Amish investors defrauded

Local Amish families and other local folks, including some of my closest friends, were apparently defrauded by Fair Financial, which allegedly ran a Madoff style pyramid scheme.

Our local newspaper, The Daily Record, reported, “In court documents filed Nov. 24, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana filed a civil lawsuit, which was later dismissed, accusing Fair Finance co-owner Tim Durham, his companies and associates of defrauding customers by getting them to buy investment certificates, and that the money was used to make interest and redemption payments to earlier investors.”

Many of Fair Financial’s customers face devastating losses. One young Amish family I know of sold their modest home. They planned to live in an aged mobile home and while they built their new home. They parked their life savings at Fair. The company shut its doors the day after the basement for their new home was dug. Now they have nothing but the rusty old mobile home and a hole in the ground.

Another woman I’ve known all my life invested her retirement savings of $30,000 at Fair. When told of their problems, she said, “Oh I’m not worried, I’ll just go down and get my money back.” Her family had to break the news to her that it wasn’t going to be that easy.

It wasn’t too long ago that most Amish frowned on investing in the stock market or any other type of “outsider” business. But, times are a’changin’. Many Amish men (yes, in their community, it’s nearly all men) are leaving their farms and going into business. (For example, Pioneer Equipment and Homestead Furniture.)

A few now have real money to invest. And, most prefer to invest with someone they know and trust.

For more information on non-farm Amish businesses, click on the photo to see my Secrets of Success blog series.

For more information on non-farm Amish businesses (including the one at this Amish farm in Pennsylvania), click on the photo to see my “Secrets of Success” blog series.

As it turns out, quite a few thought they knew and could trust the brokers at Fair Financial, outsider or not. Coincidentally or not, many of Fair Financial’s offices were in communities where many Amish lived.

Local Fair Financial office (photo courtesy WKSU.ORG)

Local Fair Financial office (photo courtesy WKSU.ORG)

Now it seems that a group of Amish investors might be trying to get their money back, at least according to

A lawsuit was filed locally against Fair by a group of investors. (Who can blame them, right?) The unusual thing is that they used a Limited Liability Corporation, which allows them to keep their identities secret.

As it happens, Amish theology (based on Bible passages Matthew 5 and 1st Corinthians 6) teaches that going to court is wrong. Since the suit was filed by a law firm known for handling Amish legal needs (such as real estate transfers and wills), local wags are claiming that Amish investors are behind the suit.

I guess folks figured that out by connecting the dots. First, there is the unusual method of filing. Second, the work was done by a lawyer that has a lot of Amish clients.

It’s all pretty circumstantial, but it sets up a moral struggle for me. If it’s true that the suit was filed by Amish who wanted their identities to remain secret, a cynic could say, “I guess the Amish live by their faith unless it means they will lose money.”

On the other hand, most of the Amish I know would not have invested money with Fair Financial (or anyone else). Many have taken some pretty good-sized financial losses because they avoided going to court.

The whole story leaves a bad taste in my mouth. First of all, no one really knows who filed the suit. Maybe it was all non-Amish folks who were simply embarrassed that they got burned. Maybe it’s none of our business. And, maybe, just maybe, it ought to make each of us think, “If I were faced with a choice between something I believed was morally wrong and losing my life savings, what would I do?”

Galen Lehman
Galen Lehman, President, Lehman’s

Galen Lehman
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PS – To get the latest news on the Fair Financial debacle as it unfolds, click here.

Because I love my horses….

Last year I blogged about how I might become Amish just because I love my horses. (Click here to read the post.)

I have a friend who grew up Amish. He’s not Amish any longer, but he still loves his horses! Here he is enjoying the winter weather with his wife and his horse (hopefully, in that order!):

Photo by Jay Lehman

Photo by Jay Lehman

You can see more cool pictures of Amish country here:

Hope you get to visit us and take some pictures of your own some day!

Galen Lehman
Galen Lehman, President, Lehman’s

Galen Lehman
Click here to join
me on Facebook!

What does the future hold?

I sometimes feel like running is a business is little different from climbing the side of Mt. Everest. As each day passes, the air gets thinner and the stakes get higher. One false step, and we could plunge to our death, pulling our fellow climbers along with us.
Climbing mountains
A real mountain climber is kept safe by a strong nylon rope, hardened steel pinions and screw-lock caribiners. Here at Lehman’s, we’re kept safe in our “climb” by careful budget planning.

We just completed our 2010 budget. Yes, it’s a little late (since we’re already a few weeks into 2010). We’re late because budget planning is tough work. But, I believe strongly that running a business without a realistic budget is no different from climbing without any safety gear. Climbers can and often do succeed without using safety gear. But, climbing without it is a risk that can lead to death or a crippling.

