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Amish find refuge in Wisconsin (after all, farming will survive!!!)
Yahoo! News ^ | March 26, 2004 | E.A. Torriero

Posted on 03/26/2004 9:47:13 PM PST by El Conservador

Levi Fisher's ancestors farmed the fertile land of eastern Pennsylvania for more than 275 years while living a quiet, traditional Amish lifestyle.

But squeezed in recent years by encroaching suburbia, rising land prices and increasing tourism, Fisher sought a place that reminded him how things used to be. He found it in the rolling pastures of southwest Wisconsin.

Fisher moved here in 1999 with a dozen children. Soon after, his brother Henry and family followed.

Now the Fisher clan is building a cinder-block house on its 118 acres for a third brother, Gideon, who moved this month with his wife and six children from Pennsylvania.

"We don't like the rat race out east," Gideon Fisher, 38, said while installing a window in his new home.

This rural corner of Wisconsin is a popular destination for Amish fleeing creeping congestion and secular prosperity in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

"Wisconsin is very hot right now for the Amish," said Donald Kraybill, an academic and author from Pennsylvania who is a leading analyst of Amish migration.

Drawn by low farm prices, fertile land, a longtime dairy industry and a state with generally liberal attitudes, Amish are gobbling up huge swaths of real estate in and around Grant County.

The movement is so strong that there is a weekly shuttle service between here and Pennsylvania to transport Amish and their belongings on the 850-mile trek.

In the past four years, more than 300 Amish have moved onto farms around Fennimore, according to local estimates and statistics compiled by national researchers. Amish residents have bought more than three dozen farms, and brokers are scouring the countryside for more land.

Farm prices have skyrocketed more than 50 percent to roughly $1,800 per acre. But that still is a bargain when compared with the $10,000 to $15,000 per acre in their former homelands such as Lancaster County, Pa., west of Philadelphia, and the area south of Cleveland.

No strangers to state

"I have buyers for more than 50 farms if I could find suitable land and people willing to sell," said Curtiss Freymiller, a real estate agent here who specializes in selling property to the Amish.

Amish clans are not strangers to Wisconsin. The first influx came in the 1960s. The state and the Amish clashed in the '70s over the Amish right to decide the schooling of their children.

That led to a famous Supreme Court decision, Wisconsin vs. Yoder, that ruled compulsory state attendance laws could not apply to the Amish whose religious beliefs halt their children's education at the 8th grade.

Amish traditionally do not send their children to local schools, leading to grumbling from cash-poor education districts across America whose state funds are calculated by enrollment. With roughly 12,000 Amish people, Wisconsin now has the fourth-largest Amish population, behind Ohio with 54,000, Pennsylvania with 50,000 and Indiana with 36,000, according to researchers.

But the Amish surge in recent years toward this part of Wisconsin underscores an intensifying clash of urban versus rural that cuts directly to the Amish lifestyle.

Known for their trademark beards for men and black bonnets for women, the Old Order Amish have long eschewed modern comforts. Unlike slightly more socially integrated groups like Mennonites, they do not drive motorized vehicles, make do without electricity and phones and mostly live off the land and crafts trades.

In search of seclusion, Amish people have fanned out to 28 states, including Illinois, as settlements in historic Amish areas have run out of room or are being squeezed by modern civilization.

Wisconsin now ranks second in Amish settlements with 42, behind Pennsylvania with 48, Kraybill said. And more settlements are on the horizon for Wisconsin.

Hollywood has portrayed the Amish as shy, reclusive and backward people. In reality, the Amish are proving to be sharp business folks.

"There is a certain tipping point for [the Amish], and when outsiders get too close, they move," said Richard Dawley, a writer who has chronicled the Amish in Wisconsin and conducts seminars around the state to teach residents about them.

"They are generally experts at buying low and selling high," Dawley said. "There is a calculated method to their moving. It's rather well thought out."

Before considering a region to move into, they send advance teams to scout out the properties, evaluate the quality of the soil, gauge the receptiveness of the locals and calculate land prices.

"We liked what we saw," said Levi Fisher, 44, who first arrived on a scouting mission in southwestern Wisconsin in 1998 and put down less than $400,000 for his 218 acres a year later.

