Can Amish People Drive Tractors?


The Amish people are known for using horses and buggies for transportation and rejecting many modern technologies such as television and public utility electricity. [1] Each Amish community is different, so are any Amish farmers allowed to drive tractors?

Some Amish communities allow their members to drive tractors, some only use the tractor’s engine in a barn, and some communities completely reject the use of tractors. Amish are generally not allowed to drive anything with an engine. When farming, the Amish mostly use equipment used by hand.

Each Amish community has different rules and regulations about technology. The separate communities decide which technologies they will use in some capacity based on the individual’s belief on how the technology will affect their lives. [2] This article will discuss what Amish can drive, the type of tires they are allowed, and what farm equipment they use.

Amish tractor
What kind of wheels to Amish tractors have? See below

What Can Amish Drive?

All Amish can drive horse-drawn sources of transportation. These include buggies and sleighs in the winter. Some Amish communities allow their members to drive tractors, ride bikes, and ride scooters. [3]

A common stereotype of the Amish is the use of horse-drawn buggies, their primary transportation source for longer distances. There are many types of horse-drawn buggies, including the sometimes enclosed “family buggies” that can carry many passengers to open two-seater buggies that go fast. All buggies come in various colors ranging from black to gray to white to bright yellow.

Amish children will also use pony carts to get to school. When community members can’t use buggies in winter, the Amish may drive horse-drawn sleighs to travel.

Some Amish communities allow tractors on roads. However, most often, only a tractor’s engine is used for power. The communities that allow people to drive tractors on the road often restrict their use by requiring Amish-owned tractors to have steel wheels. Although, some communities don’t regulate tractor use, such as the Amish community at Guthrie, Kentucky. [4]

Driving a tractor is the closest activity the Amish do to driving a car.

When Amish people cannot drive a horse-drawn buggy, some Amish communities allow the use of bicycles, and many of those that don’t, allow scooters. Bikes are more common in the Midwestern United States, including Holmes County, Ohio, and northern Indiana. One Amish community well-known for children and adults alike riding scooters is Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. [3]

When the Amish need to travel distances greater than their horse-drawn buggies can take them, there are a few other modes of transportation they will take, including:

  • A hired driver
  • Buses
  • Trains

Another way the Amish get around is the tried and true method of walking. Amish are likely to walk if they are going within walking distance. 

tractors
Why do some build tractors with wooden tires? See below

Can Amish Have Rubber Tires?

Some Amish communities allow rubber tires, but people are most likely to see steel-tired buggies and tractors. This is because the steel tires people put on tractors dissuade them from using it more than necessary.

Amish tractors often have steel tires instead of rubber due to mandates in the community’s Ordnung. This is the unwritten rule and regulation of each Amish community. The theory is that people will be discouraged from driving the tractor. [4] Not all Amish communities are like that, however. The Amish community in Guthrie, Kentucky, uses tractors often and allows rubber tires on their tractors.

The Amish build buggies with either steel or solid rubber tires. Steel tires are preferred, though, because steel-tire buggies pull easier. The compression of solid rubber tires makes it more difficult for horses to pull a buggy. [5]

The placement of brakes differs on buggies based on their tire type, too. Rubber tires stress the buggy’s mechanism or the fifth wheel. Due to this, builders put brakes on the rear wheels on solid rubber-tired buggies. The metal sliding in steel tires takes some stress off the fifth wheel in steel-tired buggies, so the brakes are placed on the front wheels.

One may also see the odd wooden-wheeled buggy. One buggy builder in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, prefers wooden tires. [5] Wooden tires are easier to repair as making a new part for them is simpler than a steel or solid rubber tire. Wooden tires are also quieter than the other options.

Issues may arise from using steel tires on both tractors and buggies. The roads often get destroyed by steel-wheeled vehicles driving on them. Over time, the steel-wheeled buggies and tractors driven on paved roads created ruts in the street. Steel wheels also make a racket and discourage driving at fast speeds. [4]

plow
Do Amish farmers use plows? See below

What Farm Equipment Do Amish Use?

The Amish use various pieces of farm equipment, like plows, tractors, and cultivators. An industry exists for the Amish to buy farm equipment specially made by and for them.

Plows used by Amish farmers are similar to the two-wheel plows that were commonplace in the 1860s. These horse-drawn plows loosen hard compost to make later farming easier. [2] As stated before, the way Amish farmers use tractors, or if they use tractors at all, depends on the Amish community.

The use of the Amish tractor differs based on the community’s Ordnung. Some communities only allow the tractor for specific tasks. Others use the tractor engine only and are not allowed to take it out of the barn. People consider the fields “pure,” and using a tractor would “sully” them.

Even more Amish communities consider tractors too similar to cars because of the self-propulsion engine and ban all use of tractors. [2]

Amish farmers use handheld or mule-drawn cultivators to loosen soil and get rid of weeds to prepare the field for planting. Once the ground is loosened, and the weeds are removed, people can plant seeds for farming.

The Amish use various pieces of farm equipment, including shoulder yokes, to help carry heavy objects. When farming grain, Amish farmers will use grain binders and drills to sow and cut the grain. The Amish will also use a gas-powered field or pesticide sprayer to keep pests away from their fields. [2]

The Amish communities in Ohio can go to Lehman’s when they need to buy or replace farming equipment. [6]

Conclusion

Some, but not all, Amish communities allow members to drive tractors or use rubber tires on their tractors or buggies.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source
[6] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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