The Amish in the Heartland

Given that a previous post on Kalona Supernatural discussed the Amish and Mennonite farms that supply them with milk, I thought I’d briefly chat about the Amish in the Flyover States.

I grew up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, part of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Though domiciled in a clichéd suburbia, I nonetheless frequently encountered Amish buggies on drives through the admittedly beautiful countryside. Amish (and their brethren, Old Order Mennonites) are certainly cultural manifestations of southeastern Pennsylvania, perhaps even more than their actual numbers imply. Lancaster County has built a veritable tourism industry based on Amish culture. But one can argue that the Midwest is a locus of the Amish, certainly as much as what is sometimes called “Amish Country”—Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and its environs.

Ohio—The Amish Capital of the United States

Yes, Ohio (especially Holmes County in the northeast), not Pennsylvania, is the Amish Capital of the United States. As of 2010, according to the U.S. Religious Census, 7 of the 10 states with the largest absolute numbers of Amish were Flyover States: Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois (the other states in the Top Ten are Pennsylvania, New York, and Kentucky). This is certainly unsurprising, as the Amish are a predominantly agrarian population and settle where affordable farmland can be found. Even in Pennsylvania, they are no longer found solely in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch country (Lancaster, Lebanon, Berks, and Chester Counties), as population pressures are driving land values up (and Amish out).

The Amish in Indiana

Northern Indiana (particularly Elkhart County) serves as Amish Central in Indiana, although they can certainly be found elsewhere. Indeed, I’ve seen buggies on US-35 between Richmond and Muncie; southwestern Indiana’s Daviess County is home to a quite sizeable Amish settlement. And, as in Pennsylvania and Ohio, there is a veritable industry focused on “Amish” tourism (in quotes because it’s typically the non-Amish that promote it).

The Amish in Iowa

When I lived in Iowa City, I went to Kalona (home of Kalona Super Natural) to get my buggy fix. Okay, I went once–I wasn’t missing them as much as I thought I might. But the day was lovely (a sunny, low-humidity June morning) and the drive was pleasant. Kalona is one of the centers of Amish (and Mennonite) life in Iowa, with Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, and Beachy Amish represented. Mennonites, from which the Amish are an offshoot, are also represented in the Kalona region.

And Food?

Well, the Amish are a farming people, hence Kalona SuperNatural getting their milk from them. There is an Amish cuisine, the likes of which William Woys Weaver extracts the truths from the (tourism-driven) fantasies in his delightful book As American as Shoofly Pie: The Foodlore and Fakelore of Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine. There are foods associated with the Amish, but they’ve certainly adapted foods and dishes of the English (as non-Amish are called) for their own (such as the Whoopie Pie, which has its roots in New England). I’ll be revisiting the Flyover Amish in the future!

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