We first encountered the Amish in Pennsylvania. We learned about their plain and simple life, their love of family and community, their work ethic. In order to avoid the temptations of modern life, they did not use electricity or automobiles. Their clothing and their beautiful farms were a constant temptation for photographs, but we learned to respect their privacy and put our cameras away.
Then we encountered a sizable community in Mexico - a real surprise. The campground they ran was the only one in Mexico where we felt safe drinking the water. They served our group a hearty meal from the produce and animals they raised within view of the campground. When we went to a local hardware store, I could speak to them in German. Of course, they spoke Spanish, too.
Another huge community of Amish and their cousins the Mennonites, live in the Elkhart, IN area. We see them every time we go there to visit where our motor home was built and buy accessories and make repairs. Many of the Amish work in RV manufacture and we hired an Amish carpenter who went out on his own from an RV company, and he built a computer desk, media cabinet and book shelves for the motor home. He was bit tricky to deal with since we could not phone him. We left messages on his answering machine and he went to a phone booth at the edge of his property to call us back. His work was high quality and the price was fair. We know the Amish to be serious, hard working people, who commune with God and avoid modern conveniences.
So we were very surprised when friends told us there is a Amish/Mennonite community here in Sarasota, who are here for the same reason that we are - to avoid the cold northern winters. How decadent! They ride large three wheeled tricycles, since horse drawn buggies are not allowed here as they are up north. In the 1920s, Amish and Mennonite farmers were persuaded to come to Sarasota to use the land for agricultural purposes, primarily to grow celery, a common Amish crop. When they arrived, they found the soil was not suitable for extensive celery crops, but the weather enticed them to stay… or at least visit on a regular basis. They set up the community of Pinecraft, a very small area of about 500 tiny homes. Few homeowners live here year-round; many homes are rented to others within the order. The community used to be removed from the city of Sarasota, but the city has grown up around it. The Amish community of Sarasota is more liberal than their northern counterparts.
A common element to all the Amish communities we've visited is rib sticking comfort food. We went to the Yoder's restaurant; if you see the name Yoder, it's got to be Amish. The restaurant also sold typical Amish produced foods and had a gift shop that rivals any we've seen in tourist spots. The Amish have learned to adapt in order to survive. A lesson for us all.