Amish Acres

Amish Acres® Historic Farm and Heritage Resort is Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is America's most complete Amish heritage experience featuring historic interpretation, culinary and performing arts, lodging, and shopping.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Where are all the big men and women?

The Will Rogers Follies closes its run on The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres stage tomorrow. The most dramatic scene in the musical ends as Rogers says at the conclusion of the radio address he gave at the request of Herbert Hoover following the president's speech concerning the stock market crash of 1929, “Where are all the big men? We sure could use one now.”

Well we sure had a lot of big men and women around here last week. Most of them live here; many came to our aid. Following the Nappanee Tornado those who lost their homes and businesses shed few tears but rushed to help each other out of harm’s way, then rushed to assist those most in need, then rushed to begin the cleanup and rebuilding.

You couldn’t list them all. Literally hundreds of firefighters, emergency medical teams and police officers from neighboring cities, counties, and the State of Indiana, descended upon Nappanee to assist our own to protect us from harm. Then 5,000 people showed up Sunday morning to begin the cleanup.

But even leaders need a leader. Mayor Larry Thompson is our leader. He has spent a lifetime of service as a firefighter and twelve years as Nappanee’s mayor preparing for this role. It is he who made the big decisions, who anticipated what we needed next, from whom, and where. As all real leaders do he led us by example last week. He reflected the fearless determination of Nappanee to overcome this adversity and continue on our path of prosperity and turned it into action.

Now when we should be thanking him, he’s thanking us. That’s what big men do. America’s favorite son would be proud of all of us.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tornado Photograph Album

So many people from across the country and globe have shared their concerns about the well being of Nappanee and its residents through Amish Acres website that I have published a series of photographs taken from a helicopter of the devastation caused by last week's storm, Thursday night, October 18, 2007. These photos represent the combination of residential, commercial, and manufacturing havoc imposed on a large portion of Nappanee. Nothing outside of the storm's path was outwardly changed; all of us were inwardly changed.

You may view the album at Tornado Photograph Album

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Erlenbach, Switzerland

Brandi, our new group sales director, sat on this chair during a tele-conference today in my office. She asked if I wanted it moved following the meeting. I didn't. I keep it beside my desk. I bought it in Erlenbach, Switzerland, in 1977 and brought it home in my suitcase. Jacob Ammann, the founder of the Amish sect, was born in Erlenbach. It is a beautiful mountainous village with picturesque chalet architecture. The little chair factory sat right in the middle of the village. No one living there today knows any thing about Jacob Ammann, the Anabaptists, or the Amish.

By the time Amman became disenchanted with the main branch of the Swiss Brethren, he had moved into Alsace, which is now part of southeastern France. It was here that he confronted over sixty ministers and demanded they take sides. About a third followed Ammann into a splinter group that focused upon the ban, or social avoidance of excommunicated members of the church family. As a minority other distinctive outward features were added to differentiate the two groups. These features included dress, hair styles, and church service format. Most of these distinctions remain with the Amish today.

My chair reminds me daily of our mission to educate curious outsiders about Amish society so they can increase their tolerance of people around them that are different from them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Old Christmas Cakes are being newly baked

We are already baking our famous Old Christmas Cakes before the gobblins of Halloween are gone. Although Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman have institutionalized the fruit cake as joke, these cakes fly off of our shelves and out of our doors between now and the Holiday season. It is called "Old Christmas" because Amish society celebrates Old Christmas, as they call Epiphany, on January 6. The date marks the manifestation of the divine nature of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi; until then Jesus was a mere Jewish baby.

This fancy cake combines the highest quality candied cherries and pineapple, raisins, and Indiana walnuts with farm-fresh eggs and butter folded into a moist cake. Arlie Hartman began using this recipe in Amish Acres Bakery nearly forty years ago and Freida Miller continues his legacy today. Please don't compare these cakes to those mass produced ones in Georgia and Texas that have cut every corner one can cut in a rectangular pan. You will surprise the skeptics on your gift list by giving them an Old Christmas Cake. You may order these two pound cakes online at Amish Acres General Store. We cut our first cake on Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mutual aid versus insurance

Slowly but surely the majority of the victims of the Nappanee Tornado will be faced with the reality of insurance adjusters, co-insurance, deductibles, depreciation, replacement cost, itemization, and exclusions; that is unless the victim is a member of the Amish sect. The national headlines focused on the damage and destruction in Nappanee that included Fairmont Homes, Gulfstream RV, Franklin Coach, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, BP Gasoline, South Side Christian School, and nearby church plus hundreds of houses.

