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The Amish: keeping life simple

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By Brad Bowman

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Landmark News Service

Amos and David Troyer’s family want to live the old-fashioned way. Not just because they are Amish, but because they want to keep life simple.

Buggies frequently travel U.S. 421 and along the back roadways in Henry County. They are just as much a part of our rural landscape as tractors and hay wagons. The Amish are often seen, but, as a people, are not always heard.

The Troyer family originally lived in Pennsylvania between Ox Mountain and Snyder, 40 miles east of Harrisburg. Neil and Esther Troyer have six boys and six girls. Their son, Mose, was born later when the family moved near Somerset, Ohio. Other Amish families moved to Henry County before the Troyers. David and Amos found the transition easy and didn’t feel like outsiders. Their sisters would ultimately be the reason for them coming to Henry County.

“They married brothers that were from Indiana and eventually moved here,” Amos Troyer said. “We got to know each others’ families traveling back and forth, like most would. The family eventually moved here to be closer to each other.”

Neil Troyer’s three sons – David, Sammy and Amos – eventually married the brother-in-laws’ three sisters – Elizabeth, Barbara and Ida. Just as in the past, when rural families lived close to one another in proximity to their farmland, the Troyers live within three miles of each other. The brothers hope to make their crops as successful as their carpentry work.

“We want to spend more time with our families,” Troyer said. “David and I go half-and-half with produce. We raise corn for our horses, and there is good money in produce. It is a better income than tobacco. Tobacco growers can make more money, but you have to be able to put in the time for the labor.”

Amos and David’s carpentry business has grown, mostly thanks to word of mouth. They hired a driver to cover longer distances
in the area and handle phone calls for jobs. They do contract work and roofing, including estimates, and sometimes work by the hour to make payment easier for their clients. Their brother Sammy helped them do carpentry work before taking a job with Capstone Produce Market. The brothers plan to sell produce and flowers at the market, which operates year-round. It is a public market where anyone can sell or buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and bedding plants in any amount. Currently, the brothers stay booked with carpentry work but hope by next year to do solely produce.

“We want to make the farm pay for itself,” David Troyer said. “We hope it will pay itself off.”

Amos bought their 48-acre farm from a widow whose husband had the land for hunting. The brothers plowed several acres with their horses for produce. Some of the land is rocky and used for pasture. The Troyers raise watermelon, zucchini varieties like Golden Dawn and Eight Ball, cantaloupe, strawberries and tomatoes. They also grow onions, peas, eggplant and beans. The brothers have a rebuilt hoop house where they grow petunias, and hope to have more than 1,000, including hanging baskets for next year.

“We use wood stoves to heat the hoop house,” Amos Troyer said. “We usually start them in February to have them ready in the spring to sell at auction.”

Amos hopes that when his boys, Rueben, David and Harvey, are old enough they will help him and his wife with produce. The brothers’ focus aspires to self-sufficiency with their land and their families.

“Most people live paycheck to paycheck,” David Troyer said. “We try to live off of our land without a gas bill, water bill or electric bill. We compost and use manure in our fields just as good agriculture practice. We don’t shop at a store very often, and we live off of what we produce.“

The Troyers use their basement as generations of farming families in the area would have used a root cellar. They use the cold-pack method of canning to store the food they grow, and they do the same with deer meat. They don’t frequent doctor’s offices and prefer home remedies similar to those of rural and Appalachian culture. Burdock leaves and B&W salve (a mixture of several things, including honey, lanolin, wormwood and lobelia) are used to treat cuts and burns, but they don’t hesitate to visit hospitals when necessary.

To the brothers, being Amish is a tradition — a way they were raised that, albeit different from a modern lifestyle, doesn’t make them any less different than most people at their core. They raise their children to speak the Swiss-German language. When they start going to school, the children will learn English.

They’re humble people, but still mix humor in conversation.

The brothers feel welcome in Kentucky and consider Kentuckians to be nicer than most people in Ohio. Amos loves the southern accent. Amos and David love to fish and hunt.

They were raised without modern conveniences and to Amos, the proverbial grass doesn’t look any greener.

“We weren’t raised that way (with modern conveniences) so we don’t miss it, just like no one else would,” he said. “We don’t get mad about things, like if people take our pictures; but if they asked us, we would tell them not to. Every church and religion has rules, and that is just how we are taught. We want to be good Christians and live a simple life. It is how we were raised just like everyone else is raised a certain way.”

In an age where most people couldn’t imagine living without cable television or air-conditioning, for the Troyers the answer seems elementary.

“I’m sure there are good things on television but not a lot. Living the way we do, it isn’t difficult if you’re used to it,” Amos Troyer said. “If I jump in someone’s car and they have the temperature at 60 degrees in their car, when I get out in the heat it makes it worse. Sweating is natural just as drinking water is good for you. It helps flush things out of your body.”

The brothers are just as passionate about farming produce.

“The best produce people can buy is being produced and locally grown in Henry County,” Amos Troyer said. “If it comes from California on a semi truck, it is picked green. It ripens on the way while it travels and it’s not as fresh. When we sell produce, it is picked that day or right before.”

The brothers help each other on their farms. They don’t keep a tally on who does what. Their system aims toward accomplishment.

“We don’t think about whether I did this much or he didn’t do as much as I did. We trade work,” Amos Troyer said. “We help each other get the job done. We help each other out. It’s more efficient than worrying about paying someone else to do our work.”

The brothers will take turns watching over each other’s crops and livestock if they go on small vacations to visit family in other places, David Troyer said.

“We still help our families with work when we visit, but it isn’t as much work as we do when we are home,” Troyer said.

Amos and David work together and have their own systems for being efficient on the farm. Later this year, they will weave between more than seven rows of watermelons and pick between 200 to 300 melons themselves within a couple of hours.

They see their hard work and lifestyle as more beneficial than any modern convenience. Living at a slower pace, the brothers agree things may take more time. But you just plan things earlier.

“It’s scary sometimes on the road when you are driving your buggy and people fly past you in the automobile,” David Troyer said. “You don’t know if they are paying attention or if they are going to hit you.

“When you go slow in a buggy, you can think about things and what you need to do. You don’t have to worry about going too fast around the curves in a road.”