Ride Along To The Grocery Store With An Amish Farmer (Video)

How would you feel about taking your life in your hands just to pick up some boxes of cereal?

This one-minute video, shot from the cockpit of an Amish buggy, really brings home the experience of those Amish people who must regularly travel on busy highways – just to get basic errands done.

Much of this was taken on Route 30 in Lancaster County, aka the “Lincoln Highway”.

If you’ve ever driven through this main artery of the county, you’ll know it has narrow lanes, a lot of traffic, and challenging – even for a motor vehicle – side road turn-outs.

The 33-year-old farmer, identified here only by his last name Stoltzfus, faces a 6-mile trip, one way, to a local discount grocery store.

Unfortunately, the video by Lancaster Online is not embeddable, but you can view it here.

Watch as semi trucks fly by and the horse hugs the side of the road trying to take up as little space as possible.

It also comes with an article describing the journey, with comments from Mr. Stoltzfus. Two of his boys, ages 5 and almost 3, ride along for the trip.

From the article:

Stoltzfus waited at the T-intersection longer than he expected. One hand held the reins. The other cradled his bearded jaw as he looked this way and that.

He was on a crest that shrunk the view of vehicles coming from both directions. To turn, he would have to spur Sparky into a trot up a slight rise.

“Obviously, he’s just setting there thinking, Why in the world don’t we go?” Stoltzfus said.

Nearly two minutes passed before Stoltzfus took his shot.

Stoltzfus is amused when he’s in a car stopped at that intersection and the driver becomes impatient.

“I tell them, ‘Hey, at least the thing is going to go if you hit the pedal,’” he said.

An example of some of the driver behavior Stoltzfus encounters:

At one intersection, Stoltzfus had a fright. Sparky, trotting along the berm, had a green light and started to cross Ronks Road. Suddenly, a car heading in the same direction flew past on the left and abruptly turned right, directly in the horse’s path. The car sped north on Ronks Road.

It happened so fast Stoltzfus could only flinch. Sparky never broke stride.

“Some people don’t think,” Stoltzfus said.

Watch the video and read the article, and tell me running this little errand doesn’t sound downright stressful.

They do make it there and back in one piece, picking up a little over $100 worth of groceries. That includes eight boxes of cereal and some fruits you won’t find on an farms in the county, like mangoes and bananas.

Despite the hazards of his chosen mode of transport, Stoltzfus doesn’t want any special treatment:

“I realize I’m on the road at a much higher risk that you are,” Stoltzfus said of motorists, “but I don’t expect any favors. We go by the same rules that you guys do.”

And in turn, he brings up one of my own personal pet peeves while on the road – when other drivers think they are doing you a favor by violating norms of driving:

He hates, for example, when a motorist with the right of way slows and motions for him to proceed from a stop sign. Other drivers might not see what’s happening. A crash could result.

I’ve noticed drivers do this for me sometimes, like when I’m trying to make a left turn out of my hometown neighborhood.

They may think it’s “nice”, but it’s not wise.

A video like this really brings home the hazards of trying to travel these busy highways in a flimsy, one-horsepower vehicle.

Kudos to Lancaster Online for producing content like this. They ought to show it at the local DMV here and in other Amish areas.

As Stoltzfus puts it, referring to near-miss experiences on the highway: “Obviously, if you keep on thinking about that, you’d stay in bed.”

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    1. Joe Zygala

      Pet peeve

      “And in turn, he brings up one of my own personal pet peeves while on the road – when other drivers think they are doing you a favor by violating norms of driving:”

      Ooh, I totally agree. Luckily I have never been in an accident due to this, but it has been close a few times. I always say, “please do the expected.”

      Boy, am I glad I don’t have to use horse and buggy, even here in my exurban area. Our roads are hilly, twisty and narrow. It would not be a good place for the Amish.

      1. Glad I’m not the only one. It’s better to be predictable on the road than “nice”.

    2. Anthony Lehecka

      Cannot View on LNP (LancasterOnline)

      Knowing LNP’s policy I was surprised to see a link to them in this article. Sure enough, clicking on the links in the article gets you the standard response from LNP. You cannot view the article or the video unless you are a subscriber AND have created an online account. Now some will say you can view for free with the two free views for registering with them, but I do not want to register at yet another website and get bombarded with subscribe to LNP emails.

      1. Yea that’s too bad. They give some free views but it’s a paywall site. I was visiting so much that I finally subscribed the other day. They do produce a good amount of interesting Amish-related content.

    3. kim hansen


      High stress trip just to go to the grocery store.

    4. Lancaster Online editorial

      Lancaster Online just followed this up with an editorial in support of slowing down and being respectful of buggies.

      An excerpt:

      Consider some of the comments made about Hawkes’ story on Facebook:

      — “Can’t they hire a driver? It’s not like (most) Amish don’t have the money to do so. If it’s a safety issue, then don’t put your life or your horse at risk and hire a driver.”

      — “I have seen buggies on Rt. 30 the HIGHWAY where the speed limit is 55 mph. Very dangerous. Please … take an Amish taxi. This is so dangerous, cruel to the poor horse, and likely to be fatal for everyone.”

      — “I can’t possibly believe he has to travel 6 miles on Rt 30. Use the back roads when you can. it is your choice!!!”

      And those were among the kindest of the negative comments.

      We’ve stated our concerns about horses and buggies in previous editorials. We think they ought to be licensed, as motor vehicles are. We believe children riding in buggies need to be in child safety seats. And we believe Amish buggy drivers should heed the rules of the road, as we all must.

      But we don’t question their very right to be on the road. The Amish are our neighbors. They aren’t just part of our community — they’re part of who we are as a community. They are part of the identity and character of Lancaster County. They ought to be allowed to get around in a manner that accords with their traditions and beliefs.

      It’s easy for us to assume that an Amish family can afford to pay a driver to convey them to the grocery store once a week. But how do we know? Why would it be our business to know?

      Here’s what we do know: We all could stand to slow down when we drive. We don’t suggest traveling 7 miles in 50 minutes — as Stoltzfus did on his buggy trip with Hawkes — but everyone would be safer if motorists didn’t race from one destination to the next.


    5. KimH

      So easy as last ng as it's not you.

      So easy to say this and that, as long as it’s not you!
      I’d really love to see Buggy paths that would be safer for the Amish. I worry about them out there vulnerable to idiots on the road… Same as motorcycles…scary for us all.

    6. Thelma Kathy Jacot