Persisting, Innovating, and Trusting:
Anabaptist Farmers Through Time
By Steve Nolt
It’s no secret that farmers today, including small-scale Plain Anabaptist farmers, face many challenges, but this is not the first time they have confronted difficult circumstances and an array of unknowns. In this seminar, Steve Nolt, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietists Studies at Elizabethtown College, will trace the persistence of Anabaptist farmers across time as they experienced new situations with determination and faith. Beginning in the sixteenth century, Anabaptist farmers faced the challenges that came with being forced into less than ideal locations, but they persisted in with innovation and their trust in God. Immigration to North America brought more tests, including adjusting to new climates, crops, and markets.
The 19th century saw changing technology and economics. We’ll pause at the year 1927 to consider what the agriculture census that year reveals about the small farms of our great-grandparents, and the mixed farming of a century ago, and the challenges that followed as farmers were told to “get big or get out.” Moving to the present, we’ll conclude by asking what may be regained today by small farmers who, like their ancestors, persist, innovate, and trust in God.
Steve Nolt is a Lancaster County, PA, native. He and his family lived in northern
Indiana for 23 years before returning to Pennsylvania in 2016. He teaches history at
Elizabethtown College and is the director of the college’s Young Center for Anabaptist
and Pietists Studies. He has written The Amish: A Concise Introduction (2016) and
A History of the Amish, 3rd ed. (2015).
By David Kline of Mt. Hope, OH; Amish farmer, author, magazine
publisher, and outdoors expert
In this seminar, which will follow Persisting, Innovating, and Trusting by Steve Nolt, David Kline will talk about the ways that farm life can touch one’s innermost being. Farm life is hard, but what better way to commune with the otherworldly life that surrounds us and holds us up, than to be a farmer? From deep in the earth and from high in the heavens comes water. From the crust that covers the earth comes our food, and all kinds of aesthetically pleasing things like flowers, and pumpkins – to eat or put on our porches. And if there is one thing that defines David Kline above all others, it is his ability to identify and appreciate the many kinds of birds, flowers, and plants he encounters, and then to write and talk about them.
David’s writing skills have been preserved in two books he has written and published; Scratching the Woodchuck and Great Possessions, as well as in his “Letter from Larksong” that is published quarterly in his Farming Magazine. Practical farming ideas that build on a theme of persisting, innovating and trusting, as well as inspirational observations from a life lived close to the earth are the kinds of things you will hear presented by David Kline.
The Elements of Successful Farming
By Bill Kitsch of Ephrata National Bank, Ephrata, PA
Several years ago, Bill Kitsch teamed up with Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and the Chester County Economic Development Counsel to do a study around CSA farms. The assignment was to determine if CSA farms were on a dying trend or becoming more vibrant. There were a couple hundred farms involved in the study, some successful and some failed. The conclusion was that it really doesn’t matter what kind of farming one chooses. Success and failure are more dependent on five basic determinants rather than being heavily dependent on a given trend. These five determinants are production, marketing, accounting, labor and analysis. Above all, in the plain communities where shared life is so important and common, helping one another with plans, labor, shared equipment and ideas, among other things, were often the difference between plain and non-plain farms with regard to being successful or not. This seminar will be especially of interest and helpful to beginning farmers, but seasoned farmers can benefit as well, and no doubt Bill will provide time for questions and/or other responses from his audience.
Mechanical No-till With Cover Crops
Using the I&J Roller
By Ken Laing of Orchard Hill Farm, St. Thomas, Ontario
Yes, it is possible to do no-till farming without the use of burn-down chemicals. Ken Laing is very experienced with this kind of farming. Whether you are farming 20 or two thousand acres, this system can work. Ken farms with Suffolk horses. He, his wife, and family operated a very successful CSA farm for many years, though he is now retired from it. In this seminar you will learn how Ken used crops like buckwheat, other cereal crops, and things like daikon radishes to nourish his soils and to keep them in place in the wintertime. He will discuss ways to coordinate various crops with varying maturity rates and how to schedule them so that they compliment one another. Weed and erosion control, nourishing soil microbes at all times of the year, and moisture retention from rolled and crimped cover crop residues. All these things and more will be part of this interesting and informative seminar presented by someone who has been there and done that.
Animal Power in Mennonite Communities in Central and South America
By Leroy and Lavern Martin
In the year 2022, the presenters of this seminar visited 90 different Mennonite communities in Central and South America. Throughout their journey, they visited Mennonites in a variety of countries including Belize, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru. They have met with community members, stayed in their homes, and observed them at work. They will be talking about and sharing pictures of things like: horse-powered sawmills, grading roads with oxen, transporting canned milk to creameries on horse-drawn wagons, seeing washing machines powered by donkeys, and many other interesting things. This seminar will help locals learn more about people in distant places who keep many similar faith practices as the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, by farming with animal power, not out of necessity but by choice. Leroy Martin is best known for his writings in the magazines Plain Communities Business Exchange and Plain Press. More recently, he has begun to do freelance writing and has published several books about his experiences. Lavern Martin has been a traveling companion. ✸