When you think of the Amish you probably think of an Amish man with a beard and black hat riding on a horse drawn tractor tilling the fields of his farm. Or an Amish woman with a white cap and long blue dress sitting in her modest home making a handmade Amish quilt by the glow of candlelight surrounded by a dozen or so children. While these are certainly two images of Amish life that you will most certainly see, there are also some surprising images that you might not necessarily expect from the typical Amish man or woman.
For instance, most people assume that all Amish men are farmers. This is not necessarily the case because being Amish does not automatically make you a great farmer. You might also assume that all Amish women make dozens of Amish quilts each year by hand. This is not necessarily the case either. While most Amish women learn how to make Amish quilts by their mothers, they do not all enjoy making them and most certainly do not make a career out of making Amish quilts either. Instead, many Amish men work outside the Amish community in a variety of different jobs and many Amish women work outside the home to keep busy and contribute to the family financially.
Farming for the Amish is an important part of keeping the Amish community thriving, but it is not the only thing that brings money to the community. Many Amish men are skilled woodworkers and choose to open their own woodworking shops or go work for one in the community. Amish woodworkers make everything from hand carved wooden toys to cedar chests to bedroom furniture to gazebos to entire homes. Using traditional techniques without the many modern tools that many people associate with woodworking, Amish woodworkers are often highly sought after craftsmen for their master woodworking techniques and high quality finished products.
Other Amish men work in other skilled labor jobs, such as painters, clockmakers, or blacksmiths. Using traditional methods, many Amish entrepreneurs open up shops that specialize in an area that is not easily found in modern society today. While many people use horses for farming and enjoyment, there is a lack of skilled blacksmiths who can produce custom made horseshoes. This type of specialize service can be hard to come by, so many Amish blacksmithing shops do a large amount of business due to the fact that there is not much competition around.
Amish women are often just as successful working outside of the home as their Amish husbands are. By far, the most lucrative business for Amish women is the Amish quilting business. Amish quilts are so popular that people will travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to purchase an authentic handmade Amish quilt from one of several Amish communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states. Because Amish quilters make their Amish quilts without the use of electricity, they have become somewhat of an oddity in the world of mass produced goods. Amish quilters will stitch their Amish quilts together by hand using a needle and thread, as well as a foot powered treadle sewing machine. These Amish quilts are often sold in local markets to tourists or even online on Amish quilting sites to people around the world. The Amish quilters who can make their Amish quilts with the closest and smallest stitches in the details of the Amish quilt design can sell their Amish quilts for more than a thousand dollars each. The Amish quilting business is a very lucrative one and if they can find the time to make several throughout the year, many Amish quilters can make a fair amount of money for their families.
Of course, not all women are skilled Amish quilters. Many women instead choose to work in a local shop that sells Amish quilts or other handmade Amish products. Most Amish shops are run by Amish families and all the members of the family, from the smallest children up, work together as a team selling their handmade wares to the thousands of tourists who visit each year. Other businesses run by Amish women might include selling products from their gardens or made in the kitchen. Amish produce, flowers, and baked goods are unique in that they do not have chemicals and are usually made with all natural products. Amish women often grow their own fruits and vegetables and will sell their fresh produce or canned goods in the market. Baked goods, such as breads, pies, cakes, or cookies are made without the use of electricity and are in high demand due to their all natural ingredients.
While the majority of the products sold by the Amish are bought by non-Amish community members and tourists, it can be a double edged sword for them. The Amish long to be left alone to practice their religion peacefully, but they are also dependent upon the outside world for the success of their community as consumers and customers. From selling their produce and livestock to the local public to creating beautiful handmade Amish quilts which are sold to the tourists who bombard them with their modern cars and sometimes intrusive behavior, the Amish both shun and depend upon the non-Amish people around them. Whether tilling the field, sewing an Amish quilt, or building a handmade cedar chest, the Amish work in a variety of industries that keep the community strong and successful.