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Off-The-Grid Secrets Of The Amish


Image source: National Geographic

The Amish culture is alive and well in America, and we can learn a lot from their way of life.

There are approximately 300,000 Amish citizens still living an 1800s lifestyle in the United States. Amish communities exist in 30 states and Ontario, but the largest groups primarily exist in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. The pioneering attributes and skillset which many have unfortunately lost in this country are employed adeptly by the Amish, giving them quite the leg-up when the power’s down.

The ultimate off-the-grid living experts might not mingle readily with the rest of us, but in my personal experience, the Amish are very friendly and willing to share their knowledge when asked.

There is a small Amish community in my county that provides a plethora of services for area farmers and horse owners, and folks who want cabins built. Amish-made furniture, cheese and bread are always a huge hit with the tourists. I recently attended a week-long auction held in “Amish Country” in Holmes County, Ohio. Once again I was impressed by the workmanship and skills of the technology-shunning culture. The auction was not only a great place to score great deals on livestock, tack, bartering items and farming equipment, but it was also a de facto off-the-grid living school. The Amish men and women who were selling their wares during the massive auction that drew folks from around the country were eager to demonstrate both the skills necessary to accomplish the given task and how the non-electric tools and implements functioned.

Enhancing Your Skillset

Although there is great value in taking a class, watching videos, and reading books to enhance your self-reliance skills, spending some time in an Amish enclave offers an irreplaceable hands-on experience. In my experience, the Amish are savvy businessmen. When approached with respect and a sincere desire to learn, an Amish man would likely agree to allow you to job shadow or do a mini-apprenticeship – for a fee. If cooking, baking and preserving are on your self-sufficiency to-do list, taking a woman along is a must. Other than saying thank you and handing back change at a bake shop or produce stand, it would be extremely rare that a female Amish would interact one on one with an “English” man.

Off The Grid Power

amish off griAs a rule, Amish will not utilize electricity that is tied to the land. The community near my home typically uses bottled gas to power a few industrial tools, but most tasks are still accomplished by hand. In Holmes County, the Amish have become the solar power kings and can offer great insight into the functionality, seasonal feasibility, and powering achievements of solar panels and solar generators. The Amish also utilize 12-volt self-contained batteries and hydraulic powered motors to operate major household equipment.


The Amish view horses as farm equipment and work with the animals on a daily basis. Horses are used to pull farm plows, as transportation, and to haul building materials. Knowing how to saddle a horse and enjoy a leisurely trail ride is wonderful, but does not mean you possess the ability needed to harness a team and drive them to accomplish food growing and building tasks. The Amish are expert horsemen (and horsewomen) in every sense of the word.  In an Amish community you will readily find a pseudo-vet, blacksmith and leather shop. Much can be learned from the skilled craftsman for folks hoping to build an off-the-grid homestead or individuals preparing for a power grid down scenario.

Hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, and illustrations on real Back To Basics skills…

Building fences along with raising, caring for, butchering and preserving meat and poultry derived from common farm livestock is yet another skill we can learn from the Amish. Understanding what type of fencing is needed for specific farm animals and which ones can cohabitate safely could mean the difference between life and death when your entire food supply is dependent upon what you grow and raise on your homestead. Learning how to detect the signs of illness in livestock is also an extremely valuable bit of information to have when the animals grazing on your property will one day wind up on the dinner table.

Off-The-Grid Farming

smithModern farm equipment can be adapted to horse-drawn power, or purchased ready to roll from the Amish. Once commonplace in America, horse-drawn farm equipment became scarce after the 1940s. Amish mechanics often operate shops which both serve their community and members of the general public seeking non-gas powered farm machinery. Seeds preservation, natural fertilization procedures, crop rotation, irrigation and drought survival tips are also valuable agriculture tips we can learn from the Amish.

Cooking, Baking and Preserving

The Amish are truly a waste-not community. If the power grid goes down and tractor-trailers stop shuttling food to the local grocery store, their lives will go on essentially unaffected. Those with businesses routinely patronized by the public or tourists will notice something is amiss fairly quickly, but their families will not go hungry, thirsty or become chilled at night. Most of the Amish use a cast-iron cook stove to prepare their food, just like our ancestors did when settling this country. The stoves are a bit pricey, but a solid investment for off-the-grid families. They last essentially forever and do not need electricity to function. Amish shops or booths attached to barns are big money-makers for the women in the community.

