The Amish in Florida
While you may know that the Amish are found in
about 20 states, it may surprise you to learn that there are Amish in Florida.
However, the existence of the Amish community there is unlike any other. As with
many other Americans, some of the Amish have made Florida their temporary home
during the winter months.
On Florida’s west coast is the city of
Sarasota. Every year it hosts several million visitors from all over the United
States and beyond. They come to enjoy "the whitest beaches on earth."
But the city is also known for its cultural activities, and the Ringling Museums
with their collections of art and circus memorabilia. In fact, a large number of
circus people make Sarasota their winter home, too.
Within the city limits of Sarasota is a
neighborhood known as Pinecraft. Narrow streets and small houses in a grid
layout mark this as the area’s "Amish community." In truth, the area
is made up of Amish, Mennonites, and others, but it is those members of the
Plain Sects, in their traditional clothing, that catch the eye.
The Amish and Mennonites here come from many
different states, so you see a great deal of variety in the styles of Plain
clothing and prayer coverings. Even an expert might have difficulty in
distinguishing the people from various Amish and Mennonite communities.
You will see familiar Amish names on many of the
mailboxes. One house had a wooden sign over its door indicating the occupants
were from Ronks, Pennsylvania, right here in Lancaster County. And it is not
just the older people who may be seen in Florida, but some families and groups
of teenagers as well.
Many people gather at the park or local post
office, the entire exterior wall of which consists of post office boxes for the
many residents. Sundays, since the houses are much too small for church
services, you’ll see people attending the "Mennonite Tourist
Most people stay pretty close to home. They do,
of course, use public transportation, but within their neighborhood they often
get around on large-wheel "tricycles." These have a box on the back to
transport items. I saw one lady pedaling down the street with a card table
In the Pinecraft neighborhood, there is a
Farmers Market on Saturdays. During the week you’ll also see some
"roadside stands," similar to what you see here in Lancaster, except
that oranges and grapefruits are common items for sale.
If you visit Sarasota’s Visitor Information
Center, you will surely notice brochures for the five "Amish
restaurants." They are Der Dutchman, Dutch Haus, Dutch Oven, Sugar &
Spice, and Yoder’s. A sixth restaurant, Miller’s Dutch Kitchen, in nearby
Bradenton, also advertises "Amish cooking." While these restaurants
may not be owned by the Amish, you will see Amish and Mennonites working and
sometimes eating there.
Several of the restaurants offer special menu
items on certain days of the week, such as chicken and dumplings, or liver and
onions. Some have received awards from various local reader polls, such as
"best meal under $10."
The proprietors of Yoder’s Restaurant even
have a newsletter. A story told of a misprint in one of their advertisements,
promoting a special Wednesday "bib meatloaf" dinner. Obviously, the
employee had mis-typed "bib" for "big." When asked about her
mistake, she replied, "We serve bibs with that meal. That’s our sloppy
Many Sarasota residents order pies from these
restaurants for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition to Florida’s popular
key lime pie, they also make a variety of fruit and crème pies, such as apple,
strawberry, rhubarb, and even shoofly. So, on your next trip to Florida, if you get
a craving for some good old shoofly pie, you can always head for Sarasota. But
don’t expect to see any horse-and-buggies going down the road!
Amish Country News
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