The Amish have settled in towns all over the United States. The largest Amish settlements are in Lancaster County in south-central Pennsylvania, Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northeast Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Holmes County, Ohio. As the largest of these settlements, Holmes County will be the area of focus in these environmental studies.
They experience all different types of weather year-round which is similar to that of the generations before the current one who migrated from Switzerland, France, Germany, Holland, Poland and Russia. In Holmes County, they must adapt to the lows of the winter months in the mid 20’s Fahrenheit to the highs of the summer which ranges in the 70’s and even climbs to the 80’s. They must also face heavy snow and rain throughout the year.
Average rainfall: 38”
Average snowfall: 28.2”
Sunny days: 172
Average summer high: 84 degrees Fahrenheit
Average winter low: 18.1 degrees Fahrenheit
The Amish live in a rural setting that includes rolling hills, plenty of land for farms and country roads. They live isolated from other cultures so there is little competition for resources because many Amish farm and provide their own resources.
Holmes County is very diverse in agriculture and is important to the local economy. Their agriculture includes livestock such as cows, pigs, horses, broilers, grains, oats, corn, forages, timber and much more.
One physical adaptation of the Amish is their lighter skin. Original Amish came from Europe where it is not always sunny. Bodies produce melanin which acts as a natural, protective biological shield against ultraviolet radiation. There are necessary amounts of ultraviolet radiation that the skin must absorb from the sun for the body to produce vitamin D and the Amish peoples’ lighter skin allows the necessary amount to be absorbed. Their lighter skin does not shield the sun because they need to absorb more because of the lack of sunlight in Europe where the Amish migrated from. Their skin is a specific adaptation to living in a less sunny, European landscape.
Another physical adaptation of the Amish is that they have a higher rate of some diseases based on genetics. This is because the Amish have less contact with the outside society so they tend to be more inbred. This increases the risk of developing certain genetic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer that can be passed down.
One cultural adaptation exhibited by the Amish is their ability to manage their environment for farming. With how much flat land and the benefits farming provides, the farm lifestyle is the ideal goal for most Amish families. In Holmes county, they have cultivated almost 200,000 acres of land for farming. All of that land is being used to harvest crops and raise livestock that they eat and sell to make a living.
Another cultural adaptation exhibited by the Amish is their modes of transportation around their hilly environment. They trained horses and ride buggies to travel the windy roads of Holmes County. This lessens the physical strain they would have if they had to travel on the hills by foot.
The last cultural adaptation exhibited by the Amish is their choice of clothes. Women wear layers of long sleeved shirts under their traditional long dresses with a head bonnet while men wear pants to keep them warm during the cold months. This helps them adapt to the cold weather and live comfortably in the winter.
The name of the language spoken by the Amish is English. It is spoken in many other countries but the pronunciation of words and accent that makes it different from other countries. The grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of American native speakers of English are not identical to the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of other country’s speakers of English. It has a large number of possible tenses and many languages do not have a continuous tense form and it also has the largest vocabulary of any language. The English language has a written language with an alphabet that consists of 26 Roman letters. Most English speaking countries have always valued education especially of reading and writing. The Amish is no exception.
Amish women are expected to marry, have multiple children and submit to their husband’s will. It is her responsibility to take care of her household chores such as cooking, cleaning, sewing and gardening. It is also her main responsibility to raise and teach their children from a young age instilling traditional gender roles and discipline in them. The Husband is considered the head of the family in both religious and societal matters but they make major decisions together. The entire family works and labors on farms. Men typically run the household finances but women sometimes also own small businesses and sell their products or services to support the family as well. Only men are allowed to take on religious leadership roles in their church which is the foundation of their society. Amish are very strict with their delineations of their gender roles. Crossing over is considered to be a denial of the culture and faith in which they have been indoctrinated their whole lives. Denial of culture is looked down upon.
