|An Amish buggy in Centerville, N.Y. The Amish have added several settlements in New York. (David Duprey/ Associated Press)|
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Affordable rural farmland and proximity to traditional population centers are driving a recent boomlet in new Amish colonies in New York state, according to a study by Elizabethtown College researchers.
The Amish, many of them from Ohio or Pennsylvania, have established 10 new settlements in New York since the start of 2010 - growth that is twice that of any other state. Total population there has grown by nearly a third in the past two years, to 13,000.
The first Amish districts in New York were established in the Conewango Valley in 1949, but in-migration amounted to a trickle until about a decade ago. As recently as 1991, there were just 3,900 Amish in the state.
Elizabethtown professor Don Kraybill, who directed the study by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, said Amish movement into New York has been partly fueled by a contagion effect in which families report back on finding productive and underpriced land, and other factors that are conducive to the way they live such as weather, growing season, and congenial neighbors and local officials.
In the 1980s and ’90s Kentucky played that role for the Amish, while more recently it was Wisconsin, Kraybill said. The Amish are currently in 28 states and the Canadian province of Ontario.
New York has lower land prices in rural areas than Pennsylvania and Ohio, states that together account for nearly half of the nationwide Amish population of about 261,000.
New York also has more areas of rural isolation, Kraybill said.
“If you want to get away from the suburbs and the high-tech world, there are more places to hide in New York,’’ he said.