Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today's is written by ACM national agriculture writer Chris McLennan.
Cars and trucks slowed to a careful crawl on a busy US highway to allow a quaint procession of horse-drawn buggies to dawdle across the road.
It was the first real sign of the respect fellow Pennsylvanians had for the unusual band of people who had settled in their midst.
These are the Amish.
On a recent post-COVID holiday to New York City in the US, my wife and I signed up for a few day tours to satisfy our long curiosity about such oddities.
I was a little worried about being party to a freak show but the Amish didn't mind cashing in tourist fare.
The Amish are a traditional Christian group who still live and farm in a time capsule - without electricity or machines, uniformly dressed in plain clothing, disciples of the simple life.
They move around their farms by foot or horse.
Tourists like myself come to Lancaster County to the west of modern Philadelphia to marvel at their obedience to the simple life - more than 30,000 of them live here.
The Amish have been part of the rural landscape here for 300 years after fleeing religious persecution in Europe for the land of the free.
They have Swiss German and French origins.
They have adopted a language known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Their long history in the county explained the patience of the drivers on the highway as they make way for the buggies.
These buggies can slow traffic to a crawl when there is no room for passing, no one seems bothered.
Modern agriculture has left these self-sufficient farmers in its wake yet these mild-mannered folk continue to thrive.
The Amish grow and store most of their food and trade it for other staples they cannot grow.
Fertiliser use is limited, mostly relying on manure from stock.
Chemical sprays are largely frowned on for broadacre use, preferring companion planting for weed and insect control.
Their fields are still tilled by manual labour and horse power, livestock wait out the winter snows in barns yet the Amish are heavily involved in their local communities.
Women are dressed plainly in long frocks with bonnets, men in dark suits with long beards.
We were told the Amish are encouraged to have large families, often more than 10 children and more.
They are heavily involved in construction work, we were also told.
With no televisions, internet or radio - they apply themselves to craft which is sold at local markets.
Milk from Amish dairy farms is sold exclusively to the giant chocolate maker, Hersheys.
Corn and other grains are grown in the warmer weather and stored to feed stock in the winters.
The farms generally grow the same crops each year - whether it is tobacco, wheat, corn, hay, soybeans, barley, and fodder for livestock.
What one farm doesn't grow, they will trade with neighbouring Amish in a centuries-old practice.
Sowing and harvesting is a communal activity, leap-frogging from farm to farm.
An Amish man was seen at a week-day farmers' market in Union Square, New York City, selling organic produce.
Our guide to an Amish farm was a Mennonite, a denomination closely related to the Amish.
She drove our tourist-laden buggy and explained the Amish acceptance of outsider curiosity as just another income stream.
The farm we visited sold home-made lemonade and over-salted pretzels and was also involved in the apparently thriving business of breeding guinea pigs.
We were surprised to see lights on in the enormous old barn which was due to limited adoption of solar power - any connection to a power grid was strictly forbidden.
The Amish farms are small in comparison to the American standard but heavily worked using traditional practices.
They have their own schools, usually located close by so children can walk there each day.
It was well worth the visit, who among us hasn't occasionally considered the merits of a slower life.
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