Many people know Lehman’s is located in “the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country,” home to hundreds of Amish and Mennonite families. But as those families grow, their small farms are in danger of being replaced by highly mechanized agriculture. In fact, in the 1980s about 90 percent of Amish families made a living from their farms.Today, less than 10 percent are full-time farmers.
They’re also running out of land, fast. Think about it: Amish families tend to be large, and traditionally a farmer would divide his farmland among a few of his sons when they started their own households. It’s not hard to see why more and more Amish are forced to work “off the farm” or move away with their families in search of their livelihood.
But a local organic Amish co-op sees change on the horizon – great change.
Established in 2003, Green Field Farms seeks to revitalize small family farms in our area by providing fresh and healthy food to customers like you and me. Raising organic animals and crops are not new ideas – it’s the way the Amish have farmed for centuries. Today, the organization has around 150 members, including 60 produce growers and 3 large maple syrup producers, said Larry Yoder, who manages sales for the co-op.
“These are good, young farmers with young families,” Yoder said, and their goal is to preserve the agricultural, home-based lifestyle that’s been a mainstay of the Amish community for centuries.
Lehman’s is proud to carry several of Green Field Farms’ outstanding products, including a healthy favorite – organic kale chips. Unlike other varieties, they’re dehydrated, not baked, which preserves a lot more nutrition, Yoder said. “They can be considered raw, vegan and gluten-free, which is hard to find,” he said.
“Kale has been a very good crop for us,” he added, noting that six area farms are now producing the popular vegetable.
A brand-new item this fall for Lehman’s is organic spelt puffs. The spelt, an ancient grain high in protein and fiber, is grown on about 16 acres just a few miles from our store, in Apple Creek, Ohio. “Spelt is a huge health food in Europe,” Yoder said, and it’s gaining popularity on the American foodie scene, too.
Maple products are also big for Green Field Farms, and Lehman’s offers their maple sugar, maple cream and even maple water – the distilled product of boiling the maple sap that some Amish rely on as a health drink.
The maple sap is harvested much the way our great-grandfathers did it, with good old-fashioned hard work, simple supplies, and hauled out of the woods by strong, giant work horses pulling wooden wagons. Now that’s organic!
While the focus is always on quality, the co-op also committed to honesty. Every product is labeled with a certification seal guaranteeing the product is produced by plain community farms, and upholds Green Field Farms’ standards for quality. (“Plain” means Amish or Conservative Mennonite who use horse and buggy as their main source of transportation.)
The co-op’s members maintain their traditional farming methods for two reasons. First, they seek to remain good stewards of their precious land. Second, they have a strong belief that there is no better way to instill core family values than raising their children on working farms that grow food for the community around them. It’s that sort of dedication that sets Green Field Farms apart, Yoder said.
“I just visited a new member farmer the other day, and he said, ‘You know, it’s so good to be able to stay home and farm with my family.’ That was a good thing to hear.”