An example of the relationship between biology and gender roles is the role of the child-bearing mother. It is her responsibility to care for, nurture, provide for and raise her child from the beginning of pregnancy. A man who is physically stronger can work manually more than a woman and provide for their family in that way.
The Amish would not receive the protagonist from The Blessed Curse well. They are very traditional when it comes to their gender roles and this girl would not be seen as belonging in either the male or female group. She would be looked at as a complete outsider from the rest of the population.
Subsistence and Economic Systems
The primary mode of subsistence of the Amish culture is through horticulture. The Amish farmers till their land which they later plant several crops annually depending on the season. The Amish also tend to their gardens and feed themselves. They raise cows for milk and meat, chickens and ducks for eggs and meat, pigs for ham, pork and sausage, orchards for fruit, huge vegetable gardens for the family, and they farm, or do woodworking, mostly, for cash.
The main food items that make up the Amish diet include crops such as corn celery, beets, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, and a wide variety of other vegetables. Amish may have fruit trees or grapevines on their property as well. Amish eat a lot of fresh foods in the growing and harvest months, and can large quantities of fruits and vegetables for the winter. Amish also raise their own livestock. Many Amish have laying hens which produce eggs. Chickens and pigs may also be slaughtered for meat. Amish purchase typical pre-packaged food in stores and markets as well.
While generally the farming harvesting of crops for food is the responsibility of the entire family, storage of surplus food and cooking is an Amish housewife's responsibility. In preparation for the winter months when farming and harvesting is less common due to the weather conditions, Amish women can and freeze several hundred jars of fruits, vegetables and meats each year creating a surplus in food items.
Amish are very health-conscious when it comes to food and nutrition. While very few have access to unhealthy junk food and fast food, they stick to homegrown, natural and organic foods which encourages a balanced diet. On the other hand, they eat a diet that’s fairly high in fat from sources such as meat and eggs. Despite this, their obesity rate is low.
Mainly Amish women work from their home however both sexes handle household finances and farm. For work, they both provide products and services to markets everywhere including other states and even overseas through the Internet. They make a living by selling of crops and goods such as furniture. Some shops in Holmes County are furniture shops, home décor shops, natural homemade skin care shops, and art shops.
Like everyone else in the United States, the Amish use the American dollar as currency. Besides cash, they also open checking accounts and even use credit cards. They are engaged in trade through the use of currency through farming and businesses. Amish have to deal with negative side effects like traffic and tourist crowds too. Some are not as bothered by it.
The marriage pattern of the Amish is monogamous. Monogamous. Amish couples are expected to remain married to the mates they select as young adults. There is high inbreeding in the Amish population because they are so isolated from the rest of society.
Each young man and woman determines marriage partners. They get to choose their own husband and wife after the courting process where they go to singings (the usual mixed recreation and primary courtship activity) or Sunday worship church together and spend time alone together.
There is not necessarily economic exchange for the marriage but wedding gifts are presented to the couple. This does not devalue the meaning of the male to the female. After sometimes several years of courting, they know they are suitable for each other based on guidelines such as active membership in a church and the ability to support one another and that is enough. One is not more valued than the other.
Amish are only allowed to marry within the church because the Amish church depends on the biological reproduction of its members rather than on acquiring new members. This is why it is very important that Amish marry within the church. Divorce, separation and homosexuality are unacceptable in the church. For these things, they would be shunned from their society, church and family.
In the United States the Amish community is patrilocal. They often live with their in-laws and family until they are able to afford their own land and house.
Amish have large families that consists of many children and extended family. Some relatives also marry and have children with other relatives because they are isolated from outside populations. Grandparents are a vital part of the family. They pass their farm down to their children and remain present in the lives of their family instilling wisdom in them and contributing by helping with chores and other ways. All members of the family are valued and important for the different roles they play (children helping with farming, father working, mother taking care of the house, etc.). Other descent lines are less emphasized.
