Ohio Amish Country~A Stop at Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery and the Guggisberg Cheese Factory and Chalet
It amazes me that I live smack dab in the middle of a Mennonite farm but can get so giddy at the sight of an Amish horse and buggy. I’ve been wanting, and trying, to get to Amish country since I was about 7 years old and read a silly Nancy Drew mystery novel that was set in Pennsylvania Dutch country. I’ve always been drawn to simple living and old fashioned ideas, self-sufficiency and just doing things from scratch. “Amish” just fits so well in this noggin of mine. Conformity, organized religion, and restrictions…not so much. But sometimes I’m pretty sure I was just born in the wrong century. Living as a modern woman on a Mennonite dairy in a farmhouse so old it’s rumored there were slave quarters behind the house at one time is such a great fit. Throw in a horse drawn carriage ride every now and then, a live rock concert, fabulous food prepared by an experienced chef who’s mission is to open the minds of his patrons and I’m in heaven. It’s been a great year of living, tasting, exploring, and maximizing my time on this precious old farm.
I actually made it very close to Ohio Amish Country over a dozen years ago on a business trip to Canton with my husband, but we were so snowed in during our entire stay that I kept my two toddlers snuggled up in our hotel room until we could safely leave at the end of the week. I wasn’t able to see a dadgum thing in all that snow, let alone an Amish buggy or farm. Then two years ago I eagerly delved into Ira Wagler’s Growing Up Amish, excited to learn all about Amish life, cooking, living off the grid… As it turns out, the book, which I did enjoy, was about his ongoing struggle to break free from the Amish community. I was left wanting in a big way. If I’d only known what changes were in my near future.
A few weeks ago, we were all set to head very far south to the New River Gorge to watch completely insane people, in my opinion, leap from a perfectly fine bridge, BASE jumping hundreds of feet to the ravine below for the area’s annual Bridge Day. I didn’t want to go. I have enough trouble keeping my cool just driving over that bridge when we take our trips back to the Smoky Mountains. Watching people jump off of it just didn’t sound like something I could stomach. But last year my older son really wanted to go. When the time came and a cool season blustery wind blew in, all four of us decided to skip the insanity and stick closer to home. We had visited the small town of Springs, PA two weeks before for a fall festival just inside Dutch country and I was itching to get back to experiencing the peaceful feeling we’d had cruising back roads, and my son was wanting to visit an artist village that was closed when we arrived on that trip. At the last minute, literally, just before we were going to jump on the interstate to go in the direction of Springs, we changed our minds and decided that even though we’d slept in and wasted much of the day it would be more fun and productive to head northwest to Ohio Amish Country to stock up on winter supplies. I love this crazy, spontaneous little family. We have SO much fun.
We entered Millersburg, OH into our GPS and took our chances that we’d land close enough to Amish adventures. I’d completely forgotten that Berlin was where the Amish were “happening” or we would have shaved a little time off our drive, but as it turned out, we’d timed our impulsive trip perfectly, with just enough time to find what we needed and eat dinner before heading home. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. I’d remembered and imagined Ohio as being flat and boring with nothing much to look at. Not true at all. And because the leaves were changing, it was beautiful. And in Millersburg we immediately began seeing Amish horse and buggies.
The town itself is perfectly quaint and original, with it’s old courthouse and even an old inn on the main street.
We meandered out of town, in the wrong direction at first, then back through in the opposite direction until we came across a sign for the Guggisberg Cheese Factory, which is exactly what I was looking for. The valley we entered looked just as it should, if you know what I mean– big farms on either side of the curving road and, not far up ahead, Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery.
I found everything I needed there. Big rolls of butter, baked goods (we didn’t need at all)…
…some dried goods, a big, sturdy, hand-strung broom with a handle so heavy I get a work-out just using it, and bunches of elderberries for using to make syrup to keep winter colds at bay.
We were also able to find a few antique tools we needed for blacksmithing.
The Guggisberg Cheese Factory was the perfect Alpine Helen, Georgia substitute for my family, in all of its Bavarian charm.
Inside we found the famous Guggisberg Baby Swiss and lots of other things to stock our winter pantry and freezer with. Sausages and condiments, specialty foods, and cheese, cheese, cheese!
Across the street (Watch out for cars and horse-drawn buggies!)…
…is the factory’s Chalet in the Valley restaurant where we found a decent wurst platter and a great pretzel bun cheeseburger.
Several of the items on their menu feature Guggisberg Baby Swiss, including a fondue appetizer.
After following one last buggy out of the valley my Amish country withdrawal set in.
Good thing it’s just up the road!