2 May

Family. My Amish Neighbors. Each One Said With A Smile: “This Was Me.”

by Jon Katz

My family is my strength and my weakness.” — Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

The Amish life centers on faith and family. Everything else follows.

As I drove away from their farm on Friday – the wind was blowing hard and cold – I looked up and saw one of the most beautiful images I can recall.

Moise was planting onions, one of the most difficult crops to plant, and three of his children, two daughters, and a son, came over the hill carrying rakes to help him.

He was trying to roll a plastic cover over the plants he had laboriously dug holes for and put in the ground. It was difficult work even for a man as strong as him, and especially in the wind.

Sometimes you capture an image so meaningful you don’t quite know what to make of it. I came home and rushed over to Maria to show it to her.

I decided to save it for Sunday, today, a day of contemplation and often, of family.

The scene took my breath away; I pulled the car over and stood at the bottom of the hill and took this photo.

I wasn’t sure about it, I don’t usually take any pictures of the family’s children, but when I showed it to Moise later, he and the children loved it and asked for a print.

They don’t get to look at too many images of themselves.

The picture means a lot to me; it was one of those photographs that captures so much more than it seems at first. Moise said it was fine for me to put it up on my blog; I could see it moved him too.

Each of the children touched the image of themselves on my Iphone as we stood at the kitchen table. Each one said with pride and a great smile, “this was me.”

It speaks for itself about the power of family; it spoke to me about something I never had but value. I couldn’t imagine something like this in my own life.

I couldn’t help but think that we sometimes push them away from us and too far out of our lives in our rush to prepare our children for the world. In Moise’s Amish world, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.

For me, a family has been a strength and a weakness. Maria is my family now, and I am hers.

For the Amish, it is about strength and love. The picture rarely struck my heart, and I am proud to share it and grateful to have captured an image that can only be described as iconic.

I talked to these children the next morning; they are all so proud and excited to see the photograph and to have planted the onions with their father. “Look, this was me,” said Joe one more time.

Below, the onions and tomatoes the morning after.


  1. A hard-working close-knit family with a deep connection to Mother Earth and a vast sky overhead … beautiful and elemental! I think the best photos always tell a story and this is one of them.

  2. The family photo reminds me so much of Millet’s “The Gleaners”. Your family scene touched me deeply, as it seems to have affected you in the same way. Moise’s family makes me feel so deprived of our children who chose to move far away from my area in the central part of NY State to satisfy themselves with good employment. Family has been replaced by the “English” by desire for monetary gratification. By the way, I was curious about the Amish; do they pay taxes? I think you addressed this this week. I am sure they pay land tax, but do they also pay taxes to the public school systems of which they do not partake?

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