Photo Story: All in the Family

Eli Schrock owns Schrock Amish Dairy farm in Rosebush, Mich. His wife, Ella, takes care of the children, but Eli does most of the farm work on his own. Their three sons, Jonas, Jacob and James, all suffer from moderate to severe mental handicaps. Jonas, 31, and Jacob, 25, are also physically handicapped and are unable to perform day-to-day tasks such as eating, getting dressed and using the bathroom. James, 21, is the most advanced of the three, and is able to help is father with simple tasks around the farm, such as gathering eggs, moving hay and feeding his two animals, a sheep and a goat.

The Schrock family is a modernistic Amish family, as are many of the other Amish farms in Rosebush. Most of them use tractors for field work, and a little bit of power for the house and farm. They don’t use computers or drive cars, they dress in traditional Amish clothing and married men do not shave their facial hair. The Rosebush community is the only modern Amish community in Michigan.

Life outside family and farm work barely exists for the Schrock family. Taking care of one disabled child is a battle on its own, let alone taking care of three. Add running a dairy farm and keeping with the traditions of the Amish faith, and sometimes it’s too much for them. The only break Eli and Ella get is when the boys are off at school; James and Jacob go to a school in Clare for the mentally disabled, and Jonah goes to a woodwork workshop four days a week. The Amish couple spend most of their time without the kids doing farm work, tasks around the house or worship.

In the Schrock household, every day is a struggle, but the bond of a family is more than enough to get them through the day and into their beds at night. Until the next morning comes, the struggle starts again at 5 a.m. when the rooster crows and the cows begin to stir and bellow for their breakfast.

zw_AmishFamily01Eli Schrock sits in his kitchen in Rosebush, Mich. on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Amish tradition states that once a man is married, he should allow his beard to grow untrimmed.

zw_AmishFamily02Clouds loom over fields of grain on Grass Lake Road in Rosebush, Mich. Rosebush is a farming community located just north of Mount Pleasant, Mich.

zw_AmishFamily03Eli Shrock redresses his 25-year-old son, Jacob, after he soiled himself in their home on Saturday, Oct. 6. Jacob and his 31-year-old brother, Jonas, still wear diapers.

zw_AmishFamily04James Shrock, 21, feeds his goat under a willow tree in his backyard on Sept. 21. James is the highest functioning of his brothers and is able to help his father with small chores around the farm.

zw_AmishFamily05Jonas, 31, stares off into the distance during morning prayer on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Jonas takes a shuttle to a workshop every morning after his brothers leave for school. Because of their conditions, Jonas and Jacob are unable to attend church, so they perform religious rituals at home.

zw_AmishFamily06Jonas Shrock presses his hands and face against a cold window on the morning of Oct. 6 in their home in Rosebush, Mich.

zw_AmishFamily07Eli gently holds his son’s neck while shaving him on Saturday, Oct. 6. Because James is able to work on the farm, he and Eli have a closer relationship than with the other brothers.

zw_AmishFamily08James sweeps up dried manure from the floor of the milking barn on Saturday, Oct. 6.

zw_AmishFamily09James Shrock licks the zipper of his jacket in the milking barn on Saturday, Oct. 6. Although James is able to perform every day tasks, he is still very much affected by his condition.

zw_AmishFamily10Eli steps into the late afternoon light outside of the hay barn on Saturday, Oct. 6.

zw_AmishFamily11Wind from an oncoming storm shakes stalks of grain outside of the Shrock farm on Saturday, Oct. 6.

zw_AmishFamily12James tells his father about his recently completed chores on Saturday, Oct. 6. “Yeah, yeah, all of the boys, James especially, like to have confirmation whenever they do something. They like to know what they’re doing is all right with me and the wife.”

zw_AmishFamily13Eli helps James read scripture during church service on Sunday, Sept. 25. Although James is high functioning, he still has trouble reading, writing, getting dressed and socializing.