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The Amish still stir deep emotions within me. Their old-fashioned existence exposes a paradox in my personality, and I suspect Im not alone. When I travel to visit Elizabeth and her Amish community, Ill pass a horse-drawn buggy on the road, a powerful symbol of their lifestyle, and Ill find part of me yearning for a simpler time of family, community, and thrift. Ive never known such simplicity in my own lifetime, but Ive read about early American life, Ive watched Little House on the Prairie, and part of me wonders whether what we call progress is really progress.

At various times in my life, Ive visited Amish communities, either on assignment, to visit friends Ive made ,or simply to immerse myself among these living links to the past. Through the years Ive developed a list of my favorite Amish communities to visit.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has long been the hub of Amish tourism, but I am not a big fan of the area: its too commercialized. Theres a restaurant with a big paper-mache Amishman out front, car-clogged farmers markets, and way too many tacky hex sign symbols. Such towns as Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse tucked away in Lancaster County are quaint, but the numbers of Amish that even live there have dwindled in recent years as tourists and suburban sprawl have crowded them out.

Still if one quietly travels the backroads of Lancaster County, traces of the tranquil charm and fertile farmland which first lured Amish to the area can be found. But Lancaster County, despite its beauty, does not top my list of favorite Amish communities to visit.

Before visiting, I must remind readers again to mind their manners before going. Dont take photographs of the Amish and read my essay to be posted on this site next about Amish etiquette when traveling through their communities.

My favorites Amish communities follow:

MIDDLEFIELD, OHIO

While attending college in Cleveland, Ohio, I occasionally wanted to escape the frentic frenzy of freshman life. So I did what any 18-year-old would do: I got into my car and drove. I slowly watched the suburban sprawl of Cleveland disappear in my rearview mirror. Strip-malls gradually gave way to farm fields and meandering country creeks. I soon found myself in the village of Middlefield, an odd blend of Old West and Amish. Some 6,000 Old Order Amish live in and around Middlefield, making it one of the largest concentrations in the country.

A visitor to Middlefield can enjoy Amish ambiance in a tasteful, quiet way (a few rumbling tourist buses plow through the town during the summer)
Highlights of Middlefield include a visit to A&K Amish Bakery. This is an authentic Amish bakery with oodles of old-fashioned recipes handed down from one generation to the next. Enjoy freshly prepared pies, breads, and cookies. Homemade honey, maple syrup, and jams are also available. The store also features a variety of Amish-made crafts and gifts.

Another highlight of Middlefield includes the Middlefield Cheese House. Over 20 million pounds of Swiss cheese is produced here annually. Highlights include an onsite museum, film presentation, and gift shop.

A visit to Middlefield would be incomplete without stopping at Byerlys restaurant, located on the main drag through town. Byerlys is owned and operated by an Amish family, a great place to sample homemade mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, juicy meats, and scratch-made pies.

In the nearby village of Mesopotamia, go to the End of the Commons General Store & Eli Millers Leather Shop. The General Store located on the historic "Commons" in has been in operation since 1840. Featuring: Over 1100 bulk foods, colored popcorn, Amish gifts & books, hand dipped ice cream and penny candy.

ADAMS COUNTY, OHIO

In 1974, several Amish families moved to rural Adams County, Ohio, to start a new community. Today, the community has grown to over 30 families and it is flourishing. While not as large a community as Middlefield, I find the Amish lifestyle here more pure and undisturbed than almost anywhere else. The scenic beauty of Adams Countys hardscrabble rolling hills is reminiscent of Holmes County, Ohio or Lancaster, Pa.

The tiny crossroads town of Tranquility is at the heart of this Amish community. Stop in at Ryans Grocery to catch local gossip or purchase a copy of The Budget, an Amish newspaper. Ryans is an old-fashioned general store, straight out of the 1930s or 40s.

Several Amish-owned and operated businesses are tucked away on rural roads in these hills. Business are closed on Sundays. Among them are:
Keim Family Market offers Amish baked goods, cheeses and lots of things made from trees! On Appalachian Hwy (Rt. 32) at 2621 Burnt Cabin Road near Seaman.

Millers Bakery, Bulk Food and Furniture features Amish home-baked breads, cookies, cakes, pies and rolls, a large selection of cheese and bulk foods, as well as handcrafted, solid oak furniture and wooden items. Millers is located at 960 Wheat Ridge Road.

Millers Country Store specializes in outdoor furniture including porch furniture and swings and is located on Unity Road.

Murphin Ridge Woodworking features custom woodworking, including cabinets, tables, trim and doors and is located on Murphin Ridge Road.
Rabers Shoes and Saddlery specializes in Red Wing shoes, shoe repair, horse related items, such as saddles, bridles, halters, custom saddles, chaps and holsters. Rabers is located at 5212 Unity Road, off St. Rt. 32.
Scenic Country Books and Gifts features books and gifts and is located on Wheat Ridge Road.

Stutzmans Greenhouse features many varieties of flowers and plants and is located on Bailey Road.

A perfect place to stay while visiting Adams County is the Murphin Ridge Inn. Ive stayed there, and it really is worth the trip. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the food was first-rate. For more information about Murphin Ridge Inn and the surrounding area, go to www.murphinridgeinn.com.

YODER, KANSAS

This is one of the farthest west Amish settlements. Yoder is the most common Amish surname, with deep heritage symbolism. Its the only town in the USA named Yoder. Ive passed through on occasions and found it to be quite quaint. Yoder is located in rural Reno County, Kansas just each of Hutchinson. As small as it is, Yoder has some interesting places. The hardware store has extensive selections of lanterns, crocks, and hand tools. The bakery and meat market are known throughout the region for the quality of their products, "And Cousins Make Three" is a unique store with many handmade items, and the Carriage Crossing is so popular that it's hard to get into on weekend evenings.

Yoder Businesses

  • And Cousins Make Three (620) 662-8472 / 8314 S. Yoder Rd.
  • Carriage Crossing Restaurant (620) 465-3612 / 10002 S. Yoder Rd.
  • Country Traditions (620) 465-3612 / 9815 S. Main
  • Dutch Mill Bakery (620) 465-2314 / 3518 E. Red Rock Rd.
  • Yoder Hardware & Supply (620) 465-2277 / 9816 S. Main / Yoder, KS 67585
  • Yoder Market (620) 465-3645
  • Yoder Meats (620) 465-3807

If you have any questions about any of these locations, please email me at .

Kevin Williams
Executive Editor
Oasis Newsfeatures

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