The breads, baked goods, homemade jams and canned produce sold at such businesses are all-natural and worth every penny. The only thing better than buying a loaf of fresh Amish bread or jam is learning how to make it yourself. If unable to work out a learning experience with an Amish woman, snag one of the cookbooks comprised of generations of old recipes and teach yourself – don’t cheat by using a conventional oven. If you do not own a cast-iron stove, buy cast-iron cookware (available at camping stores) and practice over an open fire.

Know Before You Go

Browse the Amish country, community and settlement links below and find the right location to visit to suit your needs. Sure, closer is better, but if seeking to learn a specific off-the-grid living or preparedness skill, find a community which boasts such an expertise. While all Amish farm, some communities specialize in woodworking and blacksmithing, and they utilize alternative power in different manners – so do your homework. The dictates of the Amish culture vary by church district and so do the styles of the off-the-grid and simplistic lifestyle. Some settlements routinely deal with the public and might be more receptive than others to unannounced visits. The local travel and tourism bureau can also offer some guidance to the inner-workings of the community and how and when to best plan a visit. Dress conservatively when visiting an Amish community.

If garnering off-the-grid living tools and livestock is the primary goal, the Mount Hope Amish auction should be placed on your agenda. The Ohio auction in Holmes County takes place three times per year, with smaller produce events occurring weekly. When chatting with a self-reliance pal from Florida and sharing the details of my visit to the week-long auction and the deals I filled my vehicle with, she did the math and decided that even with flight and lodging expenses, going to Mount Hope would be highly beneficial from a self-sufficiency budget standpoint.

Find an Amish Community Near Where You Live:

Ohio Amish Country – Holmes and Wayne County, settlement also in Geauga County and Vinton County

Pennsylvania Amish County – Lancaster County

Indiana Amish Country – Elkhart County

Missouri Amish Country – Town of Jamesport, Webster County

Iowa Amish Country – Kalona-Kalona Settlement

Delaware Amish Community – Kent Country

Colorado Amish Community – San Luis Valley

Florida Amish Settlement – Pinecraft neighborhood, Sarasota

Illinois Amish Community – Towns of Arthur and Arcola

Kansas Amish Community –  Yoder, Hutchinson, Young Kansas, and Garnett settlements

Kentucky Amish Community –  Munfordville/Horse Cave, Guthrie, and Christian County settlements

Maine Amish Settlements –  Smyrna County, Aroostook County, Waldo County communities

Maryland Amish Community –  St. Mary’s County and southern Chesapeake Bay area

Michigan Amish Community –  35 settlements stretching from southern counties to the Upper Peninsula area

Mississippi Amish Settlements – Pontotoc County

Minnesota Amish Community –  Fillmore County, Todd County, Polk County, Becker County, and Clearwater County

Montana Amish Settlements –  Lincoln County, Rosebud County, and Lake County

Nebraska Amish Settlements – Antelope County and Pawnee County

New York Amish Community –  Conewango Valley, Canadian border town Heuvelton, Clymer, Mohawk Valley, and the Maryville and Lowville settlements

North Carolina Amish  – Union Grove settlement

Oklahoma Amish Settlement – Mayes County and Clarita County

South Dakota Amish Settlement – Hutchinson County

Tennessee Amish Community – Ethridge, rural area near Nashville, Huntington County, Carroll County, and Bruceton County

Texas Amish Settlement – Bee County

Virginia Amish Settlement –  Giles County, Charlotte County, and Halifax County

West Virginia Amish Settlement – Mason County and Summers County

Wisconsin Amish Community –  Vernon County, Cashton settlement, Monroe County, Taylor County, and Green Lake County

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  1. Thanks for sharing your special knowledge

  2. This article is spot on. We deal closely with the Amish. Please see

    • Too bad you did not mention the puppy mill problem or cruel treatment of the horses.


        • We have a small farm and deal with the Amish on a regular basis. We have a VERY CLOSE relationship with a good number of them. I have acquired a puppy from a bonfire “puppy mill” & was fortunate that the one I got had no problems. However, the breed they were raising was not being raised to the AKC standards and they were clueless as what needed to be done but were not afraid to ask premium prices for a sub premium product. Luckily I was just looking for a pet quality pup in a specific breed. Drive around Geauga county on any given day & I guarantee you see a good number of LAME buggy horses being pushed to the limit! Do you think driving your friggin BMW with a flat tire would be considered some type of abuse or is it possibly ignorance on your part? Not saying that all Amish are guilty but get you shit straight before calling someone an INCOMPETENT TWIT! Can hardly wait to see what you consider my point of view.

