Years ago, before I was married, I used to have foreign college students stay at my home during the summer. Several times over the years, I took some of them to Amish Indiana. I wanted them to see a little more of the great diversity that makes up America.
The first time it was Oliver and Avo, two young men from Estonia. Four of us set out for a few days of fun—Oliver, Avo, my friend Queenie, and myself. We stayed at Green Meadow Ranch, a B&B (bed & breakfast) at the north end of Shipshewana.
Both young men loved it there from the first moment. Avo said to me, “I feel like I breathe different here—I breathe deeper.” I was amazed, because I had often thought the same thing.
After some sightseeing and lots of good food, we ended up at the farm of my main and original Amish friends. It was September, and Glenn was harvesting the corn. The green cornstalks had to be cut down at ground level, loaded on wagons, and brought to the chopper that turned the entire plant into “silage”—food for the cattle over the winter. Glenn put us to work right away.
The first few rows around the edge of the cornfield needed to be cut down by hand. Glenn, Queenie, Oliver, and Avo tossed the corn onto the flat wagon. My job was to drive the two-horse team of Belgian work horses forward about ten feet, then stop them while corn was tossed onto the wagon, then forward again.
Let me say here, I did not grow up on a farm or around animals—but I did my best. As I drove forward, I alternately grazed the corn, the fence, the corn, and the fence. At one point the two horses looked back at me with an unmistakable look that said, “What is wrong with you?!” Who says animals are dumb?
But eventually we got the wagon loaded and Glenn drove it to the silage chopper, where we threw the stalks onto the conveyor belt—see the photo above—being careful to keep our hands clear of the chopper!
Although tractors are not allowed on Amish farms, they can be used for power. The conveyor belt and silage chopper were run with an old tractor engine which was connected to the chopper by belts. The cornstalks became silage, and then we were done.
It felt good to be more than just a guest, a tourist, or a visitor. And it was a great experience for my young Estonian friends, who were city boys at home. Afterwards, as we enjoyed refreshments in the farmhouse, Glenn produced an atlas and my young friends showed him where to find Estonia. Work was done, friendships were formed, and it was an excellent tri-cultural experience for all.