Since then, migrating Amish have bought farms on the edge of Fennimore and have persistently tried to persuade nearby farmers to sell. With large families, Amish are expected to seek farms for years to come.

The emergence of the Amish has led to some grumbling among the "English," as non-Amish folks are referred to by the Amish.

Jane Napp says her family resisted selling 160 acres that had been in her family for more than century.

"We raised the price three times, thinking they would just go away, but they kept coming back," said Napp, who along with her husband is in her 60s and has raised five children in the dairy industry. "We hated to sell, but we finally gave in."

They `don't mix with us'

In Fennimore's lone supermarket, people in the town of approximately 2,300 complain about the body odor of the Amish, who tend to bathe infrequently. In the bars they curse about the horse droppings in the street from the buggy animals. On the roads they honk at the buggy drivers, who tend to take up quite a bit of the road while moving slowly.

"We have nothing against them, but they just don't mix with us," Napp said. "It's not like you see them at church or school or at barbecues or anything."

Sometimes animosity spills over into hate crimes, such as in northern Wisconsin, where police in three counties have been investigating several incidents since last fall of people shooting at Amish neighbors.

Harvey Jacobs, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says despite negative perceptions, the Amish contribute far more than they receive.

"On the positive side, they take little," Jacobs said. "They take no welfare, no social services or [farm] assistance from county extension. ... The communities are mainly taking from them."

One recent chilly morning, the Fisher clan was out in force stacking concrete blocks for a third house on their property, which already has a dairy operation and a vegetable farm.

Gideon Fisher, who left behind a carpentry trade in Pennsylvania to join his brothers, will run the vegetable stand this spring, selling the family's farm products along the main road.

The Fishers are especially happy that the route will not be full of gawkers on tourist buses, as often was the case in Pennsylvania. Their main worry is that well-to-do people from Chicago will push up land prices by buying vacation property.

But if he traveled just 60 miles north to Cashton, Wis., Fisher would see a glimpse of his past and likely the future.

A small Amish community remains vibrant there as the families have branched out into commercial tourism because dairy farming is not lucrative enough. Several families weave baskets, make wooden bowls and produce candies and sweets.

Lifelong Cashton resident Kathy Kuderer, who befriended the Amish, allowed them to build replicas of Amish housing--including an outhouse--on her land, where she in turns sells their wares.

Kuderer also runs a tour business, charging $40 per carload to thousands of visitors a year who stop to learn about Amish life.

Make no mistake though, Kuderer says, Wisconsin is no Pennsylvania.

"We don't have tour buses," she said. "We're not here to disturb the Amish but to work with them. As our friends and neighbors, we are very protective of their interests."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: amish; amishmigration; urbansprawl; wi; wisconsin
We could use some Amish here in Missouri...
1 posted on 03/26/2004 9:47:14 PM PST by El Conservador
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To: El Conservador
Amish are cool.
2 posted on 03/26/2004 10:06:23 PM PST by Barnacle (Free Republic: Let there be no doubt what we are all about.)
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To: El Conservador
"complain about the body odor of the Amish, who tend to bathe infrequently"

I dunno, if all the Amish women looked as yummy as Kelly McGillis taking a stand-up bath in the movie "Witness", I might get over the BO, hehehe

3 posted on 03/26/2004 10:36:59 PM PST by benjaminjjones
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To: El Conservador
Let's see, hmmmm.

As a Wisconsin resident, if I were to choose between the Amish emmigrating to Wisconsin, or Illinois residents fleeing to this state (either professionals retiring or scumbags on the gov't trough), ...

I'm all for a barn raising!
4 posted on 03/26/2004 10:43:44 PM PST by CruisinAround
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To: El Conservador
Dumb question, but do the Amish pay state and federal income taxes? And property taxes? I imagine they do, I just wasn't sure if there was some sort of religious prohibition.

Do the Amish consider themselves Americans?

Do Amish ever serve in the Armed Forces?

I'm just curious. I know little about them.
5 posted on 03/26/2004 10:57:42 PM PST by Choose Ye This Day ("We are delighted that Pecker will be leading the way.")
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To: El Conservador
Sometimes animosity spills over into hate crimes, such as in northern Wisconsin, where police in three counties have been investigating several incidents since last fall of people shooting at Amish neighbors.

