By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
This is the fifth in a summer series of interesting places to visit in Northeast Mississippi.
RANDOLPH – A trip to Mississippi’s sole Amish community offers an abundance of homemade goods and farm-fresh produce but, perhaps even more fascinating, a rare glimpse into the past.
Randolph Amish settlers in rural Pontotoc County are among the most conservative of the famously technology-resistant Christian group, according to Amish America, an online resource about the Amish.
Its members dress plainly. Women wear bonnets; men straw hats. They eschew modern devices, relying instead on manual labor and horsepower to earn a living.
And while they otherwise keep to themselves, this community of about two dozen families endures a daily culture clash by selling wares to car-driving, shorts-wearing, iPod-toting strangers.
Most days except Sunday, the Amish open their doors to a steady stream of shoppers. Signs perched at the end of their driveways announce which products you’ll find. Among the usual wares are baked goods and jams, freshly picked produce, hand-made rugs, original furniture, sorghum molasses, homemade candles and custom horse shoes.
Prices are reasonable: For $20 you can get a dozen cookies, a jar of peanut butter, a pound of potatoes, an aloe plant, a basket of grapes, and a jar of dill pickles. All fresh.
Some families sell products in sheds near their driveways, some inside barns and others on the back porch where their plainly-clad children tend chickens or sweep floors.
It’s not rare to see young boys with long hair plowing the fields while their sisters manage a produce stand. Parents hover nearby.
And while they welcome the steady stream of shoppers – sometimes as many as 200 daily, said one Amish teen – they prefer not to be photographed.
The Randolph families settled in Pontotoc County in 1995, and are affiliated with the Swartzentruber Amish, “a subgroup within Old Order Amish society (that) … use more limited technology, dress more plainly, and typically have a lower standard of living than more progressive Amish,” according to Amish America.
“Swartzentruber Amish do not permit automobile travel except in emergencies,” Amish America said. Nor do they “have in-home plumbing or hot water.”
But they do have a sense of peace and serenity that has long since disappeared from the modern world. And that alone is worth the trip.
TO VISIT THE AMISH SETTLEMENT in Pontotoc County, from Tupelo:
• Take Highway 6 West
• Exit at Downtown Pontotoc/Longview
• Turn left on Oxford Street
• Continue onto Highway 9 South
• Turn left on Highway 341 South
• Turn right on Salmon Road (County Road 138)
• Go about one mile until you see handmade signs for Amish goods