Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Success Dressed in Amish Clothing

Power heels, laptops, Blackberries, expensive haircuts – these are probably the objects that you assign to success. Success in America means material wealth and visible happiness. We love our convenience and our shiny technology. I don't know about you, but I can't even write a term paper without a Starbucks, a texting conversation with a best friend and a good pop track playing in my earbuds attached to my attractive netbook.

Meet Amos Miller, the opposite of your stereotypical, "type A" businessman. Amos Miller doesn't own a cell phone, he doesn't drive a car, he doesn't have a Web site and he runs a $1.8 million business known as Miller Farm. Amos is Amish, which means that his business challenges the moral standards abided to by his community. His farm specializes in the "nutrient-dense food" that is giving organic food a run for their money. Amos hires non-Amish drivers to take his food to national food conventions and trade shows where he advertises this unique idea of "purity in food." Orders come in on the only farm landline and are shipped out using FedEx.

Community elders are concerned with the amount of profit Amos is receiving because it corrupts the simplicity of their lives. Amos admits that he hates the city and prefers the comfort of his farm. For the complete story, please read his story in Businessweek.

I actually think this is a more complex story that goes much deeper than Businessweek went. Here is a man who is benefiting from the supply/demand magic of a capitalistic society but his religion shuns the evils of wealth. In the story, Amos admits to owning a generator and a phone which is modern technology (though of course not as advanced as some modern farms) but he doesn't have a computer, an email address or other modern novelties.

The Amish have a very exclusive community that centers on simplicity but they run rather suspiciously profitable ventures. Do you see the inconsistencies? Think about Amish quilts. My grandma LOVES Amish quilts and buys one every time she goes back east. These quilts are made by people who don't want anything to do with the modern world, but they can sell those pretty blankets for over $500 a piece to that "evil" market! I am not saying this is wrong, but I just think the Amish will have to eventually make a decision whether or not to court the curious American public with their wholesome goods.

A note on the "nutrient-dense-going-green-organic-recycle-everything" movement. Today, I went to the grocery store. I admit that I am rather easily influenced by attractive packaging and I was drawn to a box of "peanut-butter crèmes." (This was a cutesy way of saying peanut-butter cookies.) The box was very organic-looking and promised the most natural and healthy experience. It was made of 100% recycled materials and the box was probably much more nutritious than the cookies themselves. Well, I bought the cookies and took them home. After opening this pretty box that was saving the world and turning it green and whatever, I found a plastic-and-foil-wrapped cookie sleeve inside. They may have saved the planet with the box, but the clunky inside container is going to pollute some landfill after I finish these rather ordinary-tasting "crèmes." I realize we are "taking it one step at a time" (which is how the box put it) but I just thought that there was irony in the whole situation.

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