Sunday, January 11, 2009

Many Amish successfully transition from farmer to entrepreneur

Read Glenn Rifkin's story in the New York Times here. He reports that in the last decade and a half, the Amish population in the U.S. has doubled, to about 230,000. Most of these live in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. This population growth there has forced many Amish young people, who typically have the equivalent of about an eighth-grade education, out of their dependence on agrarian living and into the marketplace. Rifkin writes:
The businesses, which favor such Amish skills as furniture-making, quilting, construction work and cooking, have been remarkably successful. Despite a lack of even a high school education (the Amish leave school after the eighth grade), hundreds of Amish entrepreneurs have built profitable businesses based on the Amish values of high quality, integrity and hard work.
Rifkin further reports that a 2004 study indicated that the failure rate of Amish businesses was under 5%, compared to a considerably higher national rate --about one-third in the first two years. The Amish often enter partnership with non-Amish businesses who market their wares.

Interestingly, while in the work place, the Amish are not foregoing the technology, e.g., cell phones, that they have famously shunned for generations. One study that Rifkin discusses estimates that small businesses are now the primary source of income for more than half of Amish households.


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