What happens at Amish schools in the summer…

A little while back I gave an interview for a newspaper column on Amish frugality.

One example which I think captures the mindset (and which I wish I’d shared) was what happens at Amish schools in the summer time.  What happens?  Well, this:

amish school ashland ohio

All that green stuff you see, that’s normally the schoolyard 8-9 months of the year.  But rather than let the land lie fallow in the warmer months, it’s put to use.

amish school crops

Here are the school outhouses.  These photos were all taken yesterday at the Amish community near Ashland in Ashland County, Ohio, by the way.

amish school outhouses

And it’s not just crops.  It’s not uncommon to see animals grazing outside Amish schools.

grazing horses amish school

You seem to see this more often with conservative churches, or at least I have.  
Somewhere on the blog (can’t remember where right now) there’s a shot I took of sheep munching the yard of a Swartzentruber Amish school.

horses grazing amish ohio

With their generally lower incomes, the lower Amish groups might be the “frugalest” of all.

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    1. Land use in public areas by the Amish a lesson for America?

      I think this is a great use of public land as it can provide economic benefits like the old English ‘commons’ but not prone to overuse as it is eco-friendly and low tech and I think the Amish are not that greedy to destroy the land.

      It might be a lesson for people who want to use US lands and Parks that are ‘under used’ for primary sector benefits (defined as agriculture and mining). That is, if it leaves a carbon footprint do not do it. But if it does not, or helps the system, it is OK

    2. Craig

      I have taken photos of Mennonite schools over the summer here in NY. Their buildings are plain and nondescript. There are no signs to indicate that its a school other than the county school crossing sign. Many have simple playgrounds and a ball field. usually they are out in the country. The ones here are on back roads and I find them by accident.

    3. Amish Stories

      I agree with Mark....

      I agree with Mark about putting land that’s not being used , and as long as the land is not being abused in any way other than used for food like in this case i think that’s great. Maybe that’s why at least years ago when id hear about a new golf course being built on vacant land i was pretty happy, so id rather have a golf course as apposed to a housing development built because most of the open spaces will be preserved. Sadly from what i had read a few years ago that golf course’s were on the decline and some going out of business, but maybe that has changed since that last report. Richard from http://www.Amishstorys.com

    4. BethR

      I have a picture of some sheep in an Amish school yard in Bowling Green, MO, and it was Katie Troyer who told me about them being used to keep the grass under control in the summer. I can’t decide which of those pictures above I like the best – the one with the horses grazing out front, or the one with the school surrounded by crops. GREAT pics…again. 🙂

    5. Katie Troyer

      I was surprised to see corn planted in the school yard as every fall they have to turn that piece of land back into a play ground, whereas grazing animals you only have to take care of the manure piles providing the sparrows didn’t eat up their choice yummies.

    6. When I pastored the church here in New Denmark, we joked about putting my sheep in the cemetery to save on lawnmower gas. We didn’t, as I had Shetlands, who have all the curiosity of goats and like to mob strangers to see if they have nice things to eat. The Bureau of Land Management used to give grazing licenses for national forests and may still do; it was always somewhat discriminatory.

    7. Alice Mary

      Cool schools!

      That’s a very good use of otherwise “fallow” land!. While some schools in my area have started garden plots, they’re certainly not to this scale!

      Thanks, Erik, for the timely photos. I’ll definitely share them with my school teacher daughter (school started in her district this past Monday). When, generally speaking, do classes start for the Amish? Before or after harvest? (Recess would be a bit unwieldy amidst the corn, wouldn’t it?)

      Grazing sheep seem like a good mowing crew—with wool to shear & card & spin and eventually knit into useful garments, besides!

      Hopefully the weather will hold up for the rest of your trip—BEAUTIFUL blue skies in those photos!

      Alice Mary

    8. Matt from CT

      I agree with Katie…sure looks like corn although the pics aren’t good enough for my (middle) aging eyes to be certain.

      I would be hard to imagine them being able to harvest and plant it back to grass and it being anything other then a muddy mess when it rains. Odd odd.

      Grazing is no problem.

      Over the years I’ve read a few stories, mostly from New Hampshire-ish of arguments in communities when the Selectmen don’t want to pay for mowing of cemeteries and instead turn out sheep in them as was done before mowers were made. I’ve always been partial to that one.

      (One town in Massachusetts the big kerfaffle last year was whether it was proper to tap maple trees in the cemetery during syrup making season!)

    9. Debbie Welsh

      Can you imagine some of the spoiled rotten kids of today having to not only walk to school ( and in the pouring rain, sleet, or snow, mind you ), but also having to use an outhouse? I think of my 11 year old grandson who has everything you could ask for, hardly does any chores, is a real picky eater, and gets an attitude if he can’t get an expensive new game for his fancy little electronic player, and I think, gee, that boy needs to go to Amish boot-camp to learn some valuable lessons and gain some perspective in life!

      1. Carol

        Amish boot-camp

        I LOVE the idea of Amish boot-camp! I have a couple grandsons who probably couldn’t last an hour! I just found this sight and so far really enjoy it. I read lots of fiction Amish books and love them. I hope we can visit an Amish area yet this fall. I would like to go out east, but we do have a few communities in Iowa also.
        Hi to everyone!!

        Carol in IA

      2. Judith

        What happens at Amish schools in summer

        In rural areas of PA where there are Amish communities….
        the Amish children can ride public school buses if they are going on the same route of bus traveling to public school. The bus does not go off its route for them but will take them as close to their Amish school house as it goes (on the normal public school route).

        However, I do agree….our English children would have a rude awakening to the Amish child’s life style. Most adults would , too!

    10. Naomi

      I love this! How can we fret about not being able to feed the world, until we step out of our current paradigm, get creative, and actually put spaces to good use? I am curious to know what the crop is. It doesn’t look like corn to me. Maybe something that will leave behind a fairly nice turf once it is mowed?

    11. Craig

      Here in New York I have seen quite a few Mennonite schools. They mow the grass. Often times I see a Mennonite lady with a push mower. On another website a comment was made that the men do not allow their wives to do men’s work. However, it is usually the wives that cut the grass. I have even seen them operate a back hoe and large machinery.

    12. kerry

      The Swartzentruber schools by my house have cows in the schoolyard. We always wonder who gets to pick the cowpies out of the yard when school starts!

    13. kerry

      Naomi, I can’t see the pictures too clearly on my computer, but from what I can make out it looks like soybeans.

    14. kerry

      Oops, lost part of my post…to continue…although soybeans aren’t usually harvested until later in September, so it could be corn. The different angles make it hard to tell.

      The lovely pictures sure show how nice the weather finally is around here!

    15. kerry

      Oops, lost part of my post…to continue…although soybeans aren’t usually harvested until later in September, so it could be corn. The different angles make it hard to tell.

      The lovely pictures sure show how nice the weather finally is around here!

      In this great weather, a hot air balloon landed in our neighbor’s yard just a little while ago, after hovering for a bit. A sudden parade of horses and buggies and walkers just charged up the road, lol. They got out and helped the riders fold up and load the balloon. They were very excited!

    16. Al in Ky.

      I enjoyed the pictures and the narrative — especially the part
      about seeing livestock in the schoolyard. I had seen livestock
      in the schoolyard of a school in a conservative Amish district
      near Paoli, Indiana and wondered about it. Now I realize that
      it may be fairly common in conservative districts.

      Earlier this evening I visited two families in two different
      Swartzentruber districts near Orleans, Indiana. Both said they’d
      recently helped clean their schools which start Mon. Aug. 22. I thought about today’s AA post and thought that this is another example of Amish frugality (and community). Most non-Amish likely would have hired someone to clean the school for them.

    17. Christina

      Love the pic with the horses! Did anybody else catch the horse hanging out in the shade on the left side of the school house?

    18. Ellie

      Near me, the main group of Plain people is the Old Order German Baptist group (if Ive the right name), in various degrees of strictness (some horse & buggy, some driving cars, most in kapp & cape dress, even a few in long modern denim skirts & long hair – usually the younger people, girls under 20 or so). But you wont see men cutting the yard’s grass on the farms; I have only seen women (on riding mowers, even!) doing this task. The men seem to tend the fields, the women the house & yard (for those living on farms, anyway). Ive gotten fairly proficient at determining dress among the Amish (solid colors), Mennonite (patterned fabrics), and Brethren groups (half-capes & distinct kapps). I love the photos above, Erik. I would rather like having some sheep to cut my grass – they dont tend to pull it out by the roots like horses (or is it vice versa?) *smile* I sure wish I knew how you all made contacts with Plain families, especially when you’re not living so close to them. I think it’d be fascinating to have a friend from such a culture. But with no businesses or nearby neigbors, I suppose Ive little chance!

    19. Alice Aber


      Awesome pictures!! I love seeing the multi-purpose of the land! Great idea! I too try to be very frugal but must admit I might not have thought of this idea having grown up in an urban community rather than a rural one. I do try to “re-purpose” many things in my life though. 🙂

      On a side note, my move is coming along and I hope to be totally settled within the next week and a half to two weeks. Actually my goal is for next week but realistically I think it will take a tad longer. Sure have missed being in here on a regular basis.

      Blessings, Alice

    20. BethR

      We miss you, too, Alice! You’re always one of the first to comment and it’s fun seeing what you’re going to say. Good luck with your move. 🙂

    21. Alice Aber

      Thanks Beth, I appreciate that!! Can’t wait to get this done!!

      Blessings, Alice

    22. Alice Mary

      School bells?

      I was just wondering, Erik, if there really are bells in the Amish school bell towers. Or, do they use handbells (as we did in my old parochial school in the city)—I always felt priveleged to be able to ring the kids in from recess, once I was in the “upper” (7th & 8th) grades.

      Alice Mary

    23. kerry

      Alice Mary, there are bells in the cupolas on the school buildings around here (mainly Swartzentruber), but I rarely hear them ring. There are schools dotted so close together here, I’m guessing they don’t really need to ring the bells – the kids don’t have too far too walk.

      The tiny school less than a 1/2 mile from my house has a bell, but it is built in a pasture and right next to the neighboring house. It serves only 3 families with a lot of children! They never ring the bell, I’m sure, because the homes are right in view of it.

      1. Alice Mary


        Thank you for the information, Kerry! It’s a little disappointing, though. I mean, if you HAVE a bell, shouldn’t you ring it (at least now and then)? Otherwise, what’s the point?

        I grew up in a neighborhood of at least 9 churches within walking distance, and you could distinguish the bells from different churches. (I miss hearing REAL bells.)

        Do you know if they (the Amish) might use them for an emergency (barn fire, tornado, etc.)?

        Alice Mary

        1. Mary Yoder

          What happens at Amish Schools in the summer

          Yes the Amish use the bells. Every time recess is over the bell rings and the children go Groan… and march to the schoolhouse to be sure and meet the few minute deadline they have to be in their seats. Most of them are not allowed to dawdle and visit when they reach the door.
          I went to an Amish school and do know this is a fact. The bell is not used to call them from their homes like a church bell, but to get the children inside.

    24. kerry

      I’ve never heard them ring in an emergency (we do get bad weather here). I imagine that they do ring them some places. Maybe after school starts here I’ll take some drives in the mornings around other area schools at starting time and see if some do ring their bells. The Amish schools usually start at 9 here.

      The two closest Amish homes to me DO use a triangle to call in from the fields, so I do enjoy hearing that on a nice day!

    25. sarah

      Actually the land that the schoolhouses are on is usually “volunteered” by someone in the community. Or at least that is how it is here. it just makes sense to utilize the land they are paying taxes on…