The Amish people have always been farmers. They’ve tirelessly worked the land since their ancestors came over to this continent in the 1700’s. But fewer and fewer of the Amish rely on farming as their primary source of income. Farming is becoming less economically feasible.
Still almost every Amish family I know keeps an extensive and fruitful garden. I remember one particular garden in Bonduel where the grapes hung from a homemade arbor and chrysanthemums and petunias made splashes of brilliant color in front of the house.
My dad grew up a fruit farmer. His father owned acres and acres of orchards—peaches, cherries, apples, plums—and my dad and his sister and brothers worked hard all summer long. During WWII when labor was scarce, a group of German prisoners of war helped out on the farm. My dad was ten years old at the time.
My dad became a high school math teacher, but he never outgrew the farmer inside him. He bought six acres of land and planted raspberry bushes and cherry and peach trees. I spent many hours in those orchards picking raspberries, stacking limbs, driving the tractor, and helping Dad irrigate. My mom planted a garden that had to have been half an acre by itself. I did a lot of weeding and a lot of canning.
I now live on significantly less land—a third of an acre to be exact—but the farmer in me is still alive and kicking. I planted a few raspberry bushes many years ago, and now a peach tree is growing from a peach pit I tossed out there last fall. I’m also growing eight tomato plants and several volunteer cantaloupes.
I learn invaluable lessons in the garden, like the law of the harvest: We reap what we sow. We can choose what to plant, but we will never get a head of lettuce from a cucumber seed. While tending my rosebushes, I learn that sometimes you have to prune a rosebush down to nothing but sticks to help it to grow better. I think God does that with us. Sometimes His pruning hurts our hearts, but He is making something better of us than we could ever make of ourselves. Our task is to trust that He is the master gardener and that the garden will be infinitely more beautiful because He touched it.
The Amish have no doubt learned those lessons in the garden.
Jennifer Beckstrand is the award-winning author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill Amish romance series. After growing up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, she went slightly crazy and got a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of her six children needed help with homework. After her fourth daughter was born, she started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, she finished her first manuscript in just under fourteen years. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and three adorable grandsons, whom she spoils rotten.
Lessons in the Garden by Jennifer Beckstrand