The Amish and Tractors

I recently heard from a reader of The Amish Nanny, who loved the book but said that she had caught an error, a reference to an Amish farmer with a tractor.  She said, I’ve been told that the Amish don’t use tractors.   

She was somewhat misinformed, so I was glad I was able to respond to her with more complete information. Just in case anyone else is curious, I thought I might address the issue here as well by posting the following excerpt (tractor info in bold), which comes from page 80 of A Pocket Guide to Amish Life:


Evaluating Technology

When a new technology becomes available to a district, church leaders will evaluate its potential for causing harm to Amish life and values and then decide whether to accept or reject it. No technology, regardless of how labor-saving it may be, is permissible if the leaders determine that it will be spiritually detrimental to the community.

Though the rules vary widely from district to district, many items are often approved for use without adaptation in Amish homes and farms, including calculators, flashlights, manual typewriters, gas grills, chain saws, inline skates, and more. Some districts allow manual lawnmowers only, though others permit gas-powered lawnmowers and even weed whackers.

In many Amish homes and farms, other items are allowed as long as they have been adapted to work with non-electric fuel sources, such as propane or batteries. These include refrigerators, lights, shop tools, fans, copy machines, sewing machines, smoke alarms, some farm equipment, hot water heaters, washing machines, and more. Tractors often must be adapted for off-road use only, lest they provide the opportunity to go too far from home. This usually means steel tires rather than rubber. In many communities, tractors are not allowed in the fields at all but instead may only be used inside or near the barn as sources for high-powered needs such as blowing silage to the top of silos, powering feed grinders and hydraulic systems, pumping liquid manure, and so on.

In most cases, hay balers can be used in the fields as long as they are pulled by horses rather than self- propelled.

Here’s a photo I took a few years ago of a tractor in an Amish barn in Lancaster County.  Note the steel tires, which are the practice for that district:

I hope this info clears up any confusion about the Amish and tractors!  I always love to hear from readers, but especially when it allows me to clear up any misconceptions and provide more info about Amish life and practices.


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4 Responses to “The Amish and Tractors”

  1. I live near an amish community and they use tractors and other normal equipment just like we do on our farm! They even use rubber tires but there bolted to a steel wheel with no air in them.

    I have yet to see a horse pulling anything other than a buggy!


  2. The ones who use the tractors in the manner are most likely Mennonites. They have Amish values but have things like cars and can use things of this nature. They are in between the Amish and us.


  3. I work at an amish sawmill because they cannot use the rubber tired forklift to load the logs on the deck or around the yard. The mill is across the road from the farm and while working i have seen numerous pieces of equipment pulled with horses. These include balers, hay cutters and rakes, corn harvester and all the wagons associated with them. There is an amish school right next door and it is cute to see some of the kids take little buggies pulled by ponies, some put on inline skates to scoot home on and the rest just pop off their shoes to walk home barefoot. As a side note, the sawmill workers are some of the hardest workers i have seen and the ones i give a ride home to never grumble or complain in my presence. All around honorable people i have met. I should not all the power requirements of the farm equipment and the entire mill are run with generators.


    Brian Reply:

    The not in the last sentence should be note. My mistake ha ha


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