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:
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.