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Traveling through the gently rolling hills and winding roads of Amish country, you find yourself becoming more and more relaxed as you take in the countryside. Neat stacks of straw are spotted throughout the fields and fresh picked produce is being sold in stands along the roadside. It is harvest time in the heartland, only you will not see big green combines and red tractors harvesting crops in these fields.
It almost feels as if you have been sucked into a time warp to a simpler way of life, where horse and buggy is the only form of transportation and plows and harvesters are pulled through the fields by horsepower.
In the Amish culture, "everything is farmed with horses and horse drawn equipment," said Aden Yoder of Green Field Farms in Wooster, Ohio. Vegetables are picked by hand while small horse-drawn binders are used for harvesting crops such as corn and wheat.
Green Field Farms is an Amish farmer-owned cooperative that sells products such as vegetables, eggs, cheese, and maple products. The cooperative is designed to serve the Amish farmers. Produce is harvested and packaged by the Amish farms and picked up by the cooperative. This way "the Amish can continue to farm and stay on their farms," said Yoder.
Anna Miller of P.M. produce, located in Millersburg, Ohio, describes the harvest of their fresh produce. Smaller vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and red beets are picked by hand and carried through the rows in buckets. Larger produce such as cabbages and melons are also picked by hand and loaded into bins on the back of a wagon hitched to a team of two horses. While the wagon makes its way down the rows, two to three Amish farmers pick the melons and cabbages and pass them down in assembly line fashion and place them into the bins. It is teamwork at its finest.
Harvesting crops such as oats, wheat and corn involves using a horse powered grain binder. As the rows of crops pass through the binder, they are cut and bundled into sheaves. The sheaves are then stacked into shocks where they stay to dry for eight to 10 days. Once the crop has been properly dried it is hauled back to the farm to be put through the threshing machine. Miller describes this machine as a large machine powered by a tractor (one of the few instances where modern day technology is permitted on the farm) where a crop such as wheat is sent through the machine and is separated into grain and stalks of straw. The Amish also rely on tractor power to run the corn grinder and fill their silos.
The Amish understand that in order to be more efficient on their farms they cannot ignore all modern day technologies. Aiden Keim, general manager of Wholesome Valley Farms in Wilmot, Ohio, is adapting to the challenges of ever changing technology by implementing a steam powered tractor to harvest their oats.
Wholesome Valley Farms is dedicated to not only providing fresh organic produce but also teaching the public about the benefits of consuming organic food. Keim says their goal is to become an educational farm where the public can come to tour and learn about the farm.
"As we use agriculture, we are faced with the same issues [as non-Amish farmers]," said Yoder. "It is important to maintain our heritage in agriculture." By relying on horse drawn-equipment, the Amish are operating on a smaller scale and relying on the help of family members and neighbors to get the job done from time to time. "We are small enough to touch everything, but we are definitely not commercialized."