IMPORTANT UPDATE: The above statements are not completely accurate, and some are just plain untrue. The author of the above information probably got their information from a single visit, or a textbook.
Where to begin...
The furniture made in Ohio's Amish Country is of the highest quality anywhere in the U.S. If a local person makes shabby furniture they do not stay in business very long. Yes, you need to be careful for some Chinese-made items (mostly the garbage sold in the tourist traps) but when you go into the vast majority of furniture shops, you are buying high-quality locally made furniture.
The passage above about photographs simply is not true. As a local resident, writer, photographer and businessperson who does business with the Amish on a daily basis, I can emphatically state that it is NOT "against the religion" of the Amish to be photographed. My daughter goes to public school with Amish children, and the class photo is about 1/2 Amish children. Indeed it is children who are most likely to be photographed because they have not yet joined the church (Amish are adult baptisers, hence the term Anabaptist). Not only have I photographed Amish children many times (from a respectful distance) but I have published these photos in my books, and never once have I received negative feedback from the Amish. In fact, many have purchased my book.
Where the confusion comes in, is with POSING for photography, whether or not the person is a church member, and what sect (local church group) they belong to. In short, the more conservative the sect, the more the people are going to not want to be photographed. How do I know? I asked! I work with the Amish, I write about them AND I photograph them. Also, to say that you should not photograph Amish farms is positively absurd. It is just wrong. Period. There are certain events I will not photograph, namely funerals. I have photographed weddings from a distance.
Finally, to equate asking permission to photograph an Amish person to racism is one of the most inaccurate, outlandish, ridiculous statements I have ever heard. The Amish ARE NOT a "different race" of people. What nonsense! The Amish are a Christian religious sect or European descent who simply choose to live their lives with a different focus and values than us "English." In Amish communities the three things that matter most are faith, family and community. Each is equally important, and their manner of dress and the customs are just a manifestation of their faith. Nothing more, nothing less. To call them a different race is naive, insulting and grossly uninformed. Asking permission to photograph an Amish person may be a faux pas by someone who does not understand that the Amish do not consider themselves a curiosity, and it may even be a bit rude depending upon the circumstance, but racist? Please. I've heard some ridiculous claims regarding the Amish, but that one is a true whopper.
I also can speak about the use of the word "Amish" in terms of marketing.
Over the years, the Amish have, by default, built a very powerful brand. People across the world equate the word "Amish" with quality because they know about the Amish work ethic, and dedication to producing high-quality products. In recent years, foreign competition and a "shakeout" in the Amish furniture industry has caused the Amish businesspeople to take a first real look at marketing. in the past, customers were plentiful, and selling was easy. But again, competition is the new reality and marketing is being introduced to a group that never really needed it or considered it before.
Some Amish businesses will use the word "Amish" in their marketing. How do I know? Because I do marketing work for a number of Amish clients. Some are very, very reluctant to use it. Some understand the power of the "brand" they have built and use the word with caution. Such as, "furniture from Ohio's Amish Country." Others will not use it at all. It's all a matter of choice, and what one's church will allow.
Bottom line on marketing with the word "Amish": If you see "Amish furniture" or "Amish-made furniture" advertised, it probably IS Amish-made. It is not a "marketing ploy;" it is simply a way of defining one's product in an ever-competitive marketplace.
Please, please read this!
OK, I have calmed down a bit. But...
I can emphatically state that the information you keep deleting is good information. You say you have known the Amish for 20 years. Good for you. I LIVE here, and my family has been here for 140 years. I write books about the Amish, and I work with them on a daily basis to help them promote their wholesale and retail furniture businesses!
I will not re-post my more-insulting comments about your work if you will please go back and re-read what I have posted. Please, open your mind to the fact that you are not, by simple virtue of your association with the Amish, necessarily an expert, and that your information could be in error. It is. In terms of some of your statements you are quite simply, quite wrong.
