The Amish church was founded by Jakob Ammann who led a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish, known for simple living, plain dress, and the resistance to adopt modern technology for convenience. Since the past decade, there have been several reality-television programs featuring Amish characters that received high viewership ratings in the United States and United Kingdom. While the content in such reality television programs remain controversial, it has nonetheless raised the profile of the traditional Amish culture. Instead of learning about the exclusive Amish culture through the media, why not discover more about them with a tour to an authentic Amish home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania? Afterall, not only did the earliest Amish emigrants settle down in Lancaster since 1760, it is also one of the largest Amish settlements.
A sneak peek into a real Amish farmhouse built in 1805
The Amish are generally a private and socially exclusive community who remain mysterious to outsiders. However, because of the huge success of the 1954 Broadway play, “Plain and Fancy” that featured the Amish and Lancaster County in which they live, the annual visitors to Lancaster shot up exponentially within a few years by 1960. Curious visitors intruded the privacy of the Amish staying in the town, looking through kitchen windows and trampling through corn fields to catch a glimpse of this “new community”. Hence, the Amish Farm and House – the first tourist Amish attraction in United States was opened in 1955 to provide an authentic and accurate educational experience reflecting the Amish lifestyle.
The centre of activity of a typical Amish home
The kitchen is essential to all Amish homes as it is the place where the Amish family spends most of its time. As you can see from the picture above, there are only a few simple technological appliances being used – (from left of picture) the classic wringer washing machine, the propane powered refrigerator and gas stove with oven. As the Amish people interpret linking with electrical wires as a connection with the world, they decided that using electricity would not be allowed as it could lead to many temptations and deterioration in their church and family life. In place of electricity, alternatives such as gas and solar power are used to operate the limited appliances that they use.
Identify the different stages in life of the Amish through their dressing
According to the friendly guide during the farmhouse tour, the Amish people are known for plain dressing so they only wear colours of nature such as green, blue, purple and pink. Red is not an acceptable colour. In addition, no plaid, stripes, florals or other prints can be found on their clothing. Buttons are seen as too decorative and gaudy, so plain, functional clothing fasteners such as snaps and hooks are used instead. They also do not wear jewellery or wedding rings as these are deemed as signs of vanity.
It is interesting to note that you can tell whether a man is single or married by looking at his face. If he is single, he must be clean-shaven, if not he must wear an untrimmed beard if he is married. Similarly for women, if she has been granted permission to date, the apron colour on her dress will be black instead of white. Married women wear dark bonnets over the prayer caps.
Take a look into the classic Amish farm
As the Amish believe God wants them to work closely with nature, many live in rural areas, growing and producing their own food in a farmstead. Like all aspects of Amish life, even in food preparation, they avoid using technology in any way that may damage their community or threaten their way of life. So the farm machinery used to harvest plants is typically horse drawn, although some allow the use of steel-wheeled tractors. They process all their food by hand, because they do not use electricity in their homes. In this 15-acre Amish farm, you will be able to find a variety of animals such as goats, donkeys, sheep, chickens and the cute Alpaca pictured above.
In addition, you will also find the Stone Bank Barn, a uniquely Pennsylvania German innovation constructed in 1803. It is the most important building on the farmstead, second only to the house, usually the first structure erected on the farm. Its primary function was to provide shelter for livestock and storage of crops.
Informative glimpse into the Old Amish lifestyle at the authentic farmhouse
The 45-minute Farmhouse Tour runs throughout the day and begin hourly at Amish Farm and House. Depending on how extensive you would like the tour to be, admission rates start from an affordable 9.25 USD per adult for general admission which includes a guided house tour, self-guided tour of the farm and the Amish schoolhouse. The authentic Farmhouse Tour will definitely be an educational yet interesting experience for you to interact face-to-face with the Lancaster County natives and even clarify any queries you may have of the Amish lifestyle directly. 90% of the guides are natives, while the rest may have been born somewhere else, they have lived here most of their lives too and are very knowledgeable about the Amish lifestyle. As they say, there is no better way to understand the exclusive culture than to listen from the horse’s mouth. Happy touring!