Amish return to their plows after layoffs at RV factory

After career changes from farming to small businesses such as making heaters, more Amish workers are returning to their farms as the recession sweeps into their work lives.

A Christian Science Monitor story details how more Amish are returning to the traditional Amish livelihood of farming, citing the case of former RV factory worker John Bontrager, an Amish man who was building FEMA trailers. More than half the Amish men in northern Indiana had factory jobs, but the collapse of the RV industry last year led to many of them losing their jobs.

"In just about every settlement across the country, there's been a shift away from farming toward small businesses," said historian Steven Nolt at Goshen College, an expert on the Amish.

But now the Amish across northern Indiana are returning to farming after losing factory jobs, and also because they see it as their proper work. Some are growing strawberries or tomatoes, others are raising goats, and many are selling vegetables at produce auctions.

The Amish shun modern conveniences such as cars and electricity for religious reasons. Rising land prices made farming more difficult and caused many men to land factory jobs.

But swearing and other un-Amish behavior with non-Amish co-workers created an uneasiness, and the money they earned encouraged habits the Amish frown upon, "spending it too much on themselves, going out to dinner too much, taking long trips," said Otto Graber, a dairy farmer.

Losing the easy money of going to a factory job is a silver lining in the RV slump.

"It's probably good for the community," said Kenneth Otto, who works a few days a month at his factory job. "It was really good for too long. We just took it for granted. It got (us) away from farming."

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