Its Not All About Farming

It’s Not All About Farming By Laura Bradford

When it’s time to write a new Amish women’s fiction novel or the next book in my Amish Mysteries, I always head down to Lancaster County for a few days. And although I’ve been on many of the same tours again and again, I continue to do them because I always learn something new. Many of the questions others on the tour ask, are things I already know. But sometimes, something someone else asks leads me to a different question—something deeper.

Very often, when I take my trip, I know only that it’s time to write another book. I might know the character I want to center it around, or have certain subplots I want to explore, but in terms of the main plot, that often comes from some wonderful little nugget I pick up while I’m out exploring.

Take for example the second book in my Amish Mysteries, Assaulted Pretzel. It was learning about the land shortage among the Lancaster Amish and, thus, the ever-growing list of cottage industries that shaped that book. It is my hope, always, that while writing a fun story that keeps my readers turning the pages, I can also educate them about this oft-misunderstood group of people.

In the meantime, I thought I’d open up my notes and share some things I learned while doing the background research for Assaulted Pretzel… Maybe you, too, will learn something you didn’t know about the Amish.

*Eighty percent of Lancaster Amish have turned to cottage industries to make a living. They are involved in roofing, tree trimming, construction, brick laying, etc. But because of their resourcefulness and work ethic, these cottage industries go well beyond the ones I’ve mentioned here. Some, raise Alpaca sheep as the wool can bring a good price… Some, raise white tail deer specifically for the males’ antlers that are shed once a year. The antlers are then sold to pharmaceutical companies to be ground up into drugs and health food supplements… Homemade jams and jellies are sold in roadside stands… One family sells homemade salsa out of their home… Another canes chairs… I’ve even came across an Amish-owned shop that carries my books (a true pinch-worthy moment, for sure)!!

An Amish owned roadside stand in Lancaster County

One outing I had while research this particular book, took me to the home of a woman who makes soap. She made a device to cut the soap into usable bars by attaching wire to a folding beach chair! I tell you, I could have sat and watched her all day long…

Which brings me to one more fun fact should you be out and about on the back roads of Lancaster County one day; if there is a business sign outside an Amish home, it is essentially an invitation to come in and see what they’re making/selling. If it’s a business without a sign, it’s  likely because they’re providing a product or service to another business—like a shop that’s sole existence is to make the charcoal gray shell for Lancaster buggies…

I’d love to hear about any interesting Amish cottage industries you’ve come across…


9 thoughts on “It’s Not All About Farming By Laura Bradford

  1. Hi Laura,

    What a fun way to do the research for your books!

    In Indiana’s Amish Country a common home business is to sell fabrics. Another one is to have a produce stand with vegetables and baked goods. But the one you see most often is raising ducks or chickens. Many farms have the long buildings used for poultry raising, and they sell the eggs or young poultry to companies that have located in the area. I’ve heard it’s a lot of work, but it brings cash in for the family!

    Thanks for the look at Lancaster County’s cottage industries!

  2. We go out to Lancaster PA once or twice a year. The B&B we stay at can arrange dinner on an Amish farm. We did that one time and had dinner with the mother who had moved to the smaller house after her husband died and her older son took over the farm. She also had cookbooks of family recipes and greeting cards they made for sale if you were interested.

      1. We stay at Hammercreek Hideaway. The couple who run the B&B go out of their way to make sure you enjoy your stay. The dinner was really good. Homemade meatloaf, about six sides, homemade cake and ice cream for dessert. The woman had one of her son’s who has Down’s syndrome living with her. Another son was out working on another farm. We had a good time talking to her.

  3. I’m thrilled to hear that they are doing cottage industries. Where I used to live they didn’t have cottage industries but it wasn’t unusual to see a stand of fruits or vegetables outside their home. I stopped frequently at one house on the way home from picking up my daughter to get fresh veggies. One day the woman was selling corn 10 for a dollar, I said that I would take the 10 and she opened each ear to check to make sure that it was good. I was amazed at that price I would have taken anything. I do miss seeing the horse and buggies go by the house.

  4. Laura, vacationing in Lancaster County my whole life, and living close to Amish in the smaller towns around me here in Delaware, I’ve never learned half as much as I have from reading your books. Thank you for all of the research you do!

  5. Hello, Laura. Your roadside stand photo brings back happy memories of a similar one which we stopped at on our tour in Lancaster. I loved visiting there and hope to go again someday. So much fun. Love reading Amish Fiction Books.

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