If you go to public schools throughout Holmes, Tuscarawas and southern Wayne County, you will see a lot of Amish children in public schools. Would you like me to post my daughter's class photo, comprised of approximately one-half Amish Children? The Amish WILL send their children to a private school based on their own personal preferences, and the availability of either private or public schools. I challenge you to go the the public elementary schools in Mt. Hope, Winesburg, Charm or Mt. Eaton to name a few. You will find that these public schools have many Amish students. In fact, some of those I just named have a majority Amish student body. I can take you to public schools that have a 100% Amish student body (Flat Ridge Elementary, near Charm, Chestnut Ridge, near Walnut Creek). You don't know of any Amish who send their students to public school? Well I do!
As an aside, I can tell you that I know more than one Amish person who has told me emphatically that they would never send their children to an Amish school. Why? Personal preference. Yes, even among the Amish there are varying degrees of opinions about education. What you will find is that the more conservative the sect, the more likely they are to build and support a private school, as opposed to using a public school. Probably 100% (or very close to it) of the Swartzentrubers eschew public schools in favor of parochial.
You are also wrong in your comparison of taking an Amish person's photo to racism, and you assertion that the Amish are a separate race. To me, that is a very insulting statement, because the Amish do not consider themselves different from us, except for the way they choose to live their lives. I cannot begin to explain how totally off base you are. Hear me on this: There is a great deal of variance of Amish beliefs and practices on photography. Don't believe me? Come to Millersburg, go to the Wal-Mart and watch the young Amish girls using the photo machines or picking up prints. I guarantee you that a lot of Amish are using cell phone cameras, too!
The Amish also are not a separate ethnic group. Never heard that before, and I challenge you to go the Amish And Mennonite Heritage Center outside Berlin to learn more about the real roots of the Anabaptists. They are of European descent, and are not a distinct ethnic group. Weird stuff.
You state, "They are way too polite to give you any "negative comments". Anyone doing what you are doing would have to be defined as an overbearing english person taking advantage of the Amish for personal gain. Not a good idea."
You are right that they are very polite and nonconfrontational, but you are wrong in your statements about me, and how I earn my living. Please understand that Amish people, small and large Amish-owned businesses and MAJOR corporations in this area support my work, buy my work, display my work in their places of businesses and PAY me to do what I do! Otherwise I would have to go get a real job, instead of engaging in this Wiki-battle. :-)
Did you not read the part where I explained that Amish people themselves BUY my books? I will explain further that I do not publish photos of adults where their faces are recognizable. As for you comments about personal gain, I submit that you do not know what you are talking about. There are numerous books, magazines and other items that feature photography of Amish farms, people and events that do not exploit the Amish people.
You say, "I really think you are a well meaning "english person" living in Amishland, with no understanding or respect for them." NOTHING could be further from the truth in terms of my respect for the Amish people. Again, you do not understand my post. I work WITH Amish people on a DAILY basis. What I have stated about the use of the word "Amish" in their marketing comes from my Amish clients themselves. I work with Amish from across the spectrum, and you must understand the differences in and among the Amish.
I have the absolute deepest respect for and understanding of the Amish, and they know this, or they would not hire me! I honestly believe it is YOU whose knowledge of the Amish is quite limited.
I do apologize for my tone here. But I get very annoyed with people who have only a cursory amount of TRUE knowledge about the Amish trying to tell people things that just aren't true!
I want to speak a little more about how I make my living.
First, I do not publish photos of Amish adults where their faces are recognizable. Next, Please understand that I am a one-person business, and I am made by my reputation among my Amish clients. Do you honestly think they would continue to give me work if they felt I did not respect them? I have had many, many long discussions with numerous clients about how best to present their products to their customers (either at the wholesale or retail level) and still respect the wishes of their church, and their personal feelings. Example: I have a wholesale client who does not mind using the word "Amish" in his marketing materials. He builds one type of furniture and he partners with another man who builds the complementing products. The other man will not use the word "Amish." When we did a joint flyer for the two of them, we left out that word. When I do things for the other guy, we use the word. No one involved has a problem with it. Simple as that!
