I recently wrote in The New York Times about Amish and Old Order Mennonite farmers in Lancaster County and the pressure they are facing to change their farming practices. In a separate blog post, I wrote about some of the things I found surprising when I visited an Amish family.
Many people wrote in saying they enjoyed the piece, adding that they had gone on field trips to Amish country, or had a fascination for the simple Amish lifestyle. I visited Lancaster County about three years ago as a tourist and I was myself both charmed and fascinated. But the brief visit left me wondering what life is really like for the Amish and Old Order Mennonite, and on that trip I didn't get to actually talk to anyone. Someday, I thought, it would be great to do a story here.
It was an amazing experience for me to visit a farmer named Matthew Stoltzfus and meet his family. It's not something that is easily done. On my first day there, I had been rejected by several farmers and was feeling a little hopeless. Even Matthew took a night to think about it before agreeing to talk to me.
But when I did interview him, he answered all my questions readily, as we stood in front of his coal stove. He welcomed the opportunity to share his perspective, he said. He showed me around his home, and I met his wife, two of his young children and his newborn twins. His five-year-old was talking to his mother in Pennsylvania Dutch and peered at me curiously when I stepped into the house.
I'm glad I kept at it, and I'm happy with the way the story turned out. The best part about being a journalist are the brief glimpses you get into people's lives every time you write a story. Hopefully some of those glimpses get conveyed in the writing.