Recently we were honored to sit in the early morning sunshine at Rebecca’s Bistro and visit with Eli and Gloria Yoder, owners and founders of Yoder’s Amish Home, located at 6050 State Route 515, just north of Walnut Creek, Ohio.
While sharing stories of the entrepreneurial adventures interwoven in the 53 years of their married life, it was evident they share a steady determination. They keep pushing forward, trying new things, and they never turn back. Listening to their conversation about the multiple businesses they own and oversee, I wondered how they keep going but when I asked Gloria if she ever gets tired she shook her head and replied, “No. If I’m home for half a day I get bored.”
Eli Yoder and Gloria McClure grew up in Mt. Hope in the 1940’s.Eli was the boy-next-door, albeit the Amish boy-next-door and Gloria’s family attended the Mt. Hope United Methodist Church. Gloria laughed and said, “People in Mt. Hope like to say Eli ‘fell over the fence’ when he fell in love and married the much younger English girl-next-door.” But Gloria is quick to say she always felt welcomed and accepted by Eli’s Amish family, his friends, and the Amish community, even though she was raised in the Methodist faith.
Because of their seven year age difference, while growing up Eli didn’t really give much thought to the little girl next door until he was away from home serving in the Army and stationed in Panama. Being neighborly and supporting a local boy that had been drafted during the Viet Nam War, Gloria sent a letter to Eli. In 1966, when he returned home from Panama, his memory of her letter prompted Eli to ask Gloria out on a date and two years later they were married. They will celebrate 53 years of marriage on June 8, 2021, and what an exciting life they have shared!
Even before they were married, Eli was in business, operating Trail Feed Service, but Gloria had dreams too! As a teenager, Gloria dreamt of owning a restaurant. Combining their ideas and dreams with ambition and energy they created a life as entrepreneurial business owners.
Owning Trail Feed Service included mobile feed grinding and the couple often traveled to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for parts and repairs on their grinder. Noting the tourism activity in Lancaster County, they developed an idea to open a homestead in Holmes County, offering tours of a homestead while sharing authentic and accurate information about the Amish traditions, culture, and lifestyle. In preparation for creating their own Amish farm tour, they took every farm tour offered in the Lancaster area, taking note of what they did and did not want to include in a similar experience they were hoping to create in Holmes County.
The actual process began in 1972 when they purchased the property that is now Yoder’s Amish Home. They began by raising hogs and Belgian horses on the farm and while Gloria was enthusiastic about living in the old farmhouse on the property, Eli wasn’t convinced. Gloria conceded when it became apparent they could not agree on how to remodel the main house on the property and Eli was certain it would be far too costly to modernize the house.
It would be eleven years before the farm officially became Yoder’s Amish Home, opening for tours in 1983. The hog barn and chicken house became a gift shop and the house Gloria had envisioned as her home was now filled with authentic Amish furniture and local Amish ladies spent the day in the kitchen baking bread, cookies and pies which customers were delighted to purchase. The barn, also open to guests, was brimming with farm animals. With plenty of cute calves, cuddly kittens, puppies, bunnies, and peeps, it truly was a working farm.
Asked about the first day they opened for business Gloria replied, “We had three customers on our first day. We took in $16.50.” It might not have been the beginning they pictured, but the couple did not give up. Thirty-eight years later, Yoder’s Amish Home welcomes thousands of guests each year.
Over the years, Eli and Gloria have felt fortunate to have wonderful employees. Henry Stutzman was their first tour guide and Mose Kaufman was busy giving buggy rides. Both men were Amish, providing accurate and insightful answers to the many questions guests asked over the years.
Mary Kaufman and Mary Miller were longtime bakers at Yoder’s Amish Home. Known in the Amish community as ‘Mose Mary’ and ‘Bill Mary’ they brought along their own recipes that are still being used by the bakers at Yoder’s Amish Home. Gloria mentioned that Mose Mary’s orange cookies are fabulous.
Because Gloria was not raised in an Amish home, when they first opened she did not feel qualified to give tours but finally, after studying and training under the watchful eye of a local Amish man, she took the plunge and started leading the tours of the houses. Gloria shared, “The first Saturday I did tours on my own, we took in $400. That was a good day.”
Today, when you visit Yoder’s Amish Home, you will find their staff working in the barn, the flower gardens, the patch and the spring vegetable garden. Inside they will be baking in the kitchen and doing everyday household chores typically done in an Amish home.
In the barn you’ll find the animals calmly going about their own routines with baby animals enjoying the warmth of the season. Above all, you will notice there is a peaceful quiet about the place, even when busy with visitors.
Reflecting on the experience Yoder’s Amish Home offers, Gloria says, “I want to share our heritage with people. I want them to bring a picnic and share the quiet. We want our guests to have an authentic Amish home experience.”
When asked if folks really can come and have a picnic there she said, “Yes, absolutely! We want people to enjoy the farm.”
In 1988, Eli and Gloria built a new home and moved onto the property with their son, Trent. After growing up on the farm, Trent and his wife Michelle also live on the farm and oversee the daily operation of Yoder’s Amish Home, adding ten to twelve employees during their busy season. Always thinking of the next big project, ten years after opening Yoder’s Amish Home, in 1993 the couple opened Mrs. Yoder’s Amish Kitchen in Mt. Hope. Another thriving business, Mrs. Yoder’s is a dining destination for folks from far and away as well as a place the locals frequent.
Gloria also operates the Auction Barn Restaurant located in the Mt. Hope Auction Barn. All this could only be done by two people that seem tireless; two that are always ready for another challenge and for 53 years they have taken on each challenge together. Eli and Gloria nod in agreement and say, “We have been in business at Yoder’s Amish Home for almost 40 years.
Sharing an authentic experience was our goal. We are happy with the result and where the farm is today. We feel satisfied with what we accomplished. We have met a lot of great people and made life-long friendships.”
Just as for many others, 2020 was a challenge for Yoder’s Amish Home but they are ready to open in May 2021 and are hoping for a busy year, sharing their farm and heