In some cases, simplicity is best, and in farming no one demonstrates this better then the Amish. For centuries they have successfully reaped from the land, without harming the environment or their health. While we are unable to practice the same methods, we do have a deep respect for the Amish and the way they have kept farming a natural process for generations.
One of the largest Amish populations in North America occupy a small portion of Pennsylvania known as Lancaster County. The rolling hills of this area are dotted with small Amish farms that have been producing crops like corn, tobacco, alfalfa and grains for 300 years. Known to be the best farmers in the world, this comes from a fierce discipline, willingness to work hard and a love for the land that sustains them.
A typical Amish farm of 40 acres can produce a bigger harvest while consuming less energy than any typical farm, even ours. The less energy comes from deep rooted beliefs that gas powered machinery is a step away from their religious beliefs, which are strongly rooted in agriculture. For the Amish family, farming is not a job but a sacred lifestyle that comes straight from scripture. All of their meals come from what they harvest, completing a growing cycle in the most natural of ways.
Simplicity in the Amish lifestyle is not limited to farming. They shun most of the modern world’s luxuries, even simple ones like electricity. They dress in plain clothes with no adornments, and the men are distinguished by impressive beards. Of course to maintain those beards they cannot use an electronic beard trimmer, but must rely on shears and straight razors. Although with the size of many of the Amish men beards, I wouldn’t doubt that some would appreciate the convenience that a beard trimmer could provide.
One of the biggest fears in the Amish community is the automobile. Since its introduction in the beginning of the 20th century, Amish religious leaders have strongly fought to keep any automobiles, or farm equipment that ran like one, off of their farms. This was important to them for a number of reasons. For one, a tractor would eliminate some jobs and force Amish men into the rest of the world to find work. There was also the fear that tractors would allow a farmer to till more than his 40 acres. This could cause him to buy more land, thus creating inequality in the community.
Instead, you will see horse drawn buggies driving alongside cars in Lancaster County. While this may be a startling site for some, the non-Amish neighbors are used to it, and have developed a deep respect for the culture.
While it may not be feasible for commercial farming to resort to the Amish all natural methods, smaller farms could learn a few things about being productive, without harming the land that feeds us. Try to cut back on the machine assisted labor, and encourage the hands on approach to farming. Even these small concessions made by a large number of farms would go a long way in preserving our planet.