The Amish and Their Neighbors
Saturday, June 4, 2022 • 8:30–10:00 am
A. Seminar: AgrAbility—Engaging the Amish/Old Order Community
For nearly 30 years, the AgrAbility Program has provided services to members of the Amish/Old Order community who have been impacted by physical disabilities. Funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AgrAbility provides technical assistance to all farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers to overcome barriers to remaining engaged in production agriculture. Early contacts with Amish/Old Order community members with disabling farm-related injuries led to an invitation to participate in the Annual Amish Handicapped Gathering. This event, often attracting over 500 participants from across the U.S., has allowed for dissemination of information on wheelchair-accessible buggies, farming with arthritis, battery- powered mobility aids, modified tools, and strategies for enhancing the accessibility of farm homes. A support group for those with spinal cord injuries was organized and an annual Christmas dinner was held for many years. Over 35,000 copies of an original, biblically-based, family farm safety activity booklet, “Weeds in Our Garden,” were distributed nationally. Lessons learned from this relationship have included: the considerable level of diversity in the community acceptance of assistive technology, the high levels of community response to the needs of the disabled; and the flexibility demonstrated to modify career paths to better accommodate limitations due to disability.
Bill Field, Ed.D., has been on the faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University for the past 44 years. He provides leadership to Purdue’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program, having responsibilities in the areas of health and safety for those engaged in agricultural production, emergency preparedness and response for agricultural workplaces, and providing technical assistance to farmers and their families impacted by disability. He has participated in numerous outreach events involving Amish/Old Order communities, and he is currently the director of the National AgrAbility Project.
B. Papers: Advances in Population Studies
Comparative Demographics of Conservative Plain Anabaptist Groups
Joseph F. Donnermeyer*
Damian J. Richards
Although there are several published accounts of the population characteristics of the Old Order Amish, there is very limited scholarship associated with more conservative Amish groups and conservative Mennonites. This paper examines the characteristics of five groups considered more conservative than the Old Order Amish, including selected Swartzentruber, Byler, Renno, and Nebraska Amish groups, plus the Noah Hoover Mennonites. The sources of data for this study are various directories that list family members, marriage dates, birth dates, death dates, and other pertinent demographic information. This paper will present comparisons of marriage dates by month of the year and day of the week, age of marriage for men and women, family size, and the spacing of children across the five groups. Are the demographic dynamics of these groups similar or different? What would account for possible similarities or differences? The results will provide a deeper understanding of the population traits of Plain Anabaptist communities.
Joseph F. Donnermeyer is a professor emeritus in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Although a criminologist for most of his academic career, he has a deep and continuing interest in the social, cultural, and economic changes affecting the Amish. Specifically, his Amish research examines the demographic dimensions of the Amish, including population growth, settlement expansion, and occupational change. Through much of his career, Donnermeyer annually taught “Amish Society,” a rural sociology course. He has published two books and numerous peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles about the Amish, and he cofounded and serves as coeditor of the Journal of Plain Anabaptist Communities, which is part of the digital library at The Ohio State University.
Damian J. Richards is a young scholar who recently became involved in Plain Anabaptist studies through employment entering data from various directories. This experience led to his inquiries about the cultural and social characteristics of the Amish and other Plain Anabaptist groups. His participation in the analysis of the data and its write-up has been his first opportunity to learn how the research process unfolds.
Twinning Characteristics of the Amish Groups of Holmes County, Ohio
The Amish are known for their high fertility and large families, but the Amish twinning rate has been of less interest. In an article published over 50 years ago (in 1970), Cross and McKusick determined the Holmes County, Ohio, Amish twinning rate to be 15.3 twin pairs per 1,000 live births. That ranked among the highest known twinning rates at that time—the US national twinning rate hovered at around 9 per 1,000 per year. Within a few decades following the Cross and McKusick study, the twinning rates of the American population increased dramatically, and surpassed the Amish twinning rates. This surge in the twinning among the general American population was generally credited to the widespread use of medically assisted reproduction, which favors multiple births, and the increased birth rates for older women, who have a significantly higher rate of multiple births. The purpose of this study is to examine differences in rates of twinning across these groups or affiliations, including Old Order Amish, the New Order Amish, the Dan Churches. Data for this study comes from several sources, including the 2020 edition of the Ohio Amish Directory, The Descendants of Peter Hershberger and Elizabeth Yoder, The History and Genealogy of David D. Troyer and Anna Stutzman, and the SAGA-OMII website of the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Society of Kidron.
Henry Troyer grew up Amish in Holmes County. Choosing to pursue higher education, he eventually earned a PhD from West Virginia University and completed postgraduate studies in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Kansas and the Johns Hopkins University. Retired from a career teaching anatomy at universities in North America, Africa, and Asia, he remains active in research and writing. His recent article “Change and Continuity in Amish Wedding Dates in the Holmes County, Ohio Settlement,” was published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Journal of Plain Anabaptist Communities.
Planned Settlements: The Michigan Circle of Amish
Edsel Burdge Jr.
