Hot Summer Days Mean Less Ice in Amish Country

Here’s a dose of local culture from Ohio’s Amish Country. Some of you may not know that Lehman’s owns and operates the charming Mt. Hope Hardware store, located several miles from our main store in Kidron. The tiny village of Mt. Hope has several thriving businesses and the surrounding area is home to hundreds of Amish families.

In the summertime, many of those families (especially more conservative/traditional Amish groups that would not be permitted to use gas refrigerators or freezers) rely on ice – yes, actual block ice – to keep their food cool and safe for their families. (Remember the ice house next to the Mercantile on the TV show Little House on the Prairie? That’s what we’re talking about, folks – we still have them here!)

In winter the Amish harvest huge blocks of ice from local ponds and pack their ice houses full. This ice can last until summer! Photos by our own Jay Lehman

Some Amish families have small ice houses on their properties, which they fill in the wintertime with block ice cut from local ponds or lakes (see more photos of this fascinating process!). While that ice can last several months, by the hot summer months an alternative is often needed.

For more than 75 years, the Millersburg Ice Company has been supplying manufactured ice to the Amish (and, back when it began, to almost everyone else in the area, since homes without electricity were the norm). Mt. Hope Hardware also houses a large ice house and supplies block ice to the Amish.

But this month, the hot nights and humid Ohio weather have made it a challenge for Millersburg Ice’s compressors to keep up with the high demand. Mt. Hope Hardware is currently struggling to meet our regular customers’ needs, and their food is spoiling as a result. Mt. Hope Hardware manager John Steiner said last week.

“I spoke to Millersburg Ice, who stated they’re making ice as quickly as they can, but with the hot nights, their ability to freeze block is limited. They assured me their compressors are running 24/7. What complicates this for them is that customers who harvest their own ice are now running out and needing to purchase ice.”

Steiner said Mt. Hope Hardware had a request for 1,200 lbs of ice to fill a customer’s ice house, which was not feasible due to needing to meet other regular ice customers’ needs.

“We are also getting calls from people out of the area who are wanting to get ice from us because they are unable to get it locally. For the sake of our ‘regulars’ we need to put limits on what can be picked up at a time,” Steiner said.

“We and Millersburg Ice are doing all we can to meet the demand,” Steiner continued, but until the heat subsides, “there is a strict limit of 100 lbs of ice per family, every other day.”

The good news is that the heat wave has broken, somewhat, so ice production should be able to pick up soon. Just another way our area of Ohio is so very unique. Come visit us sometime – you just may feel like you’ve stepped back in time.