Mennonites; manure; clover; crop rotation; forebay bank barn; Germany; Switzerland; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; fertilizer; cattle


Anabaptists have a strong history of agricultural innovation and care for the land. Their innovative spirit was forged out of persecution, migration, and the need to survive in challenging circumstances. This article examines the agricultural practices of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Swiss and South German Anabaptist farmers and those of eighteenth-century Anabaptist immigrants to Pennsylvania. European Anabaptist tenant farmers distinguished themselves by their family-centered mixed agriculture and their investment in both the land (using manure, lime, gypsum, and crop rotation to improve the soil) and livestock (improving natural meadows and planting pastures for fodder, maintaining clean barns, practicing confinement feeding, and carefully caring for the animals). Pennsylvania Anabaptists cleared the land they bought and built sturdy barns, fences, and houses; planted orchards and vegetable gardens; planted or improved meadows for fodder; collected manure to use as a soil amendment; utilized family labor; and sold their surplus at market. The history of Anabaptist experimentation and adaptation provides inspiration for how we might face twenty-first-century challenges with tenacity, innovation, and care for land and animals. [Abstract by author.]


I would like to thank Caroline Brock, Steven Reschly, Cory Anderson, and the two anonymous reviewers for their encouragement, helpful feedback, and careful editing. I express my appreciation to the staff of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society Library and the Mennonite Historical Library for their assistance in research.