In an interesting switch in focus the media bypassed the numerous Amish farms and businesses that were destroyed as the funnel skipped across a twenty mile path that included much of rural Marshall County to the southwest. The road to recovery from the destruction is split between the only two systems of insurance mankind has invented: mutual aid and shared risk insurance.

The Amish rely on mutual aid which means losses are recovered by one's neighbors rushing to the rescue. This photo of a partially destroyed Amish house that by Sunday morning was fully shingled, repaired, wrapped with new windows and awaiting siding is in sharp contrast to everyone else awaiting the adjuster's visit and ensuing arduous process of proving one's loss and meeting the contractual requirements of the insurance contract between the insured and the insurer, a simple business transaction.

Which system is best? Neither. They each have their advantages.

The City has established the Nappanee Tornado Victims Fund through Lake City Bank and donations can be mailed to City of Nappanee, P.O. Box 29, Nappanee, IN 46550. Contributions may be made by Visa or Mastercard at the Elkhart County Community Foundation website.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The rebirth begins

Somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 people showed up at 10:00 a.m. in Northwood High School's parking lot to assist in the cleanup of the tornado damage from Thursday evening. Vehicles was backed up nearly ten miles north of town and waited over an hour in traffic. Many of the vehicles coming to offer aid were pulling trailers with bobcats, bucket tractors, and contractor's trailers of every trade. It was a stunning site. The entire Nappanee Volunteer Fire Department was awaiting the throng and led the legions of school buses filled with workers to the factories, fields, and farms where piles of debris were set afire and fed fuel throughout the day. Churches cancelled Sunday services and organized to deliver sandwiches, water, and apples among the workers. Trees came down, power lines went up, lawns were raked, and detours were set up.

We at Amish Acres were most closely affected by the loss of Audrey and Vince's house. This photo taken from the helicopter brought in to give Elkhart and Kosciusco county emergency officials an over view of the damage, says more that any words I can write.

A Fuchs Tornado Relief Fund has been set up by the United Methodist Church. Donations may be sent to UMC, 301 East Market Street, Nappanee, IN 46550.

Friday, October 19, 2007


An Amish farmer pedals his bicycle by an Indiana State Police helicopter as it lands near The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana to pick up Federal Homeland Security officials to assess the widespread damage from the tornado that cut a swath of destruction across the city Thursday night at 10:20 p.m. An official estimated following the aerial survey that nearly 100 houses were damaged of which 30 or more were destroyed along with severe damage to numerous manufacturing and commercial establishments along a diagonal corridor covering over twenty miles to the north and south of Nappanee.

We have received hundreds of calls today from across the United States asking about our well being. The Inn at Amish Acres and The Nappanee Inn are open for business following a night of darkness. Amish Acres will reopen Saturday at 10:00 a.m. with all of its attractions. Many of our friends, business associates, and employees are not as fortunate as we are and are receiving heroic assistance from police, fire, and EMS personnel. A community's true spirit of mutual aid comes to the fore during these diasters. Times like these humble those who are spared.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What would Henry think?

We revisited Henry Ford's Greenfield Village last week for the first time in several decades. It is one of the marvels of the man acknowledged as the most important industrialist of the 20th century. With a little jealously and envy Henry watched John D. Rockefeller rescue Williamsburg, Virginia, from the scrap pile of American history and create the unprecedented Colonial Williamsburg, the most ambitious historic preservation and restoration effort in America.

Ford answered by creating Greenfield Village within sight of Ford Motor Company. Rather than a restoration it was a repository of buildings representing 19th century American life and progress as he saw it. A close personal friend and admirer of Thomas Edison, Ford moved the entire Menlo park laboratories from New Jersey to Dearborn, Michigan. The Wright brothers bicycle shop sits next to their family house. Noah Webster and Robert Frost's houses sit on Maple Lane.

