There’s a nice listtle turn of phrase at the end of this.
They travel on horsepower, but diesel runs many of their tools, machines and appliances
By JONATHAN STARKEY
The News Journal
Inside his workshop near Dover, Bennie Troyer, an Amish man, shapes and assembles wood. He builds about 30 to 35 custom kitchen cabinet sets a year, and
each set takes about a week and a half.
Cabinetmaking is a trade Troyer inherited from his father, Sam, who started the cabinetmaking business in the 1960s. But it’s a trade that has become more
The diesel fuel that powers Troyer’s tools, a traditional table saw and wide-belt sander among them, has skyrocketed in price in the past several months,
adding pressure to business on Apple Grove School Road.
“Our profit margin is not going to be this year what it was last year,” Troyer said last Thursday, standing in his workshop, just across a narrow driveway
from his house.
It may be hard to imagine that the Amish, known best for their horse-drawn buggies, are as susceptible to the sting of rising oil prices as people who rely
on gas for everyday transportation.
But for those who milk cows, build cabinets or saw timber for a living, the pinch is real. Pressure from fuel prices even reaches into Amish homes, where
they use gas to power washing machines and freezers.
Amish people are banned from driving cars and trucks because leaders worry that faster transportation could “pull the community apart,” but the prohibition
does not extend to fuel-powered motors and engines like those used to run power tools and washing machines, said Donald B. Kraybill, an Amish scholar at
Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa.
“I don’t know that there ever was a categorical taboo on the engine,” Kraybill said. “They used steam engines in the late 19th century.”
So despite their old-fashioned separatist image, the Amish are squeezed by high fuel prices just like everybody else.
Last year at this time, Troyer paid $2.35 a gallon for diesel to run his tools. It cost him $4.49 recently.
Burning 125 gallons a month, that’s an extra $267.50, not counting fuel surcharges suppliers are tacking onto deliveries of things like stains and drawer
slides. The Baltimore company that provides Troyer with stains and finishes tacked another $12 on each delivery. Troyer said he may have to raise prices
“If this keeps on, we’re going to have to do something different,” he said.
Troyer declined to be photographed for this story. The Amish follow the scriptural admonition to not make “graven images” of themselves. They also do not
want to draw attention to themselves by posing for a photo or image.
Sawing and mulching timber at his sawmill off Yoder Road, also west of Dover, Ervin Miller burns 250 gallons to 300 gallons of diesel weekly. Miller, who
remembers paying 95 cents for diesel only five years ago, paid $4.39 per gallon last week.
Anyone can do the math.
Loggers, who are also facing higher fuel prices, want more money, too, he said. And adjusting prices can be difficult, with struggling lumber companies
unwilling to pay more.
“I just get what they give me,” said Miller, who stood in the sun one day last week, a straw hat on his head, square-framed glasses on his face and a tape
measure clipped by his right side. “It kind of puts a jam on you.”
For David Miller, a dairy farmer nearby, diesel fuel powers his milk pump and the compressor that keeps the milk cool.
The good news is that prices for milk have gone up with fuel. He’s getting more than 60 percent more for his milk this summer than he was a couple of years
“It’s helping a lot,” Miller said. Still, Miller, who is facing extra charges from haulers because of higher fuel prices, called such prices “ridiculous.”
Harvey Yoder, who runs a nursery off Rose Valley School Road, addressed the belief that the Amish are not affected by such modern factors as soaring fuel
“People think the Amish are old-time,” Yoder said, “But we do use gas.”
The water pump Yoder uses to water the plants, from petunias to ponytail grass, in his greenhouse, is gas-powered. His five-gallon jug of gas usually lasts
two weeks or so, he said. Through the spring, it may only last one week.
“We used to get it for half the price,” Yoder said of the gas. “It knots you.”