        • We have helped with many animals from there, pups, and goats to name a few. I don’t know where you live in relation to them, but they are my neighbors, and just like any other group there are a rotten few. Considering their “group” is so much smaller, the “rotten” are in fact a bit more than the average numbers of others.

        • Why call others names because they disagree with you. You show your true character and lack of education.

        • LOL. The Amish are known for their puppy mills.

  3. Daphene Willoughby

    I was amazed at the listing for Tennessee Amish.
    There is not a Huntington County nor a Bruceton County in TN.

    I think there might be a Bruceton (city) in Carroll County but not sure.
    I think Huntington county is in Indiana.

    Check your facts, do not use mine, then you will be correct. Thanks

  4. Hello, I work for a rescue that specifically rescues drafts, draft crosses, mules and donkeys from the worst hell hole of an auction in Pennsylvania from the Amish. New Holland, Pa. You would be horrified at the neglected condition of the animals that we take in that are destined to export slaughter. Literally worked to death as farm equipment. The draft cross I own is from such circumstances. I am not sure how so many blatantly obvious neglected horses and mules go unprosecuted and unidentified at these auctions. We are alive and well unfortunately for us, fortunately for them, pulling these animals to be cared for the rest of their lives. The collar scars, the bridle scars, the hooves with canker and white line and split to kingdom come because they are so long they can’t walk properly…… you really can’t imagine such cruelty and we see it and deal with it over and over and over and over again….

  5. I live in Ethridge Tennessee and I do know what I am talking about.

    I see animal abuse at the hands of the Amish firsthand.

    Horses are kicked and beaten on the road right in front of us. Twice I’ve watched it: once by an adult man and once by a little boy. I have video.

    Horses, livestock are mostly living in horrid conditions. Many are tied right at the road. Go to the welcome center off Hwy 43 and see the ‘tour wagon horse’ tied there for long hours. His photo is on tripadvisor. The conditions are filthy and many of them are starving.

    Dogs are sold. We went to one farm where he was selling bulldogs for $400 apiece. He had Australian shepherd puppies for sale – he said he had 6 but 3 of them died and his voice trailed off when he saw my face.

    I need to stress that not all Amish mistreat dogs – I can’t speak for horses because I think every single one of them kill them off once they have no use for them – but as for dogs, many Amish do use them as companions. But they let them run loose. I’ve seen one dog storm down the hill where we are and run unleashed out into the middle of a busy road with rednecks gunning their trucks through at top speeds. You think they’d care if they ran over the dog?

    My house is up for sale. I want out of here. I can’t watch all this hatred and abuse anymore, and I can’t do anything about it because of religious protection.

    Women are treated poorly here, too.

  6. I live in Greene County Tennessee. (between Knoxville and Bristol) there are two Mennonite stores located here that are great. One in Bulls Gap, Tn right off I80, the name of it is Yoders Farm Market….great variety of foods, cooking supplies (I found an old time hand grind nut grinder that I had been looking for, for years!), reasonable prices, friendly folks that work there, and great sandwiches!
    The second one called Mountain View Bulk Foods is located outside of Greeneville, past the Super WWorld, turn right at the first traffic light (Hi 70 or 71) and keep going, you will pass a Mennonite furniture store on your right and you will see a big sign, again on your right for The Farmers Daughter, (a Mennonite restaurant that serves home style, to die for, breakfasts! Everyone sits at big long tables and the food is brought out in ginormous huge bowls and platters) To the left is Mountain View. They also have pre-built sheds. I have the same accolades for this store as I do have for the above store.

  7. I’ve been to Ethridge, Tennessee, and Lawrenceburg – manure on the roads from Amish horses, animals looked in horrible condition on those filthy farms, hateful locals at the welcome center, Amish boys peeing on the side of the road – dreadful area – locals very paranoid about out of towners – couldn’t wait to get out of there.

  8. mary e. virgin-waltimyer

    I would like to know more information about how to live off of the grid

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