The male possesses the most authority within the family in this culture. They are the ones who inherit land from their father’s generation, they work and make most decisions for the sake of their family’s good. Most of the time, goods and property are passed on via descent lines to the oldest male in the family.
The Amish naming patterns are similar to those in the Eskimo system and Iroquois system with names in common such as siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles within the nuclear and extended families.
Generally the Amish culture is egalitarian. Within the Amish population, there is equal status and social power. They strive to avoid power relationships in terms of internal politics but there are usually several men who are the “leaders” of the community.
The Amish follow the same political structure as we know of in the United States as a republic. However involvement in government activities is generally low. They prefer not to receive subsidies from government programs. They will typically not serve in government committees or commissions, but will often consult and cooperate with local officials. The Amish generally avoid holding public office and engaging in political activism. They are, however, permitted to vote.
Religious laws are determined by the leaders of the church who are influenced by the Bible. Laws of the Amish culture are determined by the government through voting and traditional laws. State authorities punish them for breaking the law determined by court with the possibility of fines or jail.
The Role of Violence:
There has been a history of gang violence in some Amish societies. Feuds have resulted in physical harm and rivalry which negatively affects the culture. They reject the use of guns for violence in the Amish culture even out of self-defense. This positively affects culture because they do not have the option to use guns to kill another person and have other means of self-defense. The use of a gun in any other way besides hunting is considered to be a sin. For this reason, gun violence is virtually unknown amongst the Amish.
The Amish practice Christianity. They believe that there is one God who came to the earth in human for as Jesus Christ. They base their beliefs on the Bible which they believe to be the word of God written through chosen prophets throughout time. In the first book of the Bible called Genesis, God created the first man and woman to ever walk the earth named Adam and Eve. They then gave birth to generations and generations of people who eventually gave birth to them so they believe that all people came from Adam and Eve. They are united as a church body and family with the common belief that all humankind is sinful and must atone for their sins by the belief in Jesus Christ and as a part of this family of God, they believe that it is their duty to fulfill God’s purposes on the earth which is to have faith in God, love God and worship God.
The Amish devote themselves to a life of holiness, love and discipline. As adults, Amish choose whether they want to commit to Christianity, and be baptized or not into the church which is basically a public proclamation of their commitment to the faith and salvation from hell. If they breach religious guidelines, they are to be shunned from the Amish community and are forced to leave their family, friends and lives behind. They must also cut off all form of contact within the community. It is taken extremely seriously.
The Amish culture revolves around their religious practices. It would not function without it because it is what their society was built on. If they do not agree, they have the option of disgracing everyone and everything they believe in and leaving the Amish culture.
Artwork: It is most commonly expressed in the Amish culture through paintings, hand made quilts, fine crafted furniture, baskets, woodwork, and more. They are sold and benefit artists financially.
Music: Folk and country songs are sang at singings which is a mixed recreation for teenagers equivalent to a dance. They do not dance to the music or play instruments but sing together.
Performance: The Amish do not perform in theaters or dance however there are many theater shows and performances dedicated to showing their lifestyle.
Religious Art: Tradition hymns are sang in church as a form of worship.
The Amish has been affected by other cultures in that they do not let themselves to be affected by other cultures. Confusing? Well, they live their lives in a world that they like to keep almost completely separate from other cultures. They stick to the traditions and rules that they have had for years based on the Bible and any other influence is not allowed or acceptable. It is sometimes said that the Amish live “stuck in time” so their role in the modern world is quite minimal. Besides the handmade goods and homegrown crops they contribute, the lack of commonalities makes their role in the modern world weak. Even something so vital to most of the rest of the world like electricity is not used in the Amish society because it is a connection to the Godless world. However, they do teach the modern world what it is like to live a lifestyle that is completely devoted to religion and how it is possible to succeed in that way. Despite these huge differences and difficult everyday standards, this lifestyle has worked well for them so far and it is a healthy and thriving culture.