Amish have lived in Iowa for over 160 years. Today, large Amish communities are found near Kalona, Bloomfield, and in northeast Buchanan County just west of Hazleton. The Amish community in Buchanan County, home to approximately 800 of the state's 7,000 Amish residents, is recognized as the most conservative Old Order settlement in Iowa.
County road W13, also named the Fairbank-Amish Boulevard, runs through the heart of this Buchanan County settlement. Amish farmsteads and small businesses dot the landscape here. Livestock, horse-drawn buggies, expansive gardens and small schoolhouses can be seen from the Boulevard. On Fridays and Mondays laundry is hung out to dry—a beautiful and subtle reminder that these people choose to live without many modern amenities. The Amish here speak fluent German and English and are renowned craftsmen. Their handmade furniture, hand stitched quilts, made-from-scratch baked goods and canned delicacies inspire visitors to travel great distances.
Nearly fifty Amish businesses are open to the public. Hours of business are typically 8-5pm Monday through Friday and signs are usually posted. It is best to pick up the Amish Country Map ahead of time which lists businesses open to tourists and shows their location. If you're unsure of how to go about sightseeing and shopping, South Bend Bakery on the Boulevard is a great place to start. Open Friday and Saturday from 8-5pm, it is a popular gathering place for locals. Have a scrumptious pastry and chat over coffee about where to go next.
The Amish Boulevard is a rich cultural experience and a rare look into agricultural practices before the advent of modern machinery. Tourists are asked to respect the Amish during their visit. Photography of the residents is strictly forbidden and permission should be obtained prior to photographing shops or goods.
The Amish Country Map showing business locations is available at the Pronto Gas Station in Hazleton, Iowa, as well as the Buchanan County Tourism Center at the Illinois Central Railroad Depot in Independence. A downloadable version is available at the tourism website or the City of Hazleton website.