The Amish people have always been farmers. They’ve tirelessly worked the land since their ancestors came over to this continent in the 1700s. But fewer and fewer Amish rely on farming as their primary source of income. Farming is becoming less economically feasible.
Still, almost every Amish family I know keeps an extensive and fruitful garden. I remember one particular garden in Bonduel, Wisconsin where the grapes hung from a homemade arbor and chrysanthemums and petunias made splashes of brilliant color in front of the house.
My dad grew up a fruit farmer. His father owned acres and acres of orchards—peaches, cherries, apples, plums—and my dad and his sister and brothers worked hard all summer long when they were kids. During WWII when labor was scarce, a group of German prisoners-of-war helped out on the farm. My dad was ten years old at the time.
My dad became a high school math teacher, but he never outgrew the farmer inside him. He bought six acres of land and planted raspberry bushes and cherry and peach trees. I spent many hours in those orchards picking raspberries, stacking limbs, driving the tractor, and helping Dad irrigate. My mom planted a garden that had to have been half an acre by itself. I did a lot of weeding and a lot of canning.
I now live on significantly less land—a third of an acre to be exact—but the farmer in me is still alive and kicking. I planted a few raspberry bushes many years ago, and now a peach tree is growing from a peach pit I tossed out there last fall. I’m also growing eight tomato plants and several volunteer cantaloupes.
I learn invaluable lessons in the garden, like the law of the harvest: We reap what we sow. We can choose what to plant, but we will never get a head of lettuce from a cucumber seed. While tending my rosebushes, I learn that sometimes you have to prune a rosebush down to nothing but sticks to help it to grow better. I think God does that with us. Sometimes His pruning hurts our hearts, but He is making something better of us than we could ever make of ourselves. Our task is to trust that He is the master gardener and that the garden will be infinitely more beautiful because He touched it.
The Amish have no doubt learned those lessons in the garden.
Jennifer Beckstrand is the award winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in Examiner.com list of top ten inspirational books for 2014. Visit JenniferBeckstrand.com for recipes, upcoming events, and news about books and giveaways.