A Roadtrip Through Amish Country - My Culinary Adventures Blog at Allrecipes.com - 187533

My Culinary Adventures

A Roadtrip Through Amish Country 
Jul. 26, 2010 7:32 pm 
Updated: Mar. 7, 2011 7:16 pm
There’s an Amish community about 40 minutes from my home where I like to shop for dry goods such as spices, grains and any flour you can imagine. The prices can’t be beat. My mother-in-law knows how much I enjoy it, so last week, she recommended to me that I take a trip to southern Iowa to a town called Cantril.

I packed up the family and popped in our road-tripping cd (a mix I made for our trip down south last summer: Keith Whitley, George Strait, Conway Twitty, Randy Travis and Willie Nelson. I made the mister crazy by playing “Carrying Your Love with Me” over and over as we drove through Tennessee and West Virginia. I finally turned it off because he threatened to drive us off the side of the mountain if I didn’t. I know what you’re thinking, and I agree: he is hard to live with sometimes.)

Our first stop on this trip was in Columbus Junction, where they have a swinging bridge. Legend has it that an Indian woman threw herself off the bridge and to her death because of some man troubles. He probably complained about her choice of music one too many times.

Here’s the bridge:

It’s very swingy and the drop, though it doesn’t look like it in the pictures, is significant. The boys loved it, naturally. They made it swing until I screamed and clutched the side for dear life.

I learned, while researching Cantril, that it’s part of a group of villages in Van Buren county known collectively as, The Villages of Van Buren. It’s a county entirely devoid of stop lights, and many of its residents are Amish and Mennonite.

Here is a beautiful buggy shop in Farmington:

A telephone company in Milton:

And the wonderful creamery and some of the goodies we came away with:

Here are some stores we visited:

And some signs we saw:

They aren’t kidding, either:

This is an astonishingly beautiful park we stopped at to stretch our legs for a bit. It’s right next to the river. It reminded me of “The Secret Garden”:

Here is a pedestrian bridge that connects two of the villages:

This is a pretty view of the soybeans and corn we grow in Iowa:

These are the labels off of some of the items I typically purchase at the Amish grocer. I would pay much more if I attempted to buy these same ingredients in my town:

Thanks for coming with me on my road trip. I had a great weekend- I hope you did, too!
Jul. 26, 2010 7:47 pm
Great blog and I got a huge giggle out of Willie Nelson. I got lucky last year because he came through our little area and I was able to see him before he...well you know :)
Jul. 26, 2010 7:52 pm
Nice road trip. The DH is working in a small town up North of us that buggies are a common site in. He couldn't believe there was a hitching post at the grocery store. Nice pics!!
Jul. 26, 2010 7:54 pm
I love this blog...I actually gasped at the picture of the "tunnel" of trees in the park. It *was* like The Secret Garden! The prices on your dry goods are amazing and the cheese curds are interesting...I've heard of them, but never seen them in person! And finally, your road trip music would have made my husband happy and nostalgic...I don't like country music at all.
Jul. 26, 2010 8:04 pm
Nicole- I love WN so much! I'm jealous you got to see him. My husband complains when I play his cd, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I sing along, doing my best Willie impersonation. HA!
Jul. 26, 2010 8:09 pm
LOL! I can't sing but do my best trying to impersonate him but it always comes out sounding like a sick duck. "Last thing I needed...first thing this morning...was to have you walk out on me" :) Goodnight!
Jul. 26, 2010 8:13 pm
Cat- That's wild, isn't it? Very few non-Amish folks seem to shop at the grocer in Kalona. They have a grass parking area for the horse and buggies, and it's rare that I encounter another non-Amish person while shopping. It's an interesting experience, for sure!
Jul. 26, 2010 8:17 pm
Lynna, You need to get yourself some cheese curds! When you get them fresh, they squeak when you bite them. In fact, the creamery that we visited has a motto, "Our cheese curds squeak for themselves". :)
Jul. 26, 2010 8:20 pm
nice blog, great pictures. i would love to take my tater to an amish or mennonite community. i believe she would love it.
Jul. 26, 2010 8:20 pm
I, too, honestly gasped at the picture of the tunnel of trees. It's BEAUTIFUL! I'm totally jealous of the olive cheese curds, too!
Jul. 26, 2010 8:48 pm
gderr, I'm sure she would. Who knows, there may be one closer to you than you think. I can't believe I'd never heard of Cantril before now- it's only two hours away. Thanks for stopping by!
Jul. 26, 2010 8:51 pm
Keri- They're really good- I haven't had anything like them before. The creamery has every type of cheese out as samples, which is lucky, or I may have passed on the olive kind. I was afraid the olive would be overwhelming, but it was just the right amount. PS- I was trying to make infused salts last time I "saw" you, and sadly, in that attempt all I learned was what NOT to do! If you try it out and have any success, please let me know!
Jul. 26, 2010 10:12 pm
Wonderful blog and great pictures! I live in PA Amish country. I really need to check out some of their stores for the dry good!
Jul. 26, 2010 11:29 pm
Wonderful blog CP. You are right that park was very much like the Secret Garden and it was a beautiful shot. I love the road trips around America blogs and since I've never been to Iowa, other than corn fields, I don't know that much about it so thank you for sharing. We also have a large Mennonite community here and in fact in our town we have a Mennonite boarding school that is a middle and high school. Kids from all over the US and Canada come here.
Jul. 27, 2010 2:45 am
The scenery was beautiful! I'm glad you found some good prices for your purchases! It's good to hear that you had a great time!
Jul. 27, 2010 5:30 am
This is a super blog, and "speaks" to me on several levels. My SIL lives in Iowa and on one visit took us to the Amish areas. And around 15 years ago, I was on a business trip to our daughter office in Denver, and the company-assigned host took us one night to a pub/hotel thingy called "The Little Bear" in Evergreen, Colorado. They have live music there and food and beer, and we were just sitting there when Willie Nelson dropped in and decided to do a set. Later, we learnt that he lives (lived?) nearby, and every so often would just appear, with no fanfare and no warning, at the Little Bear.
Jul. 27, 2010 8:08 am
Pam- you definitely should! I'd love to visit PA sometime- I've heard it's beautiful! Sueb, Thanks for stopping by- it really was a nice, peaceful trip.
Jul. 27, 2010 8:17 am
CP this is wonderful!!! I LOVE visiting Amish country. I was raised in Edgewood, IA and there is a very rich Amish community there as well. Thanks for posting this, I may have to take a road trip there soon! :)
Jul. 27, 2010 8:26 am
I live in OH my family and i live about 35 min from an amazing amish country store they have everyting from everything food to furniture and even lumber its amazing our front porch cost us half the price by buying from amish and not lowes. Did ya get to have an amish super doughnut! Awesome!. Thanks for such a great blog!
Jul. 27, 2010 8:29 am
Avon- Small towns and cornfields- that pretty much sums up Iowa. We have a small Mennonite school near here, but I think the Amish in my area are mostly homeschooled. Do any Amish attend the boarding school?
Jul. 27, 2010 8:49 am
Phil, That is one kick-butt story- I can't believe the good luck! Knowing me, I'd have said something really dorky to him. Did he stick around and visit, or just play some music and take off?
Jul. 27, 2010 8:50 am
Abbey- Did you ever make it to Kalona? I saw your post about bulk spices the other day and thought of that. They have every spice you'd ever need and the prices are so good.
Jul. 27, 2010 8:55 am