Most Amish settlements began as ad hoc ventures by a few families, who hope that others might join them. A strikingly different approach is practiced by the Michigan Circle, an affiliation of reformist Amish, which started in Michigan but now has 30 settlements in Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, and Wyoming. Among Michigan Circle Amish, a decision to start a new settlement is made corporately by a sending settlement. This paper will examine the rationale for this different approach to new settlement formation. It will also examine the process for starting a new Michigan Circle settlement. Finally, it will compare whether this approach has a higher rate of success than the ad hoc model of settlement.
Edsel Burdge Jr. is research associate at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. He gathers the statistical data for the Center’s annual Amish Population Profile. His research interests focus on American Mennonites within the Swiss Brethren tradition, and he coauthored Building on the Gospel Foundation: Mennonites of Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Washington County, Maryland, 1730-1970 (2004). Burdge received his MA in history from Villanova University and belongs to a Plain, car-driving Mennonite church.
C. Papers: Health, Health Care, and Plain Culture (II)
Patterns in Chaos: An Analysis of Stratified Reproduction in Midwestern Birth Systems
Stratified reproduction is a term describing the mechanisms by which some women are systematically encouraged and empowered to reproduce within a community while others are ignored or actively dissuaded. The revitalization of midwifery in the U.S. has long been explored by anthropologists as an alternative to certain systemically disempowering aspects of hospital birth, but up until this point, very little attention has been given to the members of Plain communities that make up a significant proportion of U.S homebirths. This presentation addresses this oversite and outlines research findings that revise our understanding of the mechanisms of stratified reproduction in America through the consideration of interactions between plain and non-plain communities. The presentation draws dissertation data collected from 2017-2021 in Indiana and Michigan and provides an analysis of the complex dynamics between Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren communities and individuals representing a variety of local healthcare systems. The sample includes midwives, OB/Gyns, family physicians, labor and delivery nurses, childbirth educators, chaplains, psychologists, emergency medicine physicians, and EMS professionals as well as Plain and non-Plain mothers and fathers. Auto-ethnographic reflections on the researcher’s background with Indiana Brethren communities and the medical field also inform the work, while supplemental methodologies include participant observation, the collection of institutional and community documents, and archival research.
Lily Anderson-Chavarria is a dual MD-PhD student at Michigan State University who anticipates receiving her PhD from MSU’s Department of Anthropology in May 2022 and her medical degree from the MSU College of Human Medicine in 2024. She has conducted extensive research in Indiana and Michigan, comparing birth practices in Plain and non-Plain communities. She was a doctoral fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies in fall 2021.
The B&W Movement and Plain Anabaptist Culture
Mark A. Louden
In recent years, a remarkable development across Plain communities in North America has been the growth the “B&W movement.” “B&W” is the name of an Amish-produced, honey-based ointment applied to scalded burdock leaves that are used to dress burns and severe wounds. Developed in the 1980s by Amish herbalist John Keim and refined by a large and growing network of trained caregivers, the B&W/burdock therapy is viewed by many Plain people as preferable to the biomedical standard of care for wound healing and pain management, especially skin grafts and opioids. Though not FDA-approved, B&W/burdock is increasingly on the radar of burn and trauma care providers nationwide and there is an emerging body of research on the ointment and dressing method that supports its strongly positive reputation among Plain groups. In this presentation I will consider aspects of the B&W movement against the backdrop of Plain health culture and the culture of traditional Anabaptist groups more generally. Building on the work of other scholars, I will show how the B&W movement is an apt expression of how Plain people chart a middle course between tradition and change, between autonomy from and reliance on knowledge and material and human resources from outside their community. Plain people involved in the B&W movement, caregivers and patients alike, have become agents whose experience contributes to basic research and care in burn and trauma medicine.
Mark L. Louden is a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch and has written extensively on the language and its speakers. He is the author of Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language. Louden is the Alfred L. Shoemaker, J. William Frey, and Don Yoder Professor of Germanic Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, directs the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, and is an affiliate faculty member in the UW Religious Studies Program. Aside from his teaching and research, Louden is actively engaged in public outreach to Amish communities in Wisconsin and other states, with a major focus on health care.
Kentucky Anabaptists’ Knowledge of Newborn Screening
Melissa Kaye Travelsted
The Anabaptist population in Kentucky is growing with the Amish population expected to double about every 20 years. Conservative Anabaptists in Kentucky are largely Amish (both Old Order and New Order) and Old Order Mennonites. All Anabaptists experience an increased incidence of recessive genetic disorders. Newborn screening (NBS) is a state regulated program that identifies inherited and congenital disorders and conditions. This presentation will share the results of a researcher-adapted questionnaire, completed by 292 Kentucky Amish and Mennonite households to measure their knowledge of NBS and participation in NBS.
Melissa Kaye Travelsted is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Her research interests include Anabaptist populations, interprofessional education, balance in the elderly, effects of diet and exercise on sleep and cognitive function, and improving electronic medical record keeping.