Horse-drawn Amish buggies are a common sight in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. Mules and work horses are used to pull most Amish farm equipment.
Buggy tour driver E.J. demontsrates milk storage procedures on an Amish dairy farm in Ronks, Pennsylvania.
Before leaving the comforts of Silver Stone,
we strolled around the grounds checking
out the maple syrup farm, solar panels, and
resident sheep. Promising to return, we
said goodbye to our hosts and set off to
learn about Amish Country. Jeff reminded
us to be careful of the buggies as we left.
Because Lancaster County, bordered by the
Susquehanna River to the west, has some
of the most fertile farmland in the U.S., the
importance of agriculture is evident in the
landscape. And, the Amish have been
farming this land since William Penn invited them to Lancaster to escape religious
persecution in the early 18th century.
These conservative Christians live a simple
life in Lancaster County. Their community
here is the second largest in the country
with over 30,000 members. Because they
tend to have larger families, with eight to
ten children not uncommon, Lancaster
County’s Amish population has more than
doubled in the last 20 years. Until the last
couple of decades, most Amish survived
solely through agriculture. In recent years,
however, many of the men have taken
positions in the construction trade and
women have grown a healthy tourism trade
selling crafts and baked goods.
We learned this and a great deal more from
Sue Morrison, our tour guide at The Amish
Village in Ronks. As we wandered through a
replica farmhouse, Sue explained, with
show and tell, Amish dress codes, hair
styles, education, cooking, and wedding
customs. Afterwards, she invited us to
explore the adjoining village, which includ-ed a one-room schoolhouse, farm equipment, garden, blacksmith shop, and animal
barn. With the feed available from convert-
ed gumball machines, Helen quickly made
friends with the chickens, goats, and piglets.
Our next stop was lunch, but after such a
hearty breakfast, we only needed a quick
snack. We had been encouraged to avoid
the more commercial Route 30, and so, we
set off to explore Old Philadelphia Pike
(Route 340). The choices were endless, but
we decided to try an Amish staple: hand-rolled soft pretzels from Immergut’s. They
were delicious, made to order by a young
Amish woman, Emory, whose aunt owned
the shop. Afterwards, we sampled local ice
cream from Lapp Valley Farms at their
stand in the nearby Kitchen Kettle Village.
It was equally fresh and delicious. The area
around these two eateries was dotted with
shops selling Amish crafts like quilts and
candles, and we could have spent hours
browsing, but we were too excited for our
ride in a real Amish buggy.
Not far down Old Philadelphia Pike, we
checked in at Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy
Rides for their farm tour. Our driver E.J. got
everyone safely seated and, with a quick tug
of the reins, pulled our black buggy out
onto the shoulder of the main road. Turning
south on a side road, there was no longer a
shop in sight. At the bottom of a hill, we
turned into a working dairy farm owned by
John and Emmanuel Stoltzfus.
E.J. was very knowledgeable and introduced us to the cows, explaining milking
and pasture schedules. In a small building
near the barn, a diesel engine powers an air
compressor that is connected to the milking equipment. E.J. showed us how the
equipment worked in the milk storage
room. The milk from this particular farm is
sold mostly to Hershey and Land O’ Lakes.
As E.J. spoke, an Amish man pulled a couple of mules from the adjoining barn and set
off down the road on his mule-powered
tractor. The Amish are self-reliant and attentively care for their land and their animals.
This particular farm drains to Peaquea Creek,
the Susquehanna River, and eventually the
Chesapeake Bay. And, the Stoltzfuses have
implemented several conservation practices
to reduce pollution. One and a half acres
along their stream has been planted with
trees that will help absorb polluted runoff
coming from their land. And, manure is
stored for use only when needed for fertilizer.
We visited with the farm cat until E.J. herded us back aboard the buggy. The sun was
getting low on the horizon, casting a warm
glow on the surrounding farmland as the
horses returned us to our starting point.
Unable to leave town empty-handed, our
next stop was a local farmers market for apple
cake and freshly-ground peanut butter.
Goodies in hand, we enjoyed an Amish-style
dinner at Katie’s Kitchen. In honor of Amish
wedding season, which runs during the
months following harvest, the special was
“Roaust” Wedding Dinner—featuring chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed celery, and
We headed home satisfied from a day well-spent and enthused to greet tomorrow’s dawn
with apple cake and a little more simplicity.
Loren Anne Barnett—CBF’s
Director of Creative Services
and Editor of Save the Bay
magazine—grew up on
Maryland’s Severn River.