Dealing with Amish Neighbors through Sharing and Bartering
I find myself to be lucky enough to have many Amish neighbors. I feel lucky because they generally make the best neighbors for homesteaders. The Amish are quiet and like to be left alone: they don’t really mind what you do on your land.
You can have a symbiotic relationship with the Amish that suits both of you. First off you need to respect the way they live and understand a few things. The Amish really don’t like compliments. So, by saying your vegetables look better than the other Amish family, you aren’t really complimenting them. They are a humble people and work at being humble.
They are just like us with some being friendlier than others. Some will tell you not to talk to their kids because they don’t want you putting thoughts in their kid’s heads. Others just watch and monitor what you say. Some will look at a picture on your cell phone , while some will block it from view with their hands.
For the most part they all admit that they couldn’t live without the English (that’s what they call us). They use our phones, driving service and freezer space. For this, you get much more in return. You get vegetables, fruit and the occasional dessert. I find that most will barter knowledge with you, and this can make for a great relationship.
I have a handful of Amish neighbors that I love to work with. I’m there for them if they need a drive, and that can be often at times. Amish don’t like taking the horses out if they don’t have to. My neighbors much rather ask me for a ride to the bank or feed mill. If I have time I will gladly do it. They don’t like taking anything free, so payments can be anything from cash to food.
If you want something that they have just ask. At times, I need straw, so I barter for a free ride. If you want some tomatoes, offer them something else: you may have an exchange. It may take some time to feel them out, and at times it feels like pulling teeth.
I got most of my plants from Amish bartering. I once traded an hour ride for a couple hundred in berry bushes, strawberry plants, rhubarb plants and elderberry bush. This particular barter was very good, because now I take my cutting and resell them during the spring.
Amish like to use freezers at times, so they will either use your freezer or they will buy one and plug it in at your house. So, they don’t like electric but they will use yours. For this you can either get a monthly fee or some other sort of barter.
My brother lives a few miles from me and lets an Amish neighbor use his freezer. He also put a separate phone line in his basement for his Amish neighbors. They always do nice things for him like bringing canned goods, making hay for him and they also put a new roof on his house without charging for labor.
I usually get extra produce from my Amish neighbors at a fair rate. Every Fall I go get enough squash and potatoes for pennies on the dollar. I can get a bushel box full of produce for $5.00. I really like stocking food, and working with my Amish neighbors makes that possible.
Duck is delicious but I don’t have the area I need to raise them. I gave a pair to some Amish friends and they let them run the farm. Now every spring I buy back full grown Muscovy ducks for $5.00, sometimes as low as $2.50 each. They are fully grown, I didn’t have to deal with the mess and didn’t have to worry about feeding. When I don’t need any ducks, they send them to auction and make some money. It works out great for both of us.
I also buy some of my seed potatoes from the Amish, and they usually plant them free of charge on their land. I just help them dig them out when ready. I find that to be a great deal, as it expands my growing potential.
Sometimes I pick things up from the store for them or look something up on the internet for them and this makes our relationship work. Now, the English and Amish can’t be the typical friends. Don’t expect to hang out for no reason other than spend time with each other. They don’t do that with the English, but you can have a useful relationship.
One of my best Amish friends would barter with me often. We both made sure that we were even at all times. The last thing you want is to take advantage or be taken advantage of. He once got a new driver to save a penny a mile. Soon, he had me driving again because the other driver was adding extra mileage. That’s the sort of thing you can’t take offense to; it is the sort of relationship they have with us.
So, if you have Amish neighbors, try and build a working relationship. Homesteaders can really work with the Amish; just keep the relationship fair and you can both help each other greatly!