In fashion, the Amish famously favor black.
But when it comes to Amish business enterprises, Meet the Amish Makers, a new lineup of tours offered through the Elkhart County, Indiana CVB, demonstrates that the Amish economy is far more colorful than its clothing.
The new tours focus on Amish farmers and makers in and around Nappanee. Led by a knowledgeable step-on guide, the tours vary in theme and format.
Some are behind-the-scenes looks at Amish life; some are participatory; others are traditional stops, focused on shopping and dining.
Tours are flexible — a group can do one stop or string together several for a multiday visit and spend a night or two at the Das Dutchman Essenhaus, the northern Indiana county’s most group friendly accommodation, where restaurant tables are laden with bowls of steaming noodles and juicy pies and quilts warm the foot of guest beds.
Here’s a sampling of the new tours.
Milk and apple cider anyone?
In the age of robotic milking, meet an Amish family that runs a dairy without electricity. The young farmer shares how an orchard has allowed his family to grow its income. A trip to this farm is all about the senses: smells of hay and cider, the feel of satiny cow noses and tastes of caramel apple fritters served by sweet Amish children.
At a Mennonite farm, groups can pet, feed and snap selfies of camels whose milk becomes lotions and soaps.
Crafting vehicles for the hereafter
Amish don’t visit the Ford dealership or the funeral home; instead, they make their own vehicles and caskets. Meet carriage and coffin makers on tours that spotlight skilled Amish craftsmen. And don’t worry. A visit with the casketmaker is far from macabre thanks to his gift for finding humor in an often-avoided subject and his colorful recounting of Amish cultural traditions.
Say cheese — 80 kinds — in Rentown
Rentown is tiny — three to four buildings in the middle of farm fields — but it’s a big draw, home to an Amish bulk store that locals call “the Cheese Place” and others describe as an Amish version of Walmart. The store’s 80 varieties of cheese inspire tastings that can be expanded to include sausages, doughnuts and jams and jellies. Leave time for shopping at Rentown’s other Amish shops.
Meals to sate farmhand-size appetites
Come hungry because the Thresher’s Lunch served to groups at an Amish farmhouse was originally designed for hard-working farmhands. Put a sweet ending on this experience with a cooking demonstration by an Amish baker who shares the secrets of her sweet cinnamon rolls while the audience enjoys sweet rolls with coffee. She even packs up rolls for the road.
Build a day around Hoosier Cabinet history
Nappanee is home to the Hoosier Cabinet, a handsome standalone kitchen cabinet popular in mid-20th century kitchens. Frank Sinatra owned one. So did John F. Kennedy. Learn more about the cabinet’s history at a small, but growing museum, housed in Coppes Commons, a former cabinet factory that’s now a huge shopping complex. Five years ago, the museum had two cabinets; today, more than 50.
To add a hands-on activity, have a local artist show groups how to paint their own Hoosier cabinet door using themed stencils. Or take a tour of one of two modern kitchen cabinet manufacturers that churn out cabinetry with a mostly Amish workforce known for its wood working finesse.
For more information:
800-262-8161 or 574-903-1148 (call/text)