Amish in Fort Oglethorpe

The Catoosa County News - - FRONT PAGE - By Ta­mara Wolk

What started out as strictly busi­ness for Danny Bishop – mak­ing runs to Amish coun­try in In­di­ana, Michi­gan and Ken­tucky for pro­duce to sell at his shop in Fort Oglethorpe – has turned into much more.

Bishop re­cently re­turned from In­di­ana, his trac­tor trailer loaded with Amish pump­kins, gourds and other prod­ucts.

“You pull up to the Amish farm,” says Bishop, “and the horse­drawn wag­ons start com­ing in from the field, full of pump­kins, veg­eta­bles, fruit. Ev­ery­one helps load the pro­duce onto the truck, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren.”

As the Amish farm­ers load, says Bishop, they sing. “The har­mony is just in­cred­i­ble. You never heard any­thing like it. They sing re­li­gious songs, folk songs, popular coun­try songs. Some­times they even yo­del.”

And when the work is all done, there’s the home-cooked food. “There’s al­ways at least a snack after we fin­ish load­ing,” says Bishop,

“cin­na­mon buns, peach pie, cof­fee. Just when you think you’ve had their best food, they bring out some­thing bet­ter.”

Over the years, Bishop has de­vel­oped friend­ships with the Amish farm­ers he buys from. “At first, I went to the Amish mar­kets. I got to know some of the farm­ers and started go­ing di­rectly to their farms to buy, and from there, we just be­came friends.”

Bishop and his fam­ily have been in­vited to at­tend Amish wed­dings. “Wed­dings are a big deal with the Amish,” he says. “The whole com­mu­nity comes out. To get ready, they’ll move 40 or 50 wood stoves into a com­mon build­ing – one of their huge work­shops, and the women will make hun­dreds of pies and cakes.”

One year, Bishop’s brother went with him and took his gui­tar along. “We had a great time. Some of our Amish friends had never seen a gui­tar played in per­son and they loved it.”

Busi­ness with the Amish has turned into a two-way street for Bishop. He looks for old farm equip­ment to take to the Old Or­der com­mu­ni­ties that live with­out elec­tric­ity. They also like cast iron and stain­less steel cook­ware, he says.

And the Amish have learned that Bishop is

al­ways on the look­out for antiques. “One day I had left a farm in my huge truck and I looked in my rearview and saw a man in a horse and buggy chas­ing me down. He was wav­ing and shout­ing, so I pulled over.” The farmer had a load of old blue glass can­ning jars he’d been sav­ing for Bishop’s visit.

Bishop’s Amish pump­kins at Picker’s Pro­duce across from the post of­fice in Fort Oglethorpe boast beau­ti­ful thick stems up to a foot long. “The farm­ers cut the pump­kins from the vines then let them sit in the field for a week so the stems can dry out.”

The pump­kins and other pro­duce come from towns with names like Ship­she­wana, Mishawaka and Wakarusa in In­di­ana, and Hop­kinsville in Ken­tucky. Bishop makes many trips a year to buy

from the Amish farm­ers in the towns.

Picker’s Pro­duce car­ries other Amish prod­ucts, too, in­clud­ing but­ter, ba­con, cheese, candy, and jams and jel­lies with names like F-R-O-G, Traf­fic Jam, and Scup­per­nong Jelly, as well as the more fa­mil­iar blue­berry, black­berry and plum jams and ap­ple and peach but­ter. They also carry a line of Amish rel­ishes and pick­led as­para­gus, beets, okra and eggs.

Any­one who has vis­ited an Amish farm might see a sim­i­lar­ity be­yond pro­duce to Picker’s in Fort Oglethorpe – things like go­ing the ex­tra mile for cus­tomers, com­mit­ment to qual­ity and old­fash­ioned friend­li­ness.

“Our cus­tomers know Echota, the girl who’s been man­ag­ing the store,” says Bishop. “She’s mov­ing onto other things in life, and my son John has been tak­ing over. He’s our new man­ager.

“John has al­ready be­come a fa­vorite with our lady cus­tomers who love to cook,” says Bishop. “They bring him pies, pre­serves, all sorts of stuff.”

For John’s part, he cares about his cus­tomers. “We try to make shop­ping here as con­ve­nient as pos­si­ble for peo­ple,” he says. “I have cus­tomers who will come early and pick out what they want, then I’ll re­frig­er­ate it for them till they get off work and can pick it up.”

John says he also has cus­tomers who call and or­der by phone, then pick up their al­ready pre­pared or­der. “They can even honk their horn and I can take it out to their car for them.”

Picker’s Pro­duce is stocked full for the fall sea­son with pump­kins, mums, straw and fall fruits and veg­eta­bles, and they plan to have Christ­mas trees again after Thanks­giv­ing.

Danny Bishop (left) and his son John run Picker’s Pro­duce on For­rest Road in Fort Oglethorpe. (Ca­toosa News photo/Ta­mara Wolk)

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