I work with Amish who have cell phones, use generators and computers. I also work with "kerosene lamp" Amish. I work very hard to respect each person's wishes and that of their church.
Let’s talk more about the word “Amish” and marketing. Trust me when I tell you that I have attended many meetings where branding and use of the word “Amish” has been discussed. I’m not talking about jams and jellies or pies here. I’m talking about multi-million-dollar Amish-owned businesses that are trying to find the best ways to compete in the marketplace and still respect the wishes of their church. It’s a great discussion, and one whose time has come. I am not talking about “hawkers” in Berlin. I am talking about smart, savvy, very successful, very religious people who want to keep their businesses thriving and growing so that the Amish way of life can continue, grow and thrive. There is MUCH discussion about branding happening right now, and the entire community (except for the very conservative groups) is involved in the discussion. Some Amish definitely object (as I stated before) to using the word “Amish.” Others have no problem stating, for example, “Furniture from Ohio’s Amish Country” if it allows them to remain competitive and feed their family and their employees’ families. You really need to understand the differences among the Amish themselves.
A word on furniture quality: If you think John's Furniture in Berlin is the best quality, you need to get out more! John's is for tourists. Check Homestead (Wow! No, they are not my clients, but they have advertised in one of my publications); Walnut Creek Furniture, Weaver Furniture in Sugarcreek and Green Acres Furniture in Mt. Eaton. In any of those stores you will find furniture that far surpasses what John's offers.
I do agree with you :-) that the downtown Berlin stores are not the best. But understand that these stores carry much more of the traditional Oak furniture in light stains that used to be very popular. Consumers today want new styles, designs and stain colors. The shops and stores that have responded to this do well. Others have not. As far as the "trinket" shops in Berlin, we agree. Skip them. You can find that junk anywhere. Although, I do take issue with your statement about an Amish person selling Chinese-made trinkets from their buggy. I'd like to see you back that up with some more specifics before I believe that.
I want you to accept that I am not some "well-meaning English person" who is exploiting the Amish or doesn't understand or respect them. You have absolutely no idea who I am, and the statements you have made about me are as inaccurate as some of the information you posted. Even though I have deep, deep roots here, I did a LOT of research and spoke to a lot of people before I published my first book. The best indication I can give you that my work is accepted here is this: Have you ever had an Amish person call or write you and ask to buy YOUR book? No? Well I have. Photography of the Amish, and using that work to make money is not, in and of itself evil. When some yokel comes to town and runs up to an Amish person, sticks a camera in their face and takes their picture (like they are at the circus), THAT is wrong. That's not what I do, and you need to understand that the vast majority of Amish have absolutely no objection to photographs of the Amish and their farms being published. Some do, and I respect that.
Again, I apologize for my tone, but I have encountered "experts" like you many times, and you do people a huge disservice by spreading half-truths and misinformation. Please don't judge me, and please try to get your facts straight. And please understand that much of what you posted is simply not good information. I battle this stuff all the time, and believe me when I tell you that I work very hard to dispell the type of stuff you posted, and I do so with the support of the Amish community. I am a degreed professional writer, editor, photographer, publisher and advertising/marketing consultant who makes 100% of his living working WITH the Amish. I know what I am taking about! My credentials are unassailable, and I could name-drop if I wanted to. But at this point, I will not.
Maybe down the road we can exchange contact information and eventually become friends. I can accept that you have some knowledge about the Amish, and are eager to protect and respect them. I can appreciate that.
Can you accept that I am a professional who knows what he is talking about? Can you accept that Amish people and Amish businesses support my work and that they are not only my clients and business associates, but my friends and neighbors?
I have to go now. I have an ad to do for an Amish client and then I have to go see other clients, Amish and English alike! :-)