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DOWN ON THE FARM
by Bob Brooke

Pennsylvania's Amish Country is a place where time seems to stand still. Gray-covered buggies, their horses’ hooves clip-clopping against the macadam, ride the back roads of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. No electric wires run to the houses, barns, or tobacco sheds standing crisp in the morning light. White wooden fences outline pastures that resemble giant quilts of neat rectangles in earthen tones. Though it's the 21st century, it looks more like the 18th.

At 22 working Amish and non-Amish farms throughout Lancaster County, you can stay for a few days or a few weeks and take the time to relax and even help with the chores. Operated as bed and breakfast establishments with a twist, they invite you to help milk the cows and afterwards share a hearty breakfast with the farmer and his family or participate in a number of other farm chores.

Spring, summer and fall are all excellent times to sample Lancaster County's farm fare. In spring, the earth smells sweet and flowers bloom everywhere. Summer is often hot, with the corn high and the days long. In fall, the fields are filled with the brilliant oranges of ripening squash and pumpkins. Harvest season is the busiest time on a farm, so visitors are sure to see and participate in many activities.

While many of the farms, such as Country Pines, owned and operated by Lloyd and Irma Esbenshade, are modern, some, like Smucker's Farm Guest House, owned by Amos and Malinda Smucker, are operated in the old way.

Amos Smucker, an Old Order Amishman, abides by the old ways and operates his guest house as an extension of his farm. It’s located across the road from his farm house and has electricity, though his farm doesn’t. More than any other guest farm here, the Smucker farm allows you to get to know the Amish lifestyle firsthand.

You can enjoy a hearty breakfast with the family in their kitchen, all shiny clean and painted a pale green. If it's cold, you'll welcome the warmth of the wood kitchen stove on which Malinda has just baked fresh bread. During the day you can watch the family harvesting tobacco or you might join in on the hard labor. Evenings are spent gathered around a single propane lamp in the kitchen listening to Amos tell of Amish life.

Accommodations on Lancaster County farms range from spare bedrooms in Mennonite homes– different from the Amish in that they allow electricity and modern plumbing–to cozy suites in modern dairy operations.

Country Pines offers a full suite in a 200-year-old smokehouse located next to their sprawling brick farmhouse. It features a living room, bath, and two bedrooms with all conveniences for about $50 a night plus a small additional charge for children.

If you find farm life a bit limiting, there are plenty of other things to do in Lancaster County. Farm families offer advice on attractions in the area, or you can venture out on your to own to create your own adventure.

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