Even in the modern world, the Amish still continue their charming way of life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

Have you ever heard of a newspaper replacing Facebook? I know, it’s usually the other way around these days.

However, on the end of a recent vacation in Ohio in the world’s largest Amish settlement, we stopped to tour an old Amish house, barn and school.

As our guide was giving us the scoop on their various customs and unique way of life, she was asked about communication.

“Well, you should stop in our gift shop and pick up a copy of The Budget,” she said of the weekly newspaper that was established in the nearby Sugarcreek area and serves the Amish/Mennonite communities throughout the nation. “It’s the Amish Facebook.”

Wow, how about that? Maybe there is a future for newspapers.

Well, then again, maybe not. Holmes County has about 36,000 Amish residents (about 42 percent of the population in this rural Ohio county), and estimates show that are slightly more than 300,000 Amish folks in the world. That’s not going to make much of a difference in a world with more than 7 billion people.

All kidding aside, we all know The Budget is no threat to Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media possibilities along with online sites packed with all different kinds of news and information — all easily accessible in our hand on mobile devices whenever we want it.

From a distant perspective, I’ve always admired the old-fashioned, simplistic lifestyle and hard-working approach of the Amish people, but I have admit that some of their strict guidelines seem to be caving in to the world’s ways.

We actually saw a few Amish people on their cell phones during our brief stay. Maybe they were looking at the real online Amish Facebook, which, to my surprise, actually exists, too.

Yes, it’s a different day.

• • • • •

I had become somewhat familiar with the Amish people by visiting the only known settlement in North Carolina in Yadkin County not far from U.S. 421 in the Windsor Crossroads and Hamptonville community not far from the Iredell County line.

There are now only 30 or so families there, and when you get there, you might not see a horse and buggy or much activity all. Just look for some buggy warning signs, which at least tells you that you’re in the right place.

Farming has always been a staple of the Amish people, but there are no major outlet stores here — only a greenhouse or two and some other small side businesses. Shiloh General Store, which features all kinds of deli meats and cheeses, and other baked goods, is the hub of the community.

It’s worth a visit, but it’s nothing like Holmes County in Ohio.

I had gone to Florida in the spring and stayed at a new hotel in a small Amish community in Sarasota. There I learned that a couple of Amish brothers got into the restaurant business many years ago in Ohio and had expanded to adding hotels. I really enjoyed my stay there and observed some of the quiet, unassuming workers at the hotel and restaurant, and seeing them riding their bikes — instead of horses and buggies — around the community.

I knew then that I wanted to take the next step and make the trek to Ohio. My wife and I were not disappointed. She had actually gone there years ago, but this was my inaugural voyage.

Visiting Yoder’s Amish Home near Walnut Creek was a good place to start. It began with a tour of the barn with all the animals, followed by a tour of two homes, and a visit to the school house where we learned most of the children only attend through the eighth grade, and the main difference with traditional schools is that German and the Bible are taught there.

We then got an authentic buggy ride around the grounds. It was a blast.

Just “getting lost” driving around the lovely countryside and rolling hills, occasionally needing to pass a slow-moving horse and buggy, was a nice break from the fast-paced world in which we live.

Other highlights included going to the Lehman’s, which is considered the country’s largest hardware and variety store in nearby Kidron, and we also went to Guggisberg Cheese Factory, where the original baby swiss was made.

Probably the busiest area is Berlin, where you can walk the streets and check out all the shops and eateries, including some of the famed Amish buffets. We also took in a comedy show at the Amish Country Theatre.

It was a great final leg of a wonderful summer vacation.