agribusiness; dairy farming; technological adoption; tradition; Pennsylvania


Amish people have a reputation for being ecologically and environmentally conscientious. As numerous scholars in Amish and Plain Anabaptist studies have demonstrated, Amish views of the environment are diverse and ultimately anchored in the understanding that God made nature for human use. In these cases, Amish views of the environment could be described as much more anchored in traditional philosophical notions of “agrarianism” than “environmentalism.” In this article, I explore how some Amish approach agrarianism with a turn from more traditional farm life toward necessary economic engagement with multi-faceted operations and diversification. Based on intensive ethnographic research and participant observation, I emphasize the unique place of the dairy farm in sustaining agrarian values that maintain the Amish church Ordnung. I present four case studies that illustrate the negotiation, expression, and maintenance of agrarianism of Amish dairy farmers. Each ethnographic case demonstrates how contemporary challenges are met by creating boundaries between Amish and worldly life. Ultimately, I argue that dairy farming operations are held at a different standard when compared to other occupations, given farming’s historical tie to achieving an ideal agrarian livelihood. In some instances, Amish dairy farmers had to over perform Ordnung standards to stabilize agrarian values. These cases complicate both the traditional definitions of Amish agrarianism and the breadth of participants (Amish/non-Amish) maintaining it. [Abstract by author.]


This paper would not have been possible without the generosity and openness of the participants, and I thank them for their time and patience during my fieldwork years and subsequent follow-up visits. I am also grateful for feedback and encouragement from participants of the Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies Association (APASA) Conference, APASA Cafe, the anonymous reviewers, and editors Caroline Brock and Cory Anderson.