By Mary Heyl
Summer is the perfect time of year to plan a visit to Western New York’s Amish Trail, where visitors can experience this simpler way of life in the scenic setting of Cattaraugus County’s hillsides.
Visitors can explore Amish shops, stop by roadside produce and bake stands, and observe the community’s old-fashioned farming practices. Whether one participates in a guided tour or enjoys a self-guided tour via the Amish Trail Map, a visit to the Amish community is sure to be an unforgettable experience this summer.
Western New York’s Amish population is considered one of the few “Old Order” Amish settlements in the United States. This traditional, conservative community lives without modern conveniences such as electricity, phones, cars or even zippered clothing. Known for their plain, dark dress, the Amish travel throughout their community in horse-drawn buggies, so motorists should be aware of these buggies that move at approximately ten miles per hour.
The practices of the Amish community are governed by the Ordnung, which is the German word for “order.” This set of rules differs slightly from community to community and guides such aspects of daily life as approved methods of transportation, acceptable colors and styles of clothing, and worship practices.
Like their German ancestors, who settled primarily in Pennsylvania, Western New York’s Amish speak a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch and they refer to all non-Amish individuals as “English.” Amish children are educated in one-room schools until they have completed an eighth grade-level education, as the Amish believe that a basic education is all that is required for most aspects of daily life.
Western New York’s Amish community is a self-sustaining one, as most families are farmers who raise their own livestock and grow their own crops. As visitors drive throughout the Amish community, they will see a variety of animals including cattle, sheep, goats and more, as well as the iconic hand-tied hay stacks that dot the fields.