Looks like Wisconsin is a Democratic Paradise, a hot hotbed of Liberal values, celebrating diversity, multiculturalism, and tolerance...provided you attend the same church, go to the same BBQs, don't homeschool, and above all, don't successfully farm sans subsidies.
6 posted on 03/26/2004 11:11:56 PM PST by ApplegateRanch (The world needs more horses, and fewer Jackasses!)
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To: MNLDS
Amish I knew back east were pretty respectable, born again and looked to the Bible in decision making. They paid taxes but sure worked the system just like anybody else. They had paid ssn for like 70 years but refused to collect when they turned 62. They see themselves as under God's law and do anything they can to be left alone by our Govt. They see computers as the mark of the beast but don't mind if their English secretary keeps the business computer at her house. They don't serve in military but they complete public service. For the most part, dollar don't pass their eyes and many are quite successful in pallet factories, sawmills, ect Knew one family that each son owned over 40 trucks and employed drivers but didn't have their own licenses. They work for their parents but then the parents give each kid a few hundred thousand to start businesses. Some families, every son has made his first mill by 25.

Amish communities face the same pressures as all Americans face. Jealousy, greed, infidelity (but none ever get divorced), also many genetic medical problems from inbreeding; but the Dutchmen quietly deal with the problems and don't ever want the govt involved.

Bottom line, their word is good and that's probably the most important character trait a man can possess. We can't even get politicals whose word is good.

7 posted on 03/26/2004 11:50:33 PM PST by Eska
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To: MNLDS

Do Amish ever serve in the Armed Forces?

Being pacifists, they can't pick up a gun as long as they belong to the church. But I've read of Amish that have left the community (used to be about half) and joined the army. Since they haven't been spoiled by modern luxuries, I can imagine they would be good soldiers.

8 posted on 03/27/2004 3:01:52 AM PST by Dan Evans
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To: El Conservador
Last I was in Lancaster county PA (15 years ago) it was just way too touristy and more or less an Amish theme park. I saw hardly any trees though there were many cultivated fields. They are smart to get out to Wisconsin. Good luck to 'em.

My father loves the Amish swiss cheese from Wisconsin.
9 posted on 03/27/2004 3:25:23 AM PST by dennisw (“We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.” - Toby Keith)
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To: dennisw
My father loves the Amish swiss cheese from Wisconsin.

Along Iowa Hwy 2, you'd be considered stupid and slow-witted if you don't stop at an Amish Pie Stand for at least one pie, a loaf of bread and some pastries.

10 posted on 03/27/2004 3:39:26 AM PST by woofer
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To: woofer
Don't forget to pick up some jams and jellies made by the Amish. You won't go back to Smuckers for a long, long time.

When I lived in SW Wisconsin, Amish and Mennonites had been in the area for a while and were accepted as part of the community. They were just moving into north-central Wisconsin when my in-laws were selling their farm (they hoped the Amish would buy it because they paid cash), but the farmhouse was too small (only three bedrooms). If my hubby's family is any indication, at that time, they were met with some hostility, but now, a decade or so later, the Amish are accepted by the community. My mother-in-law and sisters-in-law rave about their pies (and the jams and jellies), but I still can't convince one brother-in-law that they aren't Quakers.

11 posted on 03/27/2004 4:37:23 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: El Conservador
The Amish area in Pennsylvania is now a suburb of Philadelphia. Full of rich yuppies, commercialism, and a thriving drug trade. So they are now moving out. You now see Amish in the mountains of PA and KY, where land is cheap.

And there are several Amish groups-- some use nothing modern, and others allow gas refrigerators etc. Because there are few converts, there are genetic problems among the Amish.

The Amish have a lot of kids, but not all of them stay Amish. About half remain Amish, the rest join the English, or switch to the Mennonites.

Mennonites, who follow the tradition but are less strict. They drive cars and many become nurses or even doctors, and run hospitals in poor countries.

My mother's town has four high schools: Public, Catholic, Baptist/christian and Mennonite.

And some Mennonite churches now run ads encouraging people from liberal churches to consider joining them...however, they are strict pacifists-- in the good sense of the word.
12 posted on 03/27/2004 4:59:13 AM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: El Conservador
How do they get from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin? How do they move themselves and their worldly goods without motor vehicles? Covered wagons?

