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July 02, 2021

Downturn forcing Amish to be more Amish

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If nothing else, we’ve learned a lot from the Amish.

They killed Weird Al’s career for his mockery, those buggies always seem kind of fun, and Randy Quaid was pretty great in Kingpin. If a Mennonite guy is around, you’re always watching to see what he’s up to. The Amish are like magnets with beards in that way; we’re drawn to them.

So why, then, should we look any further than the Amish for how to best cope with the recession?

As it turns out, Mennonite communities across North America have been hit just as bad as you or I, which should come as nothing short of a reminder that a complicated thing like the collapse of Wall Street can see its ripple reach the most primitive worlds.

But it’s not just as if the price of mason jars has gone up or something. This USA Today feature does a pretty good job of categorizing how the recession affects the modern Amish man, who might be more inclined to Tweet the updated price of home-churned butter from his BlackBerry than you might think.

A new breed of Mennonite family has apparently cropped up in communities like Shipshewana, Ind., where members can be found working for 40 bucks an hour at the local factory and planning family vacations to a beach house in Florida.

Yet with layoffs stemming from the world downturn, the Amish find themselves forced to return to being, well, Amish.

Gone now are the Monday-Friday assembly line shifts, giving way to a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call to get 300 jars of jam ready to sell at the flea market by noon.

“The work is still hard,” says one laid-off Mennonite, detailing the return to his traditional business, “but it’s flexible, and I can be with my kids.”

Of course, leave it to the Amish to find a silver lining in – what would be to many – the most mundane of full-time jobs.

Yet it’s said, according to USA Today, the return to such values has led their lives to become “emotionally richer” than they were before the economy tanked.

So what does this have to do with the rest of us? Not much on the surface, I guess. But look closer and I have to think there’s a lesson here.

I’d tell it to you myself, but I’m not Amish.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...