The tourism attracted by the Amish population in Lancaster, Pa., is now making it harder for Amish to maintain their traditional lifestyle. Some families are leaving the area as a result.
Rolling pastures dotted with grazing cows, fields of corn and classic buggies driven by Amish in hats and bonnets — these are the images that attract visitors to Lancaster County, home to more than 30,000 of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Visitors who also bring big money to the state — to the tune of nearly $1.8 billion a year. Which explains why the winning bumper sticker in a contest sponsored by Pennsylvania’s Tourism Office didn’t feature the Liberty Bell or the battlefield in Gettysburg — but rather, “I Break for Shoofly Pie,” an ode to the traditional Amish dessert.
But pictures can be deceiving, and the office of tourism — indeed the entire state — has reason to worry. The Amish, with their emphasis on family, hard work and simplicity, have drawn hordes of tourists but also an influx of residents, malls, roads and housing developments. The upshot? Swaths of farmland have been lost, and many Amish are now choosing to give up farming or are leaving the state to pursue quieter surrounding and cheaper land.
The irony, spelled out in research from Pennsylvania’s Kutztown University, couldn’t be more blunt: “The commercialization of the Amish lifestyle has grown tremendously in recent decades, so much so that it actually threatens the viability of the very tourism industry it created. … Stores catering to the tourists now sit on land that was once an Amish farm.”
Samuel Lapp, a former Amish farmer who lives near Intercourse, said a farm is “a nice place for boys to grow up,” but seeing others get jobs, make money and not have to work seven days a week convinced his sons to take another path.
“My sons didn’t want our farm and I’m not going to milk cows by myself,” said Lapp.
He sold his dairy and hog farm about 25 years ago and his children mostly work in construction, a lucrative industry in a county where the population has risen by more than 100,000 since 1990.
But the commercial and residential development that is generating construction jobs has also bumped up land prices. Donald Kraybill, who teaches at Elizabethtown College and is co-author of The Amish, said a 60-acre farm today costs around $1.2 million — not including livestock or equipment.
Read More: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/05/22/314628097/amish-leave-pa-in-search-of-greener-less-touristy-pastures