I’ve been familiar with Ernie’s videos for a long time. Random searches for anything Amish on YouTube will ultimately turn up some of his videos. Admittedly, at first, I was a little leery. After all, I have a YouTube channel of my own why gravitate towards someone else's? But his videos are superb and with over 500 of them to peruse, well, you could spend all day watching them! Perhaps what I most like, however, is Ernie’s authenticity. In a genre increasingly populated by people whose connections to the Amish are tenuous and fleeting, Ernie’s the real deal, just seems like a salt-of-the-earth guy whom I’d love to have the pleasure to meet someday and swap Amish stories. He’s based in Arthur, Illinois. He was born into an Amish family but left for a Beachy Amish church when he was in first grade. Cameras and the Amish are a tricky combination, but he makes it work and is successful because he's respectful.
What is this image? Looks like a cross between a buggy and a deluxe golf cart? Learn about it in one of my favorite Ernie Bontrager videos!
So, here is our Amish365 Q & A with Ernie:
1) Do you have a favorite video out of all the Amish related ones you've taken? The most views is a Horse Progress video Called "Amish Baling Hay Without Engine Power". It has 164,000 views.
2) Do you have a favorite Amish settlement? I am of course bias towards the Arthur Illinois settlement. I grew up here as an Amish boy and am now with a Conservative Mennonite Church. My second choice would be Holmes County Ohio where my wife was raised.
3) Is there an Amish settlement you haven't been to but would like to make it to? There are a lot of Amish in Missouri and I would like to visit there.
4) Do you find that people are pretty tolerant of your video camera? We all know that many Amish are reticent to have their photograph taken, does being of the Amish/Mennonite background give you more credibility? I have only on one occasion been asked to remove a YouTube video. The young man was dressed inappropriately at Pinecraft Park (Beach clothes with a full beard) but most Amish do not care and many go to the library to watch my videos. One Amish grandpa from Pennsylvania told me he has watched all my videos.In the winter I do a lot of Pinecraft (Sarasota Florida) videos and the people up north can keep up with what is happening.
5) How old were you when you left the Amish? I was in first grade, 6 or 7 years old when we joined the Beachy Amish Church. The story is in my book "Ernie" An Autobiography of Ernest Bontrager, which is available on Ebay for only $2.95 with free shipping. I will sign a copy for all amish365 members.
6) How did you get started with video recording the Amish?
I made my first video for YouTube in June of 2010. I was always interested in solar and wind power so I built a wind turbine and that was my first video. I called my channel Bluegrass, Green, and Amish at first because I like bluegrass music and have many of our local artists on my channel. Green refers to the solar and wind videos that are "how to" videos that have had thousands of views. I was raised Amish in Arthur Illinois and am now Mennonite. I wrote a book called "Ernie" (available on Ebay) about my liver transplant in 2001. Last year I was asked to make a DVD for the 50 year class reunion program at the Arthur High School and then I started making DVDs of different topics. My most popular DVD is Amish and Mennonites in Pinecraft which has sold over 400 copies. I also just finished one on Amish and Mennonites in Arthur. The DVD's are 1 hour long and are available on Ebay for $20.00 with free shipping. Also in 2009 I started selling collectibles on Ebay (Feedback Score 10,923), and then made a video "How to Ship Ebay Items Using the Post Office". That video has had 250,000 views. I have 600 videos on YouTube and lots of Amish horse farming, quilts, food and benefits showing the Amish lifestyle. Now with over 3.2 million views, be sure to subscribe and learn about the Amish and enjoy many different videos all without leaving your easy chair.