The most important part of any budget, whether for your household or your business, is accurately determining your income. At Lehman’s, getting a good idea of the income we can expect means we must have a good idea what the economy holds for our future sales. A climber depends on having safety gear with the right load rating. We depend on a budget with accurate sales estimates.

As a result, I’ve been obsessed with studying economic conditions. The way I see it, Continue reading

The Feta Fete (or, The Cheese Party)


Feta cheese in its infancy (all photos by Jennifer Shue).

It’s an ancient art that’s making a huge comeback: making your own cheese at home.

“Whoa – hold on there!” you exclaim. “I can bake bread. I know how to use a canner. But cheese making? That sounds pretty complicated … even dangerous!”

Take heart, greenhorns (or green cheeses): like many things, making your own cheese is not nearly as difficult as you think. Depending on what type you want to make, you probably don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive supplies -  just a few necessary ingredients, patience and time. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Tea

I’m crazy about coffee, I won’t deny it. But there is something special abouTable for teat a hot cup of tea — something a bit subtler, something unquestionably comforting. Since it doesn’t pack the caffeine punch of coffee, tea has the power to soothe rather than rev, and there are so many tea tastes to try! Each variety of tea has its own unique healing properties. So, whether you need a simple winter warm-up or a targeted health boost, there is a tea to attend your every whim.
Tried ‘n’ True Teas
Technically, “tea” means the dried leaves of the evergreen Camellia sinensis bush, which gives us black, oolong, green and white teas. Each is processed differently in terms of wilting and fermenting in order to achieve their unique “colored” characteristics. While herbal teas like chamomile and rose hip possess a variety of virtues, only true teas contain antioxidant compounds Continue reading

What makes it work?

I’m constantly trying to put my finger on exactly what we do at Lehman’s that makes us successful. I want to root out the mistakes that I know we make. And, I want to build up and reinforce the things we are doing right.

To that end, I’ve been making a special effort to get out into each part of our operation. I want to experience what what is happening in every corner of our operation. I visit our Kidron and Mt Hope stores weekly. I try to stop by regularly in places I don’t normally visit (such as the accounting department and buying department). I’ve also been taking 30 minutes a week to work in the warehouse and telephone customer service departments.

Recently, I worked with Desi, one of the people that takes care of making sure that catalog customer returns are taken care of correctly. I also worked with Kaye, who helps put away merchandise in our warehouse. The combination of working with these two women gave me I had a big AH-HA moment…you Continue reading

Cast Iron Skillet Recipe Contest

Submit your favorite cast iron skillet recipe by January 22nd, 2010 for a chance to win a $100 Lehman’s gift card! The winner and runner-up will be announced in February, and all recipes will be published on

(No purchase necessary. Lehman’s employees and families are ineligible.)

Click here to enter.

How To: Work in Healthy Foods

Super foods. Vitamin enriched. Nutritionally dense. These 87684079are terms that are becoming common in the nutrition world as well as in our grocery isles.  But how do we  get our families to actually eat the foods that are good for their bodies and minds?  This is a question that meal planners have been struggling with forever.

A good starting point is to plan your meals around the rainbow. Beneficial foods are rich in color.  Offering your family a variety of them keeps the winter doldrums away, too.

That starts with thinking outside of the box – tried and true recipes are great but sometimes you really need to be creative.

Very Veggie: Don’t save setting out raw veggie platters only for company.  Continue reading

Old Jeans? New Purse

Old jeans, new purseNo matter who you are, we all have a pair. It’s those beloved old jeans that don’t fit anymore, or have more holes than fabric. They sit in the drawer because we can’t bear to part with them. Well, now you don’t have to. Turn your old favorite pair of jeans into a functional purse that you can use every day.

Your supplies for this project are simple:  old jeans, decoration – rhinestones, beads, etc – a sewing machine or needle and thread, and scissors.  Now let’s bring new life to an old pair of jeans. Continue reading

How to Have Your Milk (And Drink It, Too)

Many people think that having a milk cow (or goat, as the case may87737905 be) is time consuming, shackling you to the farm day and night, night and day until your cow (or goat) has dried up. And then after she freshens, it’s back to the grindstone again.

But wait! There is a plan that allows you to be free as a bird whenever you want yet still be able to have a milk cow and all the goodies she gives you in return for feed, care and affection (whether she likes the affection or not).

I used this plan back in the “old” days when I was young and fancy-free, stronger and more able to handle four-legged beasts on my own, with no assistance from a husband (who was gone more often than not, at his “real” job).  However, he supported me in the plan and helped, when he was home at night and on weekends, with building fences, sheds, etc. Continue reading