Dealing with Amish Neighbors through Sharing and Bartering

I find myself to be lucky enough to have many Amish neighbors. I feel lucky because they generally make the best neighbors for homesteaders. The Amish are quiet and like to be left alone: they don’t really mind what you do on your land.

You can have a symbiotic relationship with the Amish that suits both of you. First off you need to respect the way they live and understand a few things. The Amish really don’t like compliments. So, by saying your vegetables look better than the other Amish family, you aren’t really complimenting them. They are a humble people and work at being humble.

They are just like us with some being friendlier than others. Some will tell you not to talk to their kids because they don’t want you putting thoughts in their kid’s heads. Others just watch and monitor what you say. Some will look at a picture on your cell phone , while some will block it from view with their hands.

An Amish Buggy
An Amish Buggy

For the most part they all admit that they couldn’t live without the English (that’s what they call us). They use our phones, driving service and freezer space. For this, you get much more in return. You get vegetables, fruit and the occasional dessert. I find that most will barter knowledge with you, and this can make for a great relationship.

I have a handful of Amish neighbors that I love to work with. I’m there for them if they need a drive, and that can be often at times. Amish don’t like taking the horses out if they don’t have to. My neighbors much rather ask me for a ride to the bank or feed mill. If I have time I will gladly do it. They don’t like taking anything free, so payments can be anything from cash to food.

If you want something that they have just ask. At times, I need straw, so I barter for a free ride. If you want some tomatoes, offer them something else: you may have an exchange. It may take some time to feel them out, and at times it feels like pulling teeth.

I got most of my plants from Amish bartering. I once traded an hour ride for a couple hundred in berry bushes, strawberry plants, rhubarb plants and elderberry bush. This particular barter was very good, because now I take my cutting and resell them during the spring.

Amish like to use freezers at times, so they will either use your freezer or they will buy one and plug it in at your house. So, they don’t like electric but they will use yours. For this you can either get a monthly fee or some other sort of barter.

My brother lives a few miles from me and lets an Amish neighbor use his freezer. He also put a separate phone line in his basement for his Amish neighbors. They always do nice things for him like bringing canned goods, making hay for him and they also put a new roof on his house without charging for labor.

Amish Plantings
Amish Plantings

I usually get extra produce from my Amish neighbors at a fair rate. Every Fall I go get enough squash and potatoes for pennies on the dollar. I can get a bushel box full of produce for $5.00. I really like stocking food, and working with my Amish neighbors makes that possible.

Duck is delicious but I don’t have the area I need to raise them. I gave a pair to some Amish friends and they let them run the farm. Now every spring I buy back full grown Muscovy ducks for $5.00, sometimes as low as $2.50 each. They are fully grown, I didn’t have to deal with the mess and didn’t have to worry about feeding. When I don’t need any ducks, they send them to auction and make some money. It works out great for both of us.

I also buy some of my seed potatoes from the Amish, and they usually plant them free of charge on their land. I just help them dig them out when ready. I find that to be a great deal, as it expands my growing potential.

Sometimes I pick things up from the store for them or look something up on the internet for them and this makes our relationship work. Now, the English and Amish can’t be the typical friends. Don’t expect to hang out for no reason other than spend time with each other. They don’t do that with the English, but you can have a useful relationship.

One of my best Amish friends would barter with me often. We both made sure that we were even at all times. The last thing you want is to take advantage or be taken advantage of. He once got a new driver to save a penny a mile. Soon, he had me driving again because the other driver was adding extra mileage. That’s the sort of thing you can’t take offense to; it is the sort of relationship they have with us.

An Amish Neighbor's Pond
An Amish Neighbor’s Pond

So, if you have Amish neighbors, try and build a working relationship. Homesteaders can really work with the Amish; just keep the relationship fair and you can both help each other greatly!


  1. Thanks so much for this article. There are Amish that live near by, after reading this article, I am really thinking about bartering with them for some great fruits and vegetables.

    1. Hello Bibi, yes by all means approach the Amish. They naturally are weary of the English (what they call us) at first. They also don’t like comments to the kids like “they are so cute”. Get to know them by buying from them and then they may be open to barter. They don’t usually want to barter or buy the first time they meet you.

      Good luck it’s worth it.

  2. The article makes some good points, but being friends with Amish neighbors can be challenging. This is especially true when setting some boundaries.

    The Amish can be tremendously dependent upon rides from “English” drivers. If you are surrounded on all sides by Amish neighbors, as I am, you can end up having Amish knocking on your door asking for a ride here or there multiple times daily. In addition, they will seldom tell you everywhere they want to go, and will predictably want to consolidate multiple stops into one trip. It’s understandable, but know that when they ask for a ride to one place you need to ask what other stops may be necessary, how many people you will be transporting, and whether you will need to return to pick someone up later. If you give them your phone number to call you when they need a ride (yes, Amish often have community telephones), you can expect them to give your number to other Amish who are looking for English transportation.

    Finding ways to be good neighbors and friends can be challenging, and requires some patience and understanding. Being careful not to set a precedent doing something for one person or under one set of circumstances that you wouldn’t want to do on a regular basis is important.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Amish can be great neighbors. My experience is they are much better neighbors than the English neighbors I have had in the past But like any relationship, you must understand and be considerate of their cultural differences. If you do that, you can expect to be pleasantly surprised by the ways the Amish will show their appreciation.

    At all times, remember three things: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, Judge not lest ye be judged, and Love thy neighbor as thy self.

  3. Thanks, Richard. This is the best account I have read from someone who has an ongoing symbiotic relationship with the Amish. One cannot fault them for getting the best deal, but I would imagine that their Ordnung would prohibit any conscious exploitation of outsiders. I think they are right to be wary of getting too close to the ‘English’ because before they know it, their children would to beguiled by our modern world and, no doubt, many would fall victim to its wickedness and probably never returm to the fold. As they deliberately avoid interaction with the outside world, other than is necessary for economic survival, may I ask what they talk about when you are driving then into town, or do they not talk very much at all? I understand that they speak to each other in an early form of the German language that no longer exists in Europe. Do they learn to speak English as children? and how easy or difficult is it to be understood by them or to understand their spoken English?
    Many thanks again for sharing your insight. Very intetesting.
    Jenny (London, England)

  4. I have Amish family somewhere near Lancaster and I’ve always wondered how they’d respond if I wanted to meet them. My great-grandmother was Amish and had to leave the home since she got pregnant during Rumspringen. She raised her family next to her community and she was allowed to visit but not the kids or her husband. She and her daughter (my granmother) raised me in California and I was always amazed by how they never sat down and relaxed. rom the time I can remember they constantly did chores and had me do small chores. Strange how many generations I am from living with my Amish family and I stull have some of their ways of life that I do in my own life. All good! I’d just love to meet them.

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