The Sugarcreek, Ohio Budget newspaper is a vital print lifeline stretching across the diverse Anabaptist settlements of North and South America.

Founded in 1890, this weekly paper out of Sugarcreek, Ohio, serves as an information exchange for families sometimes separated by great distances and formidable technological barriers.  The Budget is among the favorites when it comes to Amish reading material.

Budget ‘scribes’ regularly report on local happenings.  Their writings are listed under the home settlement’s geographical header.

Many of the placenames indicate traditional Amish/Mennonite locales in Pennsylvania, Indiana, or Ohio.  A number, however, come from further afield, distant lands such as Belize, Haiti, or Romania, likely originating from more adventurous Mennonite or Beachy Amish settlers.

Besides the local news, you can also find all sorts of neat things for sale in the Budget–wind-up watches, cloth diapers, and something called a ‘no-crack’ freezer container, to name a few.

Ads in the Budget tell you where to get your ‘superior cow cream’ or even Himalayan Goji Juice, two items no doubt favored by Plain folk concerned for both their own and their animals’ health.

Service providers advertise as well–again, many of them health-related.  Perusing a recent issue you’d come across info on hernia relief, Tijuana dentistry, and even the frightening-sounding colon hydrotherapy.

How’s the weather in those parts?

Poems, children’s sketches, and petitions for contributions for needy members enduring misfortune also feature prominently in the 40+ page gazette.

But on to the meat of it:  in the Budget, readers learn of all sorts of happy occurrences:  marriages and births and successful moves and good crop yields, to mention a few of the most popular topics.

The Budget conveys tragedy as well.  Readers of a recent issue learned of an Indiana organic-farm poultry barn burning down, resulting in the loss of 17,000 young fryers, and much worse–a young Amish father of six who died suddenly of a burst appendix in the same community.

And finally, the Budget brings readers the seemingly mundane:  A big chunk of letters begin something like ‘spring is here and the weather is fine….’, ‘church was held at the Miller place…’, ‘the flowers are in bloom…’ and don’t really seem to say too much else.

My old man happened to pick up an issue, and joked about how ‘nothing’ really seems to happen in most of the letters.  He wondered, just when do they find the time to write about the corn growing?

I supposed that it might be what they do when they’re not on the internet or in front of the tube.

And maybe that’s just us taking a short view of it…with the weather playing such a prominent role in the agrarian-minded Amish-Mennonite world, it might come to mean the difference between prosperity and destitution.  At least it has in the past.

In any case, the Budget is a vital publication, anticipated and enjoyed by many in the far-flung Amish-Mennonite community.

It’s a modern-day relic in a modern world of internet, cell phones and email, a throwback ‘messaging system’ for a ‘peculiar people’, of whom many still choose to rely on the printed word for basic news and communication.

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