Monday, December 7, 2009

Will the Amish Save Civilization?

Here is an absolutely fascinating story from the Boston Globe about the growth of the Amish in Maine. Yes, Maine. It turns out that the Amish are now local heroes (!) for saving a section of farmland from urban sprawl and for their energy-efficient lifestyle. (I wonder if the Globe remembers that they are against homosexuality and thus "evil" and "bad"?) Anyway, here are a few interesting quotes.

"As dairy farms in Unity have struggled and died in recent years, town leaders worried the setting would draw developers more interested in erecting neo-Colonials and paving roads than preserving the town’s agricultural heritage. They recruited organic farmers who bought small plots. But vast swaths remained.

Then a little more than a year ago men in banded straw hats and denim suits arrived and started buying big parcels. They built sturdy houses on the hillsides above fields where they planted strawberries and butternut squash, and loosed goats and cows to graze. They started small businesses on their land, turning out metal siding, wind turbines, and furniture, and sold vegetables and baked goods.

“The Amish were the solution that we were looking for - that we could never have dreamed up,’’ said Doug Fox, a neighbor of the Hochstetlers, one of Unity’s eight Amish families.

In a rugged stretch of Maine, where self-reliance and iconoclasm have been long honored, Amish are settling and finding eager neighbors. Amish first made homes in Smyrna and Easton in Aroostook County and most recently in Unity and neighboring Thorndike, in the state’s center, transforming landscapes into scenes that could be postcards from Lancaster, Pa. - byways dotted with pickups giving wide berth to horse-drawn buggies carrying women in bonnets and men with beards. Today, about 200 Amish live in Maine, according to their leaders."

The Amish are the fastest growing demographic in North America today. Contrary to what devotees of "Progress" and "Modernity" might be capable of believing, they retain most of their children for their Faith and their way of life. And they have a lot of children to retain; the average Amish family has eight children. They are experiencing big pressure from a lack of suitable farm land in well-established Amish areas like Ontario, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Thus, they are spreading out where reasonably priced land is available in sufficient quantities to support a community.

The article stresses the farming abilities and eco-friendly ways of the Amish but, (as befits a properly politically correct newspaper devoted to good taste these days), never once mentions their Christian faith. Zoe Romanowsky over at Inside Catholic discusses the Globe article and ends by quipping:
"This is a real success story, at least thus far. I can imagine a best-seller some day in the future... How the Amish Saved Civilization."
The monks did it once and they - with a little help from the Amish - they might have to do it again.

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