Garden Spot: Lancaster County, the Old Order Amish, and the Selling of Rural America

By David Walbert | Go to book overview

Introduction
A Fertile Soil

There is almost an inverse proportion, in the twentieth century, between the relative importance of the working rural economy and the cultural importance of rural ideas.

—RAYMOND WILLIAMS, The Country and the City

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the “Garden Spot of America,” is a place of contradictions. Since 1950 it has grown faster than almost any county in Pennsylvania, yet it retains a reputation as a rural oasis in a sprawling desert of modern cities and suburbs. Its population has doubled in the past forty years, making the Garden Spot a metropolitan area unto itself. Its agricultural productivity is highest of any nonirrigated county in the nation, yet local farmers wonder whether farming there has any future. The county's second largest source of income is the tourists who arrive by the millions each summer to see its rural landscape, yet thousands of acres of that landscape are taken each year for housing developments and highways. Lancaster Countians face the same problems and challenges as residents of most American cities and regions at the turn of the twenty-first century: job growth, suburban sprawl, highway congestion, utility regulation, adjustment to changing demographics. Yet residents' sense of place, their county's reputation as the Garden Spot, and hundreds of millions of dollars a year from agriculture and tourism all depend on the continued existence of a people seemingly stuck in the seventeenth century, farmers who refuse electricity and telephones and use horses for transportation. And even those people, the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, face changes and pressures that threaten not only their image as America's quintessential traditional farmers but also their own sense of identity as peaceable children of God.

-3-

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Garden Spot: Lancaster County, the Old Order Amish, and the Selling of Rural America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xii
  • Garden Spot *
  • Introduction - A Fertile Soil 3
  • 1 - The Invention of Lancaster County 11
  • 2 - Education, Literacy, and the Little Red Schoolhouse 37
  • 3 - The Amish and Tourism 67
  • 4 - Food and Farming 101
  • 5 - Urbanization and Planning 137
  • 6 - Development and Farm Preservation 171
  • Epilogue - The Harvest 209
  • Appendix - Farms and Population of Lancaster County, 1900–2000 219
  • Notes 223
  • Index 253
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