Amish Farms

I’ll wrap up this series next weekend. It’s been a pleasure to share photos with you from my trip to Shipshewana, Indiana. Today we’re going to focus on FARMING, and I’m sure I will get much of the terminology wrong. Although I now live in the country, I was born in LA. It will, no doubt, show. So let’s get to it!

The farms stretch out in every direction around Shipshewana. It is a sight to behold. I expected to see a man standing behind a plough with a horse or two in front. That wasn’t exactly how it went. The horses they use for farm work are different from what they use for buggies–they’re much BIGGER. The woman who took us out to this farm (who was not Amish, but was a good friend of this family), gave a wonderful example–the size of their shoes!

Small horses for buggies. Large horses for farm work. Got it. But that wasn’t all that was different. Somehow I expected someone to be milking those cows by hand. Not so. Especially not so when you have over 400 cows to milk.

No, everything was done by machines, and there was more than one shift of workers to milk them – which meant that they hired people to come in and help for one of the shifts. Also (and I’m proving how little I know about dairy cattle–we’ve only had a little beef cattle on our place), they take the babies (err, calves) away after birth.

Look at this guy. #290. He’s taken away from his mama as soon as he’s born, and then he’s bottle fed. Then the mother’s milk is what, well that’s what gives us milk! Do I have this right? I think so. It’s all very technical, and very efficiently done. Sounds like ANY dairy farm, right? Only there are differences in the way the Amish work.

For instance, though they have electricity to their barn, they draw the line on how much technology they will use. They don’t have computers. I saw a paper wheel chart, and the owner came in and explained to me how he used it. It was like a wheel on top of a wheel on top of a wheel – and he could turn it and figure out which bull he was to breed with which cow next. It was pretty amazing, and let me tell you he had excellent record-keeping, all with no “advanced technology.”

Also, they adjust to requirements by the health regulators. For example, they were told they had to process certain parts of their milk differently. They didn’t want to meet those requirements, because it would force them to add more technology to their entire facility, so instead they decided to use that milk to make cheese, which did not need the additional requirements.

This farm also had pigs, chickens and of course crops. I don’t begin to understand the ins and outs of farming, but I was fascinated by all that I saw. I’d love to go back and spend a week or a month pestering these fine people and asking questions.

Mainly what I saw was people committed to their beliefs, and determined to earn a living the way they always had. That’s something you have to admire.


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