As an uber city gal, the words "off the grid" evoke waves of anxiety. But the simple rhythms of rural life quickly take hold as I travel by horse and buggy at Yoder's Amish Home in Millersburg, a tiny slip of a town located in Holmes County, which is home to Ohio's largest Amish population.
I'm touring the 116-acre working farm and its simple 19th-century homes, red bank-style barn and a schoolhouse where Amish children still attend until eighth grade. Horses and cows graze in a nearby field. Inside the homes, I see the simplicity of Amish life — no clutter and junk, no adornment — but certainly beauty.
The tour ends at the farm's bakery. Its tables of hot-out-of-the-oven breads, cookies and rolls convince me any diet plans can be put on hold.
I meet Michelle Yoder, who tells me her father-in-law was Old Order Amish. It was his background that inspired the family, including her husband Trent, to educate people about Amish life, culture and faith. I am instantly smitten with the bakery's jars of pickles and red beets made from recipes long used by Trent's grandmother and buy more than a few to sample and give as gifts.
I'm compelled to ask Yoder what it's like living off the grid, and she smiles serenely.
"It's wonderful knowing all your neighbors," she tells me. "When we bale hay, all of our Amish neighbors come down to help. That's a feeling of belonging that stays with you."
After the farm, I head to Heini's Cheese Chalet, which was opened by Swiss immigrant Hans Dauwalder in the 1940s and still gets its milk delivered daily from Amish farmers. With 95 cheeses and spreads to sample at the small-Ohio-town-meets-Switzerland shop, I start with their best-selling Lacy Baby Swiss before trying the Brie and blue cheese and the more esoteric Bombay curry and apple raisin cinnamon cream cheese spread.
Later in the day at the Farmstead Restaurant in Berlin — another Amish-centric town a few miles down the road from Millersburg — lunching on broasted chicken, real mashed potatoes and a slice of black raspberry pie, I watch as men in black hats and women wearing bonnets, laugh and chatter as they eat their meals. It is like another time.
If You Go
Yoder's Amish Home, 6050 state Route 515, Millersburg, 330-893-2541, yodersamishhome.com
Heini's Cheese Chalet 6005 County Road 77, Millersburg, 800-253-6636, heinis.com
Farmstead Restaurant 4757 Township Road 366, Berlin, 330-893-4600, berlinfarmstead.com
The 15-mile Holmes County Trail takes all-purpose to a new level — one side of the running, walking and biking trail is unpaved to accommodate Amish horse-drawn buggies. The trail also hosts part of the Amish Country Challenge, which features 25-, 60- or 100-mile bike rides throughout Holmes County. holmestrail.com
Don't even try to resist the delicious hot cinnamon rolls or pies made with locally grown fruit at Miller's Bakery, which was serving treats since 1967. Stock up on the Amish bakery's wheat, oatmeal, cinnamon raisin or iced raisin breads, and its much beloved doughnuts and black raspberry or peach fry pies. 4280 Township Highway 356, Millersburg, 330-893-3002
Surrounded by a gently rolling landscape of ponds, gardens and a gazebo, the family-owned Guggisberg Swiss Inn offers guided horseback rides and a recently opened winery on the premises. Everyone who stays in one of the inn's 23 rooms is treated to a hot Amish breakfast casserole each morning. $129.95-$199.95 per night; 5025 state Route 557, Millersburg, 330-893-3600, guggisbergswissinn.com