Sunday, July 17, 2011

Family Farm Field Day

Yesterday was much like an opportunity to visit times past, as this idyllic scene unfolded near Sugarcreek, Ohio.

Hundreds of horses rested in the shade, freed from their burden of buggy and riders. Pony carts, family buggies, work carts and a battalion of abandoned bicycles lined the farm lot in Amish country.

The excitement was almost palatable, as the families and older children raced to the tents. There would be food, exhibits and games. Speakers for the grown-ups. A live llama, chicks hatching from eggs, a leaf and seed collection, bird and bug displays... a world of excitement!

The big tents circled on an open field, with wooden playground equipment taking an honored spot in the center. I would love to show more pictures of the scene, but for today you must use your imagination. With somewhere around 1,500-2,000 Amish folks gathered, there was no way I could take photos without infringing on their hospitality. I was a guest, it would be beyond rude to take photos as if I would studying some alien species. It is not proper.

This gathering would be the equivalent to an Amish state fair, without competition. No ribbons, no dog and pony shows. These are simple, plain people after all. So imagine your county fair without the lights and rides, and add in nature displays and walks through a wetland. Yes, there was food, but the lines were too long to get to the pie. Fortunately, the tent with homemade ice cream made up for it.

Several things come to mind when I have spent an afternoon with this Amish community. Children seem to be well appreciated here- however they know their place. Children gather quietly and respectfully, and I have never seen pushing, shoving or angry words. Of course, there is a bit of shy curiosity, as we "English" are the strange ones in this gathering. These small children have grown up speaking "Dutch" and for the most part, only speak when they are spoken to.
We spent much of our time in the "Nature Tent" where people gathered for trips to the back lot trail through woods and wetland: Birding with Ed Schlabach, Nature with Guy Denny, Dragonflies with Ian Adams, Wetlands with Don Beam... to name a few.

It was my good fortune to be asked to tag along with Guy Denny's Nature walk. I made myself useful near the back of the walk, where I could talk to the women and children. Many of them enjoy watching birds at their feeders at home and growing plants in their yards and gardens. We had much in common to talk about.

Guy Denny, retired Director of Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and Don Beam of Stucker Meadows Native Plants discuss the lay of the land and the sightings of the day. This was one of the few places I felt comfortable with my camera- in the nearly empty car parking area.

We also spent a bit of time with good friend Ian Adams, an amazing photographer with several books in print. Ian was leading the Dragonfly walks, as he is not only a gifted photographer but also an excellent birder, butterfly and dragonfly guide.

If you are not familiar with Ian's work- you should immediately go here to order your copy of his newest book. It is filled with lovely images of many of my favorite places in Ohio and tips for getting the photos in many of these locations.

I'll leave you with Ian's image of one of my favorite locations in the world: the Marblehead Lighthouse, and the good reasoning of a man who loves this book, even though he is not a photographer.

"A photographer's guide to Ohio is written to help photographers improve their camera skills, but I treasure it most for its beautiful illustrations. Typical Ian Adams- a superb book."

David Kline- editor of Farming magazine (and organizer of Family Farm Field Day.)


  1. Wish I were there, Cheryl! What a day!

  2. Even the Amish say it is an Amish Fair. At least that is what my Amish sister said.