Have you ever picked up a copy of the local publication “The People’s Exchange”? If you’re visiting Amish Indiana for more than a day or two, I’d highly recommend it. It’s available for free from display stands all over town. A new one is published every two weeks.
These days it runs over 325 pages, and here’s the table of contents. As you can see, it’s a mix of goods and services mainly focused on the Amish community—but don’t put it aside yet. There are things for the hard-core tourist, too—the ones who stay more than a day or two, and dig into the local community a little deeper than just shopping and eating downtown.
Below is a very small sampling of some of the ads… I honestly could have scanned a hundred of them and not run out of unique content. But since I hate scanning (as you can see by the date on this issue, which lets you know that I’ve procrastinated six months already!)—this will give you a taste. Below the ads I've given a bit more background info on each one...
The Amish need a number of products which are unique to their culture. Quite a few are locally made, and many of those are advertised here. This is an ad for a special clothesline, since the Amish don’t have clothes dryers.
The next ad above is for bobcats. Small skid loaders like this are increasingly common here, and are allowed in all but the most conservative Amish church districts. There are also many ads for battery-powered items in The People’s Exchange, since the Amish don’t have regular plug-in electricity. You’d be surprised how many things can be run by a rechargeable battery!
Notice the ad for bench wagons. As Amish church districts grow past a certain size, the district is split. This necessitates a new set of church officers (bishop, two ministers, deacon) and also a new bench wagon. I wrote more about bench wagons here.
The horse ads have always fascinated me!—enough so that, back in our tourist days, I would read them aloud to my husband (endlessly) in the car on the drive back to suburban Chicago. A few years ago I did an entire post on just the horse ads, which you can read here.
There are also ads for every kind of horse-related product or service, including the usual ones and also some you might not expect. This ad is for a Himalayan salt room—for horses.
Nearly all real estate aimed at the Amish market is sold by auction, not by traditional realtors. This is true for homes, farms, and businesses. Silent auctions are becoming more popular, where phone bids are taken up until a certain date. Many of the large old farms are being broken up into smaller “farmettes,” consisting of two or three acres, a house, and a few outbuildings. That’s the typical property that might be owned by an Amish RV factory worker.
There’s a large section for “health and wellness.” Medical clinics serving the Amish often offer “plain Church pricing” or “cash discounts” like this one does. The Amish don’t have conventional medical insurance, although they do have a form of self-insurance for larger medical expenses. Many have asked me if the Amish use conventional doctors, dentists, hospitals, etc. The answer is yes—but they are more likely to try herbs and other folk remedies or chiropractic treatments first.
Along with the ads for conventional medical practices, such as the first ad above, are many ads for some pretty questionable and untested medical potions, treatments, and devices. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Amish are far too ready to believe in the benefits of such things. Often these ads mention a “free talk” which is a thinly disguised sales pitch.
A lovely custom here (and one of my husband’s personal favorites) is the annual Customer Appreciation Day. These often involve sales, discounts, special displays, and lots of free food. They are typically very well attended!
This last ad is a good example of something that would interest a tourist. The Country Barn is a store on the main road between downtown Shipshewana and Middlebury. They sell lots of bird houses and bird feed—a wonderful variety—and owner Laverne Graber is an expert on the local birds. There is plenty more there, including pet food and a nice selection of unique home décor and gifts.
So there it is—The People’s Exchange. Look through a copy next time you are in town.
You can find their website here.
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