Just curious. If they want to live without modern gizmos that's fine by me.

13 posted on 03/27/2004 4:59:57 AM PST by LibKill (The right to own weapons IS the right to be free.)
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To: LibKill
How do they get from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin? How do they move themselves and their worldly goods without motor vehicles? Covered wagons?

They are not prohibited from hiring a trucking company. There are many non Amish who have good commercial relations with the Amish and help them with such matters.

14 posted on 03/27/2004 5:09:30 AM PST by dennisw (“We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.” - Toby Keith)
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To: dennisw
Thanks.

Maybe these folks are happier than I. There is something appealing about a simpler lifestyle.

Alas, I could never give up my computers.

15 posted on 03/27/2004 5:20:32 AM PST by LibKill (The right to own weapons IS the right to be free.)
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To: LibKill
Would you give up your car?
16 posted on 03/27/2004 5:41:37 AM PST by FITZ
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To: FITZ
Would you give up your car?

It's a pickup truck and I'm a Texan, you figure it out. :)

17 posted on 03/27/2004 6:01:53 AM PST by LibKill (The right to own weapons IS the right to be free.)
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To: LibKill
The Amish may ride in cars, busses and trains. There are "English" who make their living providing "taxi" service. They charge 50 cents per mile to drive folks to the store when they are too busy to catch the horse, hook it to the buggy and drive to town. They aren't supposed to fly, but under some circumstances they can be given permission though that is rare.
Whole busloads of elderly snowbirds descend on Pinecraft Florida in the fall and stay until spring.
They will take the bus from Pa to Wi and ship their household goods in a truck. Heck in Ohio they drive trucks and heavy equipment at their jobs at the pallet factories.
They are always scouting new land in Ohio too.
18 posted on 03/27/2004 6:33:22 AM PST by Wiser now
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To: benjaminjjones
Here in Ohio the Amish have windmill driven running water and gas water heaters. They can take a hot shower just like we can.
However if they have gone into town after a morning in the fields they may smell like a working man. That does mean they go to bed smelling that way!
19 posted on 03/27/2004 6:36:45 AM PST by Wiser now
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To: El Conservador
Bump for later read...
20 posted on 03/27/2004 6:49:19 AM PST by Fury
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To: El Conservador
bump
21 posted on 03/27/2004 6:54:56 AM PST by Spirited
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To: MNLDS
Do the Amish consider themselves Americans?

I would imagine they do since they are livng under the freedom of worship America provides them. I also occasionally see groups of Amish touring DC like many patriotic citizens from all over the US.
22 posted on 03/27/2004 6:58:52 AM PST by KillTime
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To: Wiser now
I saw elderly Amish tooling around Sarasota on big three wheel bicycles. They like to spend the winter there. They ain't stupid.
23 posted on 03/27/2004 7:01:37 AM PST by dennisw (“We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.” - Toby Keith)
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To: El Conservador
"We raised the price three times, thinking they would just go away, but they kept coming back," said Napp, who along with her husband is in her 60s and has raised five children in the dairy industry. "We hated to sell, but we finally gave in."

Why does this statement bother me?

They gave them a price, raised it three times and then finally sold. But, they didn't want to sell. In a pigs eye.

If you don't want to sell, you say no, you don't give a price and then jack it up three times.

24 posted on 03/27/2004 7:17:09 AM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure)
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To: El Conservador
God bless the Amish! They have preserved farming methods that are self-sustaining and treat the soil as a treasure.
25 posted on 03/27/2004 8:24:40 AM PST by upcountryhorseman (An old fashioned conservative)
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To: Wiser now
Ooops! That does NOT mean they go to bed smelling that way! Sorry. Better learn to proof better!
26 posted on 03/27/2004 9:23:58 AM PST by Wiser now
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bump for later
27 posted on 03/27/2004 12:15:33 PM PST by Museum Twenty (Support the President - wear the Baseball Cap - display the Bumper Sticker - http://www.ilovew.com .)
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To: El Conservador
They are doing OK in Aroostook County Maine.
28 posted on 03/27/2004 8:32:50 PM PST by Meldrim
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