15 May 2011

Visit to Amish Farm, Kalona

Today it has been raining cats and dogs all day lond. A student volunteer from the University of Iowa who was to pick us up got delayed because of some road block and the detour also made him loose his way. He happened to be from Odisa, my home state in India. 

We went to the East West Bank where CIVIC was having its board meeting. The board members had some pot luck lunch in which we joined. Later Danielle, their executive director took us to an Amish village centre at Kalona. From here we went in a bigger van with another group of travellers to an Amish farm where we met Mr Paul. Before we started we were told no taking pictures of people. As it was raining we could not go around the farm but were first shown the buggies, horse drawn carriages that they still use today.

In the farms they still use tractors without rubber tyres so that they cannot use it for tranportation and other purposes. He has about 120 acres that he uses as a cattle ranch and also has some hogs, horses (for the carriage) and grows some vegetables ocassionally. He does not give any drugs to the hogs and the cattle are fed only with grass. This is healthier as the cattle will have less fat. More importantly the grass he grows is organic where no pesticides and fertilizer is used. He has spaced the growth the cattle in such a maner that he sells a couple of them every month, but he manages it in such a way that he avoids the growth of a baby calf during January/February when it is very cold.

I may mention that the Amish way of life is simple and they try to avoid modern facilities. They do not have any electricity. Their houses do use gas for heating as also for refrigeration. Amish children go to school in their community till about eighth grade and after that they do not do much schooling. The Amish  think that they children learn all that they require to run a farm or a family by the age of 16. It is around the age of 18 that children are allowed to go and interact with the outside world for two years and then they decide whether to be  with the community or not. Most of them join back in the community.

They generally have large families. Mr Paul has 11 children and only one, a daughter, is married. There is an increasing incidence of the young of remaining unmarried for a longer time. There are youth of 35 years of age who are still unmarried, which was not the case when Mr Paul, now 63, was younger.

Most of the Amish farmers are organic, they avoid pesticides and fertilizers, but some may be using it. The social construction of gender is that by 16 years of age the boys learn all farm activities. They can do all that their father can do. Similarly, girls learn all household chores and gardening.

Mr Paul has a very interesting hobby, he collects money from different countries. He had a ten rupee note from India with him and a 1000 won from Korea. From our group he collected a note of five real from Brazilian and a coin from Nepal. When Regina gave a box of chocolates, he took it as a matter of respect, but said that they do not receive gifts. It was worth visiting and observing a different practise in 2011 America. How they will withstand the genetic modified and mechanical agriculture jagguernut in days to come is worth studying.

We had dinner at a house who grew up as Amish when she was young. She prepared a nice dinner for us. Some green salad, some sweet salad from tapioca, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, chicken, beans, sauce, and bread. After an outing in the cold, windy and rainy day the hot delicious food warmed up the environment. The cake decorated with some strawberry pieces was an apt desrert. Thank you!

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