Mandy- GREAT JOB on saving so much! That has to make you feel smart, doesn't it? Your store sounds very much like the Dutchman's Store we just visited. They had lumber, fabric, crafts- anything you could think of. I bought my oldest a beautiful hand carved treasure chest made of cedar. It has a wolf image on top- it's so gorgeous I almost want to keep it for myself. :) Thanks for stopping by!
Jul. 27, 2010 9:21 am
I live in Amish Country in Ohio, and shop the bulk stores all the time! It's just home to me and they are "neighbors" so I sometimes forget that not everyone drives in "buggy defense mode"! It is fun being surrounded by a culture so fascinating!
Jul. 27, 2010 9:21 am
I am immensely jelous ! We have nothing even remotely like this in Utah. I always wanted to visit an Amish community, there is something so charming about it. Let alone all the goodies you got! Awsome!
Jul. 27, 2010 10:29 am
Hey CP, I loved the pictures of your road trip!! We live in Amish country in Lancaster,Pa. Driving on Sundays can be a mess if your in a hurry because it's courting night for the young ones! I still get a kick watching the little boys and girls wave from behind the buggies!! The produce and dairy can't be beat. Because so many Amish families surround where we live, we just goto there house and they have a little stand where you can leave money on trust! It's truly awesome to see how we can all live a simple life but you also have to work much harder to keep it!
Jul. 27, 2010 10:33 am
This was an awesome blog, CP! I hope you take me on some more road trips soon!
Jul. 27, 2010 11:48 am
Wonderful blog! Makes me want to GO THERE NOW!! (But probably not the swinging bridge! I'm a wimp!) Thanks for sharing!
Jul. 28, 2010 6:38 am
Loved your blog and pic. Thank You. Mag
Jul. 29, 2010 11:30 pm
That's so neat I know alot of those buildings! My moms family is from Farmington and I was born just down the road. It's a neat area.
Jul. 30, 2010 5:25 pm
I love your pictures Citrus Punch: Where I live in Canada there are Mennonite Communities about 30-40 mins. drive away. They attend large farmers markets where you can buy their produce and products. I just love going to this market in particular....it is not uncommon to see their horse and buggies travelling along the roadways there....I do find that they keep to themselves and that they do not like to mix with others too much. When I would have to travel these roads to take my son to hockey a few years ago you could see the laterns in the windows. They have no electricity although there are some modern mennonites that do have electric in their homes.....About cheese curds, I used to own a fast food restaurant and cheese curds were used in making Poutine. For any of you who don't know what that is it is cheese curds that are placed on top of freshly made french fries and then gravy poured over the top. The gravy softens and melts the cheese onto the fries. This is the real recipe for Poutine which is very popular in the province of Quebec. Very good but very bad if you know what I mean? Thanks for sharing.
Jul. 31, 2010 5:21 am
What a wonderful story. It made me giggle, especially the country music. The pictures were great, it was like being there. Thanks for sharing.
Donna A. 
Jul. 31, 2010 7:42 am
I want to go! Does anyone know where the closest Amish area is to Cincinnati, OH?
Jul. 31, 2010 10:09 am
There is a growing Amish community in Adams County near Cinci. Try ohioamishtours.com for a downloadable map per Ohio Magazine
Jul. 31, 2010 11:42 am
CP - you out did yourself! The Secret Garden is perfect. Thanks for taking us along on your adventure. Beautiful!
Jul. 31, 2010 12:12 pm
When I visit my family and in-laws on the NY/Canada border, it's not uncommon to see an Amish horse and buggy travelling on quieter back roads. In fact, there is a covered hitching post area for them to use on one side of the Wal Mart Supercenter. Your trip sounds like it was both fun and interesting!
Jul. 31, 2010 1:28 pm
Your trip sounds wonderful. We live around a lot of Amish in In. and Mi. We buy lots of things at the bulk food store in Shipshawana,In. They have many other stores there also plus Restuarants,meat stores dry goods, cheeses etc. They are hard working people and work is hard to come by now so they are coming door to door selling baked goods.
Jul. 31, 2010 5:07 pm
Kalona Iowa is a wonderful town with quilt shops and small stores. There is an Amish community outside of Olewein Iowa, and they have stores right there on their farms where you can buy baked goods, quilts, honey,and jams, all fresh. I loved it there.
Jul. 31, 2010 5:07 pm
I guess I never think about seeing a buggy anymore, which is weird. On my way to H.s. co-op, we usually pass one or two :) And if the top's covered, it means they're married which is cool. And at the local mini-mart, they have some covered hitchin' posts (like the ones Ms. Nancy's talkin' about) TTYL ♥ Kitty C.
Aug. 1, 2010 4:01 am
Thanks for sharing! It is wonderful to see such fabulous parts of the US that I have not had the pleasure of visiting. This makes me want to put in my "road trip CD" and hit the road!!!
Juliet Allaway 
Aug. 1, 2010 5:05 am
I really enjoyed reading this and looking at your pictures of all that gorgeous greenery. Why aren't any people visible in your pics? Can't you take pics of Amish people? I live in Spain and am ignorant about such things. I would love to go and do a trip like the one you did. ¨Thanks
Aug. 1, 2010 7:17 am
Yay! I moved to Iowa City 5 years ago for graduate school and decided to stay. I have this week off and was already planning to make a few quick road trips around the state. After seeing this, I may add Cantril to my list. Thanks so much! Also, YAY for Stringtown Grocery! I couldn't believe I was paying over a dollar per pound for steel-cut oats at the local co-op. Actually, it looks like the price has gone up: When I went there they were 33 cents a pound! @Juliet Allaway: Tourists are asked not to take pictures of the Amish out of respect for their culture and beliefs.
Aug. 1, 2010 9:40 am
CP, I would have paid to go on that trip with you and you could've played your music there and back! ;) Fantastic photos and interesting products. What a trip!!
Aug. 1, 2010 10:51 am
connorsmom & agi- thanks for stopping by! I forgot about this blog until I saw it on the front page! dragonfly- I love the honor system. We have a farmer down the road who sells produce all summer long on the honor system. I prefer to buy there over any other place simply for the fact that he trusts people.
Aug. 1, 2010 10:56 am
Thanks for the great comments, everyone. The Amish shun modern conveniences, so it's asked that you don't photograph them, which is why you don't see any in my pics. Yaa- definitely check out The Villages of Van Buren. If you like Kalona/Stringtown, you will enjoy that trip for sure. SouthernGma- I'd have taken you for free- a fellow traveller who doesn't complain about the music is worth their weight in gold. :)
Kat P 
Aug. 1, 2010 12:13 pm
This is a great blog and thank you for the pictures. I live in FL now but I too know of the Amish and the great dry goods you can get. I'm from OH and lived close to Holmes County,(Berlin, Charm). I used to live about an hour from Lancaster PA too. Brought back memories.
Aug. 1, 2010 3:24 pm
I enjoyed your trip. Thanks for sharing.
Aug. 1, 2010 3:59 pm
Citrus Punch, I envy you! What a wonderful trip. Send me a copy of your recipe book. Also, Amish Recipes! I just printed a recipe: Virginia Apple Pudding! I am from Erie, Pa. My son and grandson, live in Shenandoah, Va. Glad you enjoyed yourself. My music also, but with a bit of Bluegrass! Allegheny Al
Aug. 2, 2010 8:22 am
I did enjoy the "road trip". I wish I could join you -- I would love to but I'm down here in San Antonio. We don't have any Amish community here (Wish we had!). I'll join you next time! Thank you.
Aug. 2, 2010 9:28 am
I love your road trip experience. I live in Va. and have occasional road trips to Lancaster Pa. You make it sound so exciting I am going to try the baking process. I love canning and pickling
Aug. 2, 2010 12:50 pm
A great blog and a nice pictorial tour around the "Villages" area. My hubby is from Iowa and we have been to the Villages of Van Buren County twice now. Stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast in Bentonsport. We didn't get to are Cantril area yet, but sure want to before the year is over. I'm originally from Indiana and lived near the Amish communities of Middlebury and Shipshewana.
Aug. 2, 2010 2:17 pm
What a gorgeous trip! Takes me back to my childhood and going to my grandparents farm out in the boonies of Alberta. Lots of Hutterites in their buggies out there back then. I hear they have motorized vans now though! Gorgeous pics. Thanks for sharing. I think we all crave a little visit to the simpler times.
Aug. 2, 2010 3:36 pm
Marilyn- I would have loved to have stayed at a B&B. My kids wouldn't go for it- they demanded a hotel with a pool :)
Aug. 2, 2010 4:15 pm
gets me all in the mood for the cheese factory in kalona!! my mother grew up in kalona, and my grandpa still lives there. i try to go to stringtown as much as possible, love it there!! it is funny seeing the hitching posts out front, lol!! how far away from kalona is cantril?
Aug. 2, 2010 5:02 pm
gravincas, From Kalona, I would say that Cantril is an hour and a half away. I agree- I totally dig the hitching post.
Aug. 2, 2010 6:24 pm
Thanks for taking me on your little road trip. I have enjoyed the ride. I like stores like those. And what bargains you got! Now I can't wait to go on vacation.
Aug. 3, 2010 11:18 pm
I am unfamiliar with those ingredients but the prices really do look cheap. I Absolutely LOVE your pictures and am glad to see some places still survive simplisticly
Feb. 8, 2011 6:17 am
GREAT finds! Your photos are beautiful! What a trip you had, thanks for taking us along. Our Amish country is Lancaster, PA. Quite pretty as well. Close to Hershey Park and many other cool places. Lots of antique shops. What to choose - grocery stands-antique shops Hmmmm.... what a dilemma!
Mar. 7, 2011 7:16 pm
i went to college in a very small town in PA (selinsgrove)and i live in denver now. i've been gone for 5 years, but i miss the area and everything you mention here... so nice to have the memories brought back and the pictures to match, thanks!!
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Citrus Punch

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Wilton, Iowa, USA

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About Me
I'm a stay at home mom with a terrific husband and three sweet sons. I come from a big, crazy, loving family and am very close to my five sisters. Family is the best.
My favorite things to cook
I like to make anything. I like to bake and cook and I especially love making new (to me) ethnic foods and baking bread.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom's chicken & rice soup with biscuits, Christmas baking, the "nothing but homemade" rule for family gatherings.
My cooking triumphs
I am a good baker. Not cakes and cookies type baking, but I do well with yeast breads and enjoy thinking up new bread recipes.
My cooking tragedies
We don't talk about those- it makes me cranky.
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