The Amish and Mennonites in Sarasota, Florida

“Oh, I’m from Lancaster, PA but I winter here (in sarasota)” said the Amish woman eating the food bar stuff in Whole Foods downtown. “I went to school up your way – in Northampton, MA – and I love Great Barrington – does the Boston Symphony still summer at Tanglewood?” – turns out she went to school less than 2 miles from our house in MA….
She proceeded to tell us how excited she was that a Whole Foods is going to open in Lancaster, PA in two years (I guess she’s patient) and that a bunch of townhomes were being built along with it – she’s very excited. Then she whips out the cellphone and calls a friend to brag “Yeah, I’ve got a big plate of food and it’s ALL organic!”

Many people are surprised to hear that Sarasota, Florida is the favored getaway for many of the “plain people” who live in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other midwestern and northern states. We “english” (the name for non-Amish) like to think the Amish are always hard at work milking the cows, working the land or creating furniture and other wooden items. Not so…the want and need to take a break and enjoy the sun is a universal one in modern times!

So…where are the horses, buggies, farms and cows?

Not in Sarasota! The preferred method of transportation is the bike – with the 3 wheeled variety being the most popular due to a larger payload and the ability of older folks to easily operate.
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Thousands of Amish and Mennonites live in the communities along Bahia Vista street – the center of the community is an area called Pinecraft, which has it’s own small post office. There is a park as well as a large produce business and restaurant which serve as somewhat of a center to the community. Pinecraft park has a very nice shuffleboard setup as well as picnic facilities for large community meals and concerts.
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Basketball and Volleyball are popular with the younger set – and it certainly seems as if the volleyball players are quite competitive.
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Want to read more about the Amish in Sarasota? Here are some links:
http://amishamerica.com/florida-amish/

What goes on in Pinecraft – stays in Pinecraft

Great NY Times article on the migration to Sarasota

The residents in Pinecraft are probably of three different groups:
1. Vacationers – folks of all ages, including young people, come down for some sun and fun.
2. Retirees – after a life of very hard work, they spend a number of months here just like some “english” snowbirds do.
3. Relocated – many of the businesses are year-round. Retail, service, builders, etc….have drawn some year-round residents from the ranks of the plain people. Many may be “former Amish” in that their parents or grandparents may have been, but they are not (officially).

Use of Technology

As you will read in the articles and the initial quote of this story, the Amish use varying amounts of technology…often depending on their exact sect and what their bishop says. Their ideal is to live simply…they don’t seem to mind using technology as a tool, but at the same time they don’t want to live a life where technology – rather than simplicity and nature – rule. Here’s a short vignette which may illustrate the point….and could also point to a potential problem going forward as the world becomes more knowledge based.

——–Flying My Drone at the Park———

I run a web site about consumer quadcopters and drones – droneflyers.com

I walked down to the park near sunset to fiddle around with one of my smaller flying machines and was doing some flying when one teen on a bike stopped and admired the machine. He was about 14 years old and we got in a short conversation about drones….turns out he has a cheapo one and also an R/C helicopter. As he is about to leave, he tells me “But what I am really into is IT and Computers”. Keep in mind this is a 14 year old on a bike! He then tells me how he buys and sells computers, runs about 20 internet servers (sells web site hosting) and is busy learning complex web technologies! As a “webmaster” myself, I told him he’ll have plenty of work his entire life if he continues on his path.

Soon after he left, another kid about the same age started talking to me..asking about the drone. He was extremely interested in getting one and asked how he would go about it. I told him Amazon had them. He lamented that he didn’t have a credit card and asked if maybe Wal-Mart sold them. I answered in the negative but said I thought there was a shop somewhere in Sarasota that sold them. He was very excited, but I didn’t know the name, etc. of the shop! I asked him for his email so I could send him the shop name….turns out he doesn’t have an email address! At this point, I realized he was probably Amish. I then commiserated with him…after he told me he was not allowed online at all. “Well, there’s good and there is bad in that” I said. “Nah, he said “It’s all bad”. I answered “Well, you’ll be online sooner or later”….and that was that.

I left thinking that one of these two kids is going to excel in just about everything…and the other may be limited to farming, woodworking or another “approved” trade. I won’t put a judgement on it….but it did seem as if potential was being wasted.

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The Wrecking Crew

The link below will download the PDF story of The Farm Wrecking Crew. A short part of the introduction is copied below that link.
WreckingCrew

Note – in terms of the timeline of Farm history, most of this story ties in with or follows Cliff’s blog entries below:

http://farmola.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/technologies-for-living-year-2/
and
http://farmola.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/tent-life/

Photos in here are taken by various Farm photogs and non-photogs including D. Frohman, D. Stevenson and other – used with permission when possible.

Martha and I started out as members of the West Virginia Farm, a small satellite operation with approx. 40 brave souls hacking basic survival out of the hollows of the Mountain State. A good friend from Philadelphia, Andrew Stein, had also come out to WV and joined with our efforts.

In early 1972, it was decided that the main Farm (TN. Farm) would purchase an additional 750 acres next to the existing 1,000 and that the WV Farm residents would move south in an attempt to consolidate a larger workforce and better connected community. In April of 1972, we packed up a few buses, cars, pickups and a U-Haul and headed down to the Motherland.

Upon settling in, various job offerings were made available via a bulletin board. I chose to start working at the Soy Dairy, which fit well with my introverted character, as our crew consisted of only 3 full time milkmen. This turned out to be an enjoyable gig and, of course, I was able to stay well nourished on soy milk and eventually other products which we created such as soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy shakes and soysage (upset stomachs aside!). The job had other benefits such as being able to listen to the Farm Band practices, which took place in a tent adjacent to the Soy Dairy.

After a few months at the Dairy, Andrew approached me and asked if I wanted to join a new crew he had just become the “crew chief” of. Although there had formerly been a Salvage Crew, Andrew had the energy to take the effort to a much higher level, so I was excited to become a part of the newly christened Wrecking Crew. The idea was simple – we needed vast amounts of materials for tent floors, community buildings and houses and the best way for us to get them was by recycling old houses, barn and commercial buildings. We did this by taking them apart from the top down – piece by piece.

The Farm – perhaps the most vibrant commune of the “counterculture” era

Note – as is mentioned in some other posts here, my wife and I lived on a commune called The Farm for a few years in the mid-1970’s. I will write up some of my own stories and outlooks on the experience, but for those who want to know what we were about, the following story by a fellow “farmie” should answer….
—————-

The Farm: A Case Study in Creating a New Consciousness and Culture
by Milt Wallace

In the dance between developing individual consciousness and a newly evolving culture, small groups that are in some way isolated from the larger culture can play an important role in creating, incubating and beginning to stabilize the new ideas and values. As the Post Modern paradigm emerged in the 70’s and 80’s, The Farm, a hippy spiritual community was one such group. Because of its size, outreach, and spiritual depth, The Farm’s impact was significant.

Post Modern Culture had its beginnings more than a century ago, but the turbulent years which included the Cold War, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, the Kent State killings, and much more ignited a cultural revolution that led many baby boomers to question the status quo, and to search for some new meaning to life. Travel any highway and you would find young people and some not so young along the road, leaving their middle class homes or aborting their college educations and looking for something new. Modern Consciousness and Culture had a long run with its roots in the 16th century, but as we passed the middle of the 20th century, many came to feel that things weren’t working so well any more.
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