wouldn’t be surprised that they would be accepted by the more change-minded Amish. They are computerized but are a back stage element of Amish life, don’t pose the same threat that internet-equipped cell phones or laptops do, and could be justified for their business applications.

    10. Alice Mary


      “Computer Numerical Control”–that’s what a Google search yielded (though I could probably think up a few of my own 😉 !

      Alice Mary