created over 3 years ago | Tagged:
SHIPSHEWANA, Ind. — Freeman Wingard is Amish, but he spent the last decade living quite differently than the popular characterization of the Amish as farmers, their plows hitched to enormous draft horses as they eschewed influences of the outside world.
Wingard took his family to restaurants every week, made trips to Chicago and vacationed in Florida. That was when, he says, he was earning $40 per hour working in a Northern Indiana recreational vehicle factory.
But as RV sales slowed in the economic downturn, Wingard and many of his Amish co-workers were laid off from the high-paying jobs.
Wingard, who has a wife and five daughters younger than 13, added jellies and jams to the quilts and other crafts he and his family sell from their farm. Despite the long hours — Wingard often rises at 3:30 a.m. and puts up 300 jars of jelly by noon — none of the new enterprises has come close to replacing the factory incomes.
The economy has taken some toll on most of the USA's 400 Amish settlements, experts say, but none has seen such a widespread impact as the country's third-largest Amish settlement in Northern Indiana.
Return to core values On the consumer side, the Amish — who raise much of their own food and have no need for large-screen TVs, new cars or other expensive "modern conveniences" — are weathering the downturn better than the general population, says Kraybill.
Wingard and many other Amish in Northern Indiana say their lives are emotionally richer now and more in keeping with the self-reliance they say they relish.
Wingard wonders what he'd do if he got called back. He says he is happier now, but he has a mortgage and anticipates paying for five weddings. "I like my life now, but I had to be pushed into it," he said. "I wouldn't have left (the factory) on my own."