Six years ago the board of directors realized that the purity of the historical record could not be sustained and commercial concessions needed to be made to meet coming generation's expectations. So the village was shut down for nine months, $120,000,000 were invested in relocating buildings, upgrading infrastructure, paving the gravel lanes, paths, and streets. The "improvements" permitted the addition of Model T rides, a modern food court added to the historical tavern, and a crafts village producing pottery, glass, tinware, and weaving by artisans whose products are now sold through new shops and online. The new map of the village looks more similar to the Magic Kingdom than to a historical map in black ink from a quill on parchment. Visitors seem to like the changes, the attendance slippage has been reversed. The village is vibrant. I think Henry would be happy, and maybe a little sad.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A long time coming

Tuesday The Round Barn Theatre was filled with nearly 800 school children for Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) performances of Winnie the Pooh. The school buses arrived from Triton Elementary, New Creation Academy, Christ the King, Woodview Elementary, Holy Family Church School, Parkside Elementary, Eastern Pulaski, Goshen, Teacher’s Home School, South Central, St. John’s United Church of Christ School, Syracuse, and Hawthorne Elementary. Darden, Hamilton, Kennedy Academy, and Hay, all of South Bend Community Schools make at least annual visits for TYAs

Seeing this South Bend Community School bus among those arriving reminded me of the phone call I received in 1971 from the PHD in charge of field trips for the corporation. He said that 50 cents per pupil was above their budget and wanted to negotiate the price for the guided tour of Amish Acres to 35 cents. I said, “No, thank you.” It was a chilling exchange for me. I had just spent most of two years investing other people’s money in creating Amish Acres for the purpose of inviting groups to come and experience the farm and its educational value from a cultural and sociological viewpoint. My vision was expansive. To decline the potential business from the largest school corporation in our area was frightening. Our survival was dependent upon a strong mix of adult and student group visits and tourists traveling individually, but I believed in our mission and refused to have it compromised by a cheapskate; therefore, I find some satisfaction in seeing this bus among the others arriving at Amish Acres so that even students from South Bend can pursue a well rounded education that includes historical interpretation and the performing arts outside of the school’s cafeteria.

Here is the letter I subsequently received to confirm my questionable stubbornness thirty six years ago:

South Bend Community School Corporation
Hamilton School
Office of the Principal

April 30, 1971


I am writing to inform you that our scheduled field trip to Amish Acres on May 13, 1971 was not approved from downtown. They felt that for large groups there should have been some further concession in the student’s price. It was felt that while some could afford it others could not so they are not approving further trips to Amish Acres this school year.

We are disappointed about it but their word is final so don not expect us May 13th.

Mrs. Yoder, Teacher

Friday, October 05, 2007

Little Things

We have spent the last forty years in the hospitality industry. Every day we emphasis the importance of the little things we take for granted that those visiting us from outside our community, state, and nation find exceptional. We just received this letter from a happy customer—from three decades ago—that illustrates that one of the littlest things we pay attention to is the lowly Great Northern bean. Through the Internet that didn’t exist at the time of her visit, Victoria found Amish Acres General Store and purchased Amish Acres Recipe Book to find our soup recipe that hasn’t changed her in 38 years.

Great Northern beans are the dried seeds of green beans, when mature. These medium-sized white beans are traditionally prepared in the United States. Like the smaller navy bean, Great Northern beans are related to kidney beans and pinto beans and most of them eaten in the United States are grown here in the Midwest. They are high in Protein (14.7g in a cup!), Iron, Magnesium, Folate, and Calcium. They make heavenly soup; I hope they can’t be turned into Ethanol. Here is Victoria’s Email from England, received today just before another party from England called upon arriving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago wanting to know what time the restaurant served Threshers Dinner that starts with a steaming iron kettle of bean soup.

Hello from England,

I'm so excited that I found you on the web.

I came to visit you, along with my three lovely sisters Sarah, Lucy and Emma just over 30 years ago, I was 11 then and we still talk amount the amazing day. We had such a lot of fun but the part of the day that really stands out for us is your amazing, gorgeous, terrific and utterly delicious 'Bean Soup'!!!!!!!!

Alas nothing can compare, which is why I'm so very glad that I have found you and can ordered your lovely recipe book x 4 for myself and my sisters.

I have had a look at the 'Bean Soup' recipe on-line but after looking at the ingredients I am unsure what 'soup beans' are. Could you please tell me what bean or selection of beans they are so we will be able to make the soup for ourselves at home in England. I don't want to use the wrong bean and spoil the flavour.

Thank you so very much.
I hope you have a lovely day

Kind Regards

Victoria (Eastbourne, East Sussex)