Thursday, August 28, 2008

LANCASTER, Pa.

The Amish are expanding their presence in states far beyond Pennsylvania Dutch country as they search for affordable farmland to accommodate a population that has nearly doubled in the past 16 years, a new study found.

States such as Missouri, Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.

Over the same period, Amish settlements have been established in seven new states, putting them in at least 28 states from coast to coast. The new states are: West Virginia.

“When we think they might be dying out or merely surviving, they are actually thriving,” said Associated Press.



Also known as Anabaptists, the Amish are Christians who reject most modern conveniences and rely on horse-drawn carriages. They began arriving in eastern Pennsylvania around 1730. Along with English, they speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German.

Amish couples typically have five or more children. With more than four out of every five deciding in young adulthood to remain within the church, their population has grown steadily. More than half the population is under 21.

A small portion of the increase is also a result of conversions to the faith.

The Amish are attracted to areas with relatively cheap farms, a rural lifestyle and nonfarming jobs such as construction or cabinetmaking that fit their values and allow them to remain independent. In some cases, they have migrated to resolve leadership problems or escape church-related disputes.

In Intercourse, a town just east of Lancaster popular with tourists, Amish goat farmer Lester Stoltzfus said a number of area families had moved recently to other states in search of affordable farmland.

“It’s fine with me if people move out,” Mr. Stoltzfus, 37, said from his farm along a country lane hemmed in by cornfields. “There are too many people living here anyway.”

Down the road at Fisher’s Tin Shop, where stovepipes and decorative items fashioned out of tin hang on the walls, Ben Fisher could not offer any explanation for why the Amish are doing so well, but he said families are on the move all the time.

“They’ve got to go somewhere,” he said.

As they move into new areas, some of the conflicts that occurred years earlier in established Amish settlements are playing out again, often involving issues such as building codes or waste treatment.

In Mayfield, Ky., an area into which a few hundred Amish have moved in recent years, nine men are fighting charges they operated horse-drawn buggies without the flashing lights or orange safety triangles that state law requires.

“They are moving into new states and settling or establishing new settlements in communities where local officials aren’t acquainted with them. That creates some misunderstanding on zoning issues or other unique factors in Amish practice,” Mr. Kraybill said.

At the same time, some businesses have been glad to accommodate the Amish. In Mayfield, hardware store owner Dan Falder said his business is one of several to install hitching posts where the Amish can tie up their horses.

Now when Mr. Falder looks across the parking lot, he sees horse manure. “That’s new within the last few years,” he said.

Pennsylvania, Indiana continue to be the geographic center for the Amish, accounting for about two-thirds of the faith’s population. They also accounted for more than half of the total population gain.

But eight states with at least 1,000 Amish residents had higher rates of growth, led by Kentucky, which saw its population jump 200 percent, from 2,835 to 8,505, the study found.

The number of Amish “districts” - congregations that usually consist of two or three dozen families - has increased by 84 percent in the past 16 years, from 929 to 1,711.

The arrival of the Amish can raise land prices, and their self-reliance translates into a relatively low burden on public services.

Wis., said the newcomers seldom appear in the court system, require long-term care or attend public schools.

“As they live their lives, they really do not become very involved with government,” said Mr. Hubbard, whose state has seen its Amish population climb 117 percent since 1992.

At least 350 Amish families migrated into New York or Wisconsin between 2002 and 2007. Over the same period, about 520 families moved out of Ohio and some 470 left Pennsylvania.

“One family doesn’t go; there is a group of them that goes, like two or three or four,” said Fannie Erb-Miller, national editor of the Budget, a weekly newspaper serving the Amish that is based in Sugarcreek, Ohio.

Once a settlement has six families and at least one minister, it qualifies to send the Budget dispatches about its activities, often with an invitation for others to join it.

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