I realized that the local heirlooms of this rich farmland in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I live were fast being lost forever. So, I started searching for every seed I could find that linked with the rich farming heritage of my neighbors the Amish, Mennonite (conservative religious sect similar to the Amish) and Pennsylvania Germans (commonly referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch). These people are the descendents of the first settlers to William Penn's land in the late 1600's-early 1700's, that was offered to those willing to work hard to farm it. They came for religious freedom and stayed for the rich land. Amazingly, Lancaster County farmland, even to this day, (and often still worked by horse and mule), is considered the most productive per acre in the entire world! I was asked, by editor Nick Pabst of Farm & Ranch Living magazine to write an article about Amish and Mennonite heirloom seeds. A much abbreviated (ok, I admit I am wordy) but still two page article, using my photos, came out in their April/May 2007 spring planting issue. The response was absolutely overwhelming. I received phone calls, letters, packages with seeds, and emails from all over the country, and the world. Many "plain people" contacted me and chatted. They asked for seeds that they had fondly remembered and could no longer find. Some offered me their family's heirloom seeds, many of which I grew out this season.
Then, later in that year, I was again contacted by another magazine. Mary Shepherd, the effervescent editor and publisher of a brand new publication Farmer's Markets Today.
She asked me to write a special feature on Amishland Heirloom Seeds after seeing my website. The premier issue of that magazine had a lovely two page spread, also using my photos. She called it "Taste and History are Preserved in Heirloom Seeds- Every Seed has a Cultural and an Ethnic Story to Tell," which pretty much sizes up the philosophy of my seed business.
So due to the many requests and questions which these two articles generated, I realized that consolidating all my Amish, Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsylvania German) heirlooms on one page of this website would be most helpful. I give as detailed information, background and history as I am able to with each seed description. So now my customers who want to grow this wonderful history can more easily find seeds of what I have grown out and am offering. I also have these same seeds on the website in their own respective categories, like red tomatoes on the "Red Tomato Page" and so forth. If the list says “Red Tomatoes" then they are on the Red tomato page, and so forth. I have put them in the same order as they are found on the pages.
I have tried to organize these seeds in some sort of order but please remember that all three groups may grow and eat these same varieties. Some of the history and culture does cross over. Also, I have gone futher afield than Pennsylvania in my search for genuine Amish, Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch heirlooms that travelled with these settlers and religious groups as they left PA to build new communities in various parts of the USA. Today, for example there are many much larger settlements of Amish people living in other states. Some of the Old Order Mennonites here, have been leaving Lancaster County and settling on farmland in upper state New York, and so forth. When farming folks move they always take their favorite seeds with them as well as share them amongst themselves. So, to find the seeds, you must follow the farmers.
Have fun searching the past here, perhaps finding some seeds from your own past or family’s genealogy, to grow in your gardens wherever you may live.