Sometimes known as Old Order Cultures, Amish and Mennonite societies are similar in many ways. Both are founded on Anabaptist religious principles that originated in Europe centuries ago. “Anabaptism” means to be baptized by choice as an adult rather than by a predetermined parental decision as an infant. Both sects are devout Christians and can be easily recognized by their simple but hardworking way of life and their plain manner of dress.
When pacifist-Quaker William Penn founded the Province of Pennsylvania in 1681, he invited settlement by offering religious freedom to any peace-loving congregation that would come. Amish and Mennonites were among the first to accept, and the rural areas surrounding Lancaster eventually became the Amish and Mennonite cultural center of the United States.
Both of these horse and buggy-driving societies are engaged in agriculture and when farmland around Lancaster started to become unaffordable, many families migrated into the Finger Lakes Region to establish farms here. Since the 1970s, the rural areas surrounding Penn Yan in Yates County have attracted scores of Amish and Mennonite families. Today, both populations are continuing to expand into Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, and Steuben counties as well.
It’s fascinating for me to see an Amish or Mennonite horse and buggy wending its way through vehicular traffic or to watch a horse-drawn implement cultivating a farm field. The horse culture in America began to disappear a century ago and has been replaced by sleek air-conditioned SUVs hauling kids to soccer practice and gigantic GPS-guided tractors pulling 12-bottom plows. Yet it’s important to note that Amish and Mennonite farms thrive while the agricultural industry as a whole struggles.
The work ethic of the Amish and Mennonite societies is nothing less than admirable and shows that, indeed, hard work pays off. I’ve watched dozens of Amish men raise a barn in a day while the women cooked a feast. And I’ve seen fallow fields and previously-neglected farms turned into picture post card landscapes in just a few short years. To learn more about Old Order Cultures in the Finger Lakes Region, click on this link: http://www.lifeinthefingerlakes.com/old-order-cultures-in-the-finger-lakes/.