The Cream of the Crop: Amish Country in NE Michigan

Dairy, Find Local Food, Molly Stepanski

Michigan has long been an epicenter of Amish settlement, with the first establishments dating back to 1895. Today, Michigan’s Amish population numbers approximately 11,000, with the state’s 86 church districts strewn over 35 communities across the state. One of the oldest of these settlements is in Mio, Oscoda County. Remnants of Mio’s logging industry left this land perforated by stumps. But, the original Amish community at Mio was founded in 1900 by Ohioan pioneers that used this to their advantage. According to historian David Luthy, “Few, if any settlements grew as rapidly as did the one in Oscoda County.” Luthy say this is because “local land agents attracted both Old Order Amish and more progressive Amish-Mennonites” to a region flushed with land available for $2-5/acre.

Looking Back

In NE Michigan, the farmers dealt with a much shorter growing season. However, the Mio Amish “preferred this to the constant thawing as was the case in more southern parts of the state.  They felt their winter was healthier and nicer, and they enjoyed using a sleigh instead of a buggy.” The Mio settlement thrived with bumper crops of clover, hay, peas, corn, potatoes, buckwheat, and other crops for many years. But over time, as more of the Old Order church members joined the more progressive Amish-Mennonite congregation or moved away, the Mio community’s Old Order Amish settlement went extinct in 1954.

(Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Then, sixteen years later, a new group of Amish would settle in Mio, founding what is now Michigan’s fourth-oldest Amish community. However, with a population of just 400 individuals after 40 years, the present-day community hasn’t seen the growth of the original one. However, with all the ingenuity coming out of that area, that may be changing in the coming years.

Looking Ahead

In the fall of 2019, The Farmers’ Creamery will be opening to the delight of the surrounding community. This completely Amish owned and run facility in Mio will offer 100% grass-fed cream, milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt, and eggnog, as well as have a market and bakery onsite. Recent studies have shown that milk from grass-fed cows “has more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional milk. This fatty acid found in dairy and beef, is linked to protection from colorectal and breast cancers, diabetes and heart disease.” So, this new market will not only nourish the community, but utilize grazing practices that replenish the land. That’s a business we can’t wait for in our part of the Mitt!

The Farmers’ Creamery is located at 50 West Kittle Road in Mio. You can learn more about the facility by contacting Nathan Hochstetler at 989-826-8368 or via email at nathanfarmerscreamery@gmail.com. You can also read more about The Amish In America: Settlements That Failed, 1840-1960 by David Luthy.

Molly Stepanski is the Local Food Coordinator for Northeast Michigan. She enjoys digging, planting, and hiking in the dirt, cooking up her own recipes, drinking wine, and eating lots of fresh, seasonal produce (and anything deep-fried, in accordance with her southern heritage). She owns and operates Presque Isle Farm with her family and is a founding member of the Huron Shores Local Food Coalition. Contact her at molly@localdifference.org.

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