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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The "Death In a Wrapper: Part II - The Amish Role" Story

Click on the photo and if you look closely at the photo you
will see the head of an Amish farmer in the center of the photo.
He is cutting the tobacco so it will begin to dry.
It was an ordinary day.  Roaming the countryside in Lancaster County, looking for a few photos of Amish farmers harvesting their crop of tobacco.  I attempt to not include any faces in my photos, since the Amish believe that a photograph showing their face is the same as a graven image of them which is against their religion.  Actually, many visitors to Lancaster County find it hard to believe that the Amish would raise tobacco as a crop due to their religion.
Dried stacks of tobacco ready to be picked up and taken
to the barn to be hung to cure.
Amish will use tobacco in cigars and pipes, but will not smoke a cigarette, since that is "too worldly" in their eyes. For those not familiar with the "Amish", I should tell you that the Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the seventeenth century during the Anabaptist movement.  The founder of the Amish movement was Swiss-born Jakob Ammann who broke away from the Anabaptist movement in 1693 when he believed the Anabaptists, who later became known as Mennonites, had begun to show weak discipline and a waning spirituality.  
Loading the cart with tobacco.
Mr Ammann stressed the humble and simple living that charac- terizes the Amish today.  The untrimmed beards, plain clothing with the use of hook and eye fasteners rather than buttons and the use of nothing that would connect the Amish to the "outside" world such as electricity, phones or motorized transportation were his beliefs which are still allegedly the beliefs of Lancaster County Amish. The Amish followed the Mennonites to the New World to escape Europe's growing religious intolerance.  Both groups settled near Philadelphia in a colony governed by Quaker William Penn.  Eventually the Amish moved west to Lancaster County where they now have the second largest Amish community in the United States; second to Holmes County, Ohio.  If you want a look at the Amish in Lancaster County, look at the 1985 movie "Witness" which featured actors who portrayed Amish in the movie which was filmed in Lancaster County.  The Amish immediately began farming tobacco in Lancaster due to the county's heavy, or fertile, soil and high humidity during the growing season.  The first census in1839 showed that Lancaster produced 48,860 pounds of tobacco.  The latest census I could find was 1995 when 17 million pounds of tobacco were farmed making Lancaster County the state's leading tobacco producing county.  
The tall barn in the center and the one to the left-rear
hold tobacco from the ceiling for curing.
What has kept tobacco so popular is due to the fact that tobacco must be farmed the same as it has been for ages, by hand.  The modern farming equipment doesn't make a difference so the Amish are on equal terms with their English neighbors.  For generations the Amish have farmed "Pennsylvania 41" which produces a heavy-bodied, dark colored, gummy leaf which is sold for cigar filler and chewing tobacco.  Maryland 609 and Southern burley tobacco is a cheaper tobacco and used in cigarettes.  The Amish use horse-drawn wagons to plant the tobacco in the ground in early summer and by harvest time in August and September, the entire family can be seen in the field cutting the stalks with shears, one at a time, down a row of plants.  The leaves are allowed to lie in the sun to soften, but not too long so they don't burn.  The wilted plants are then speared onto a four-foot-long lath, the laths are stacked on a horse-drawn wagon and hauled to the tobacco shed for curing.  The laths can weigh about 40 pounds and must be taken off the wagon and handed to other family members who hang them on long rails in the tobacco barn.  Working in tough conditions in high summer heat seems to bring out the best in the Amish.  Some work into their 70s, which I find unblievable!  In one respect, the Amish have a huge advantage over their English neighbors since they have very large families and don't have to pay employees to do the jobs that the family does. Eventually the leaves are pressed into a bale and packaged for auction.  If only the Amish would realize what harm they are creating for thousands of people who are too weak to give up the habit of smoking, maybe they would give up raising acre after acre of tobacco.  But, cash still speaks loudly to them and tobacco is a big cash crop.  Tomorrow I will take you to the city of Lancaster and show you what has happened to all the tobacco warehouses that once existed in Lancaster.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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