My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Signs Along The Road

Want to go for a drive, see some beautiful sights, meet the locals, and perhaps find a bargain?  Then drive to Shipshewana, grab your local map, and head into the countryside, especially to the south, but any direction will do.  It’s easy—the free local tourist booklets all contain maps, and the roads run mostly in a square-mile grid, with the roads in all of Lagrange County numbered in a wonderful, easy-to-understand, hard-to-get-lost system.  (Besides, most of us have GPS.)

Anyway… head into the countryside with some cash in your pocket and see what you can find.  It is said that only a small percentage of Shipshewana’s one million annual visitors head off the beaten path—most don’t get past the flea market or the downtown shopping district.  But it’s out in the countryside that the real beauty, peacefulness, and good shopping can be found.  Just drive slowly, watch out for buggies and bicycles, and watch for signs—they’re everywhere.

What can you find?  Start with roadside produce and bakery stands—that’s easy enough.  But don’t stop there; head up the lanes also.  Remember—the sign would not be out on the road if they did not want you to drop in!  Be brave, drive up the lane, and see what you discover.  It might be rag rugs, maple syrup, honey, homemade wood items, apple butter, bread, eggs, or candles.  It might be a small Amish general store, filled with all kinds of things.  It might be a small greenhouse with seeds, annuals, bird feeders, and more.  It might be a bookstore, a quilt shop, or a furniture maker.  You just never know.  But one thing is for sure—you’ll probably meet the locals and understand their culture better.  And you’ll get away from the crowds, the tourist traps, and the high prices found “downtown.” 

Another thing to think about:  The Amish are finding it increasingly more difficult to support their families by their traditional lifestyle of farming.  As more and more go to work in the RV factories, some have turned instead to small cottage industries on their own farms.  By patronizing these small mom-and-pop businesses, we are helping the Amish to maintain the way of life that drew us to Amish Indiana in the first place!

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