The Pennsylvania Dutch Experience


When you hear the words, “Pennsylvania Dutch” what comes to mind? To the surprise of many, the PA Dutch are completely unrelated to Holland, the Netherlands or the Dutch language. Rather, the PA Dutch settlers came from areas of Europe which spoke German, or Deutsch.

Despite their German heritage, these immigrants preferred to be called “Pennsylvania Dutch” instead of “Pennsylvania Germans”. Many think that the term “Pennsylvania Dutch” came due to the ignorance of those who already lived in Pennsylvania when German speaking people arrived. However, this may not be the case.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term “Dutch” covered all of those that came from any German speaking region. Today in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dutch are made up of Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, and other sub-groups.

Cultures Collide

The Pennsylvania Dutch people and the Pennsylvania Dutch way of life occupies much of, but is not limited to, the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania region; which has become a major tourist attraction.

Lucky for locals and tourists alike, much of the Pennsylvania Dutch culture can be experienced at a PA Dutch farmers market, which can be found beyond Lancaster borders. If you enjoy authenticity, a trip to a farmers market could be just the thing for you. When you decide to visit, be on the lookout for these Pennsylvania Dutch staple items:

1. Fresh Fruits and Veggies

No matter which farmers market you decide to visit, one thing is for sure – the produce is fresh. Farmers bring fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables in on a weekly basis. Aside from being fresh, the produce is local. You will know exactly where your fruits and veggies are coming from.

2. Deli Items

Delis encompass a wide variety of quality items. You are sure to come across delicious meats and cheeses, ranging from local to imported. Looking for the perfect side dish for your next picnic? Don’t miss the opportunity to pick up a quart of famous Amish macaroni salad.

3. Baked Goods

If there is one thing that those of PA Dutch decent are known for – it’s baked goods. There’s nothing more satisfying than a warm, buttery, hand rolled soft pretzel. Perhaps you prefer sweets? Then a homemade donut or whoopie pie might be just the treat.

4. Furniture

Name the wood, name the color, name the furniture – chances are, a traditional farmers market will carry it; and if they don’t, they will no doubt be able to help you place an order for exactly what you’re looking for. Maybe it’s a new outdoor piece that you’re looking for. Many markets offer hand crafted sheds, small barns, swing sets, and pavilions. Any of these items could transform your home.

5. Quilts

When you visit a farmers market, you will most likely come across a display of quilts. Quilts are unique because of the many different patterns and colors that are used to make them, and often they are handmade.

6. Odds and Ends

Aside from the food and furniture, there are many other fun items that you will come across at a farmer’s market. Many times there are stands selling handmade candles and soaps. Perhaps you rely on natural substances for your health and wellbeing; chances are, you will find many products to meet your needs. Looking for handmade toys, games, and collectables? A PA Dutch farmers market is just the place.

Typically, these farmer’s markets are open all day during the weekends, and occasionally will offer specific week day hours. Next time you are in search for fresh fruits or veggies, meats and cheeses, or even the perfect gift, consider a PA Dutch farmers market. You will surely enjoy the Pennsylvania Dutch culture experience.