A religious community in Illinois live a unique farming lifestyle, firmly based on the traditions and practices of their ancestors who arrived in America some 300 years ago.The Amish community of Arthur, Illinois, are a 4,000-strong religious group who follow strict rules to live simply and humbly, with farming at the core of their society.Each Amish family in Arthur traditionally owns around 80 acres of farmland, which is used to feed the family and wider community. Farming is done using horse-drawn machines with metal wheels; the main crops being wheat, oats, clover, and corn.However, this pastoral way of life is changing for the Amish, who are struggling with ever-raising land prices and decreased demand for home-grown, non-mass-produced food. In response, this resourceful community is turning their hands to other skills, such as furniture and machine-making in order to supplement their agricultural income.
The Amish are a Christian group who migrated to America from Switzerland in the early 18th century in search of freedom to practice their religion as they pleased.
Initially settling in Pennsylvania, which is still home to one of the largest Amish communities in the world, some families eventually broke off and travelled further west in search of more land.Arthur was settled by Amish in the 1860s, and is now the largest Amish community in Illinois, and the seventh largest in America. The Amish live off the land, preferring to use traditional horse-powered machinery and buggies rather than electrical equipment and cars.Humility, piety and hard work are three tenets of Amish living, which are reinforced through the family and the church and evident in their characteristic plain, dark coloured clothes.Increasingly, tourism is becoming an inevitable part of the Amish existence, as ‘cottage industries’ and country shops supplement a decreasing farming income.