Amish Farmer Opens New York City Store

I saw this reported a while back and meant to do a post on it, but it fell through the cracks. Then the New York Post picked up the story this past week and gave it legs.

John Stoltzfoos is an Amish farmer from Lancaster County. He’s been doing the 3-hour (one way) commute to NYC for over 18 years, selling his farm products at various farmers’ markets in the city. Now his business has a physical location. Stoltzfoos’ Millport Dairy has opened a store on the Upper West Side – maybe as far from “Amish Country” as it gets! (Not to be confused with Manhattan’s faux-Amish market).

Millport Dairy’s street sign has a bit of the “Amish aesthetic”. Photo: Helayne Seidman

To run this kind of business, you really have to enjoy it – that is, the whole experience of going to the big city and leaving the rural setting of Lancaster County behind.

Now, plenty of Amish do the same, traveling from Lancaster County to markets in the DC, Baltimore, and New Jersey areas.

But going all the way to NYC is something different. A degree beyond the typical Amish market experience. If you didn’t love it beyond the business part of it, you wouldn’t last nearly two decades.

There are (much) closer PA Dutch markets where you could do the same thing. You could simply stay in the market business and set up in a location much closer to home (even a 90-minute commute from his Lititz farm to sell in a greater Baltimore market would be a vast improvement on travel time). But based on the photos of John in the Post story, he seems to not hate his job:

John Stoltzfoos at his new Millport Dairy location in Manhattan. Photo: Helayne Seidman

No, I’m pretty sure John must love the experience of going to the country’s largest metropolis four days a week (a more-or-less typical Amish market schedule) – even though it means a wake-up time before 3 AM.

Restrictive NYC policies apparently made the move from temporary market stands to a permanent location more attractive. Though that’s not the only benefit of it:

“With the farmers markets,” like the one in Union Square, where he was a fixture, “sometimes you’d be setting up your canopy in the pouring rain, and then, there’s unloading your truck and later, loading everything back into it again,” explained Stoltzfoos. “Now, I just open and close the door.”

John Stoltzfoos spent 18 years selling his products at New York farmers’ market locations.

His customers seem to be happy as well:

Many — including Diane Wan, 72 — immediately recognized Stoltzfoos, and left with everything from pickled okra, pork roll, and asparagus to shoofly pies, pumpkin bread, and GMO-free duck and pullet eggs. “I’m so glad you’re here,” proclaimed Wan.

“They have the best eggs ever,” stated Harriet Hoffman, 83, who lives nearby. “I would never eat eggs from the supermarket again. The quality is really what I come here for.”

The store is open from 7 AM to 4 PM.

John Stoltzfoos of Millport Dairy. Photo: Helayne Seidman

Don’t expect an influx of Amish to NYC

On the whole, New York city is about an hour too far away for it to have a more significant Amish presence. Most Amish market families are traveling up to two hours. A three-hour commute – six hours daily (I think my math checks out) – is a lot of time riding in a van! Though I’m going to guess that John and his family/workers are getting some winks in on the ride up. Not his driver though.

For that matter, the Post also wanted to know how much John’s driver is paid (John had no comment). Likewise, I am sure John doesn’t mind the prices he must be getting selling his farm fresh goods in one of the nation’s highest-rent neighborhoods. And good for him!

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    14 Comments

    1. Kensi

      So far

      I really wish he’d set up in Brooklyn. I want a shortly.

      1. Erik Wesner

        He made it 99% of the way there, at least on the map…though I imagine the commute between Brooklyn and his location can be long too

    2. J.O.B.

      6 hours a day in a van. Once or twice a week, ok. But 4 days. Yeah. Gotta admit. That’s tough a tough one.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Over 300 miles round trip daily x 4. Some people can really sleep like babies in a car. I’m not one of them so would burn out quickly on this schedule.

    3. Yes

      Yes, it seems he does not hate his job!

    4. Discretion

      I enjoyed this article. Seeing the photo of Amishman John Stoltzfoos, caused me to reflect on the discretion sometimes given to individuals in various Amish communities. The Amish I know in Yoder, KS, do not (normally?) pose for photos.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Glad you liked it Jim. In some communities, especially with the development of business, the “no photos” idea has become more a guideline or suggestion or personal preference than a hard and fast rule.

        I saw this for the first time, firsthand, 14 years ago when CNNMoney did a report on an Amish market, and we had three Amish people be interviewed on camera.

        Related, here’s an FB post from 2013 where John Stoltzfoos and family pose for some shots around the farm. So it’s not a new thing for John either: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.624757687554274.1073741831.205695982793782

        1. Phones in the Home

          Erik, thanks for your comment. I guess the bigger picture is that it’s easy to stereotype the Amish, especially that “they don’t change.”
          The Amish community around Yoder, KS, has been changing the long-time practice of not allowing phones in the home. Use of telephone shacks are less common as the telephone industry continues to ignore maintenance of their telephone lines. Telephone connections in some shacks are no longer dependable. It’s just not worth the company’s investment when wireless service is the standard. Also, as service deteriorates, wireless phones are more likely to appear in some Amish homes. (But I also know Amish who keep their wireless phone in the garage with their buggy.) Amish individuals all seem extremelly conscience of never displaying their phones in public. (An Amish business is a different situation, I see phones used all the time.) For private individuals, it’s not having a phone that’s improper or forbidden, it’s flaunting it.

    5. Leana

      Amish in NYC

      That is determination! I’m sure his customers are really glad he does it. I also pray he remains safe while in the city there. I would be a customer too but thankfully I do not and never will live there. There are no Amish in my area either unfortunately and I do live in the country.
      Wish him well for me!
      : )

    6. Helen Curtis

      Amish NY store

      I was wondering how he got his produce and farm products to sell. Surely he doesn’t have time to farm with a schedule like this.
      Helen

    7. Joe Donnermeyer

      Wow! Unique!

      I know there are two so-called Amish Markets in Manhattan, with one not too far from the UN headquarters. But neither have any real connection to the Amish, other than the name. I do wonder if there was any previous attempts of a similar kind to in Manhattan that did not last?

    8. john

      amish farmer

      I’m amazed with his dedication. What does he do in the winter time with the snow on the road it will take a lot longer than 3 hours each way.

    9. Doug Douglass

      Happy for John

      Longtime customer at his Greenmarket locations. Sorry at the way he was treated in Union Square after 18 years, Glad John now has a permanent location near the 96th Street subway station.

    10. Teresa

      Is this gentleman related to the late Linda Stoltzfoos? The location and unique spelling of the last name made me wonder.