SHIPSHEWANA, Ind. — Life in Amish country moves at a slower
pace than other parts of the state. Horse-drawn carriages frequent the roads,
and visitors casually walk the streets of Shipshewana.
But on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the pace picks up, and
traffic is very busy for the small town. That is because the Shipshewana Flea
Market is open on those days, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., attracting 900 vendors and
herds of visitors.
The flea market is a space where farmers from Indiana and
Michigan can sell their crops alongside vendors that sell baked goods, crafts
and a variety of other goods.
“We’ve been around for a very long time, since the 1920s,”
said Rene Hostetler, marketing director for the Shipshewana Auction and Flea
Market. “It started fairly small and has grown. It has been estimated that we
see approximately 250,000 visitors here a season, May through October. That’s a
lot of people for a very small town.”
Farmers sell a selection of fruits, vegetables, honey, meats
and cheeses. Baked goods such as breads and pies also are popular items for
The market gives people an opportunity to interact with
farmers and learn about the food they are buying hands on.
“I think that with the field-to-table movement, our farmers
market aisles have grown to be more popular,” Hostetler said. “It’s not like you
don’t know where it comes from. Here, you can actually go out there and talk to
the guy who grows it.
“I think people are more conscious of what they are buying,
of the quality of it, now. We have a lot of people who come and buy a bushel of
whatever is fresh, and they preserve it. My experience personally has been that
the prices are better, if you buy in bulk like that.”
The local culture is infused with Amish heritage. According
to Hostetler, farming is a huge part of Amish communities and lifestyle.
“You go past any Amish home and you pass a huge garden — and
not just food, but beautiful flower gardens, too,” she said. “They also grow a
lot of corn, tomatoes, onions and greens. They grow potatoes and are big on
noodles that they make homemade.”
Hostetler said that visiting the market is a good way to
learn more about Amish traditions and culture.
“It’s a good place to come because first of all they welcome
it,” she said. “You can rub shoulders with them anywhere. They shop here. They
live here. They are vendors and also buyers.”
The Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market also includes an
inn, livestock auction, RV park, antique gallery, restaurant and a livestock
There’s no shortage of activities in the area. Visitors can
take advantage of hiking trails, kayaking adventures and a lot of shopping
nearby, as well.
“We encourage people to come have the Shipshewana
experience,” Hostetler said. “It’s an experience unlike anything else. You find
a little bit of everything out there. We have fine jewelry, and we also have
what people call ‘dollar store’ items.
“It’s fun to go out there and smell it all, see it all and
feel it all. It’s just a total experience. We have people who come regularly,
some local people that come every week. Then we also have the bus tours, and
they come from all over the United States and Canada.”
Farmers who are interested in being a vendor at the flea
market should call (260) 768-4129 for more information.
The market is flexible, and vendors do not have to commit to
an entire season. They can sell on a specific date or time period that’s best
for the seasonality of their product.