Shipshewana and the LaGrange County area are home to one of the largest Amish communities in the United States. Known for their simple, plain and rustic lifestyle, visitors are drawn to the area to learn more about the people who believe neighbors and relatives are a blessing from God. Those values are reflected in how they do business, as well as how they live their personal lives.
Russell and Allyse Yoder own and manage Yoder Popcorn, 0920 N. State Road 5, a family-owned business since 1936. They have 10 varieties of popcorn and are best known for their premium white and premium yellow, Tiny Tender Yellow, Tiny Tender White and Lady Finger. Most of the varieties are grown, harvested and processed on two farms they own.
“Anyone can eat Lady Finger because it has no hull,” says Allyse. “The elderly, kids with braces, and those with diverticulitis and other health problems can eat it. What sets us apart is the quality of our popcorn. It’s always fresh, pops up nicely, and has a good taste. People always comment on the good taste.”
Customers can buy popcorn, apparel, bowls and buckets, and gift baskets at the retail store or at yoderpopcorn.com. They ship products all over the world and have a large customer following, she says.
The business has grown, especially since the couple took over as owners in 2018 and moved the store to its current location. Russell is the fourth-generation owner. The couple is not Amish, but values and respects the lifestyles, Allyse says.
Dustin Yoder is a fourth-generation co-owner, along with his father, two aunts, and two brothers-in-law, of Yoder’s Meat & Cheese, 435 S. Van Buren St., Shipshewana.
The store specializes in all-natural grass and grain-fed beef, pork, chicken, lamb and buffalo. They also have a full line of in-house smoked meats, cheeses and artisan foods. The business opened in 1960 as a custom processing center and expanded through the years to become a retail business.
“Quality and consistency are everything to us,” Dustin says. “We have an edge over everyone else because we are in control of the whole process from start to finish, from raising the animals to processing the animals to stocking the retail shelf for the customer. We dry age the meat, which releases flavor and tenderizes it. Then, we flash-freeze it, so when a homeowner pulls meat out of their freezer, it’s a much better quality and fresher than you would get at a grocery store.”
The business started out as a custom butchering and processing facility in Goshen. At one time, there were two locations, one in Goshen and one in Shipshewana, for about 18 years. When a fire broke out at the Goshen plant in 1992, the family moved the entire business to the current location. In 2003, they built the current processing facility and retail store. They own about 450 acres, which includes a second farm purchased in 2012 to keep up with the growing demand for their products.
“Our meat is as natural as it can get,” Dustin says. “We don’t use byproducts in the feed, or antibiotics or hormones, to induce weight gain. We are very particular about how the animals are raised and fed because we can change the flavor and tenderness by how they are handled and what they eat.”
His customer base is about a 200-mile radius of the store, but many people travel farther to purchase their products. Soon, people will be able to place orders at yodersmeatandcheese.com.
The Amish lifestyle is dictated by the “Ordnung,” a German word meaning order, which differs from one community to another. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another. There are few generalities true for all Amish. Most, though, have no home phones, electricity or computers at home.
The various communities have different rules and regulations, but they all subscribe to some of the basic characteristics of Amish lifestyle, like dressing in plain and neutral-colored clothes, traveling by horse and buggy, farming with horse-drawn equipment, and being family oriented. Non-Amish live among the Amish.
“What it boils down to is that it’s not about what you do or don’t do, being Amish is more about what’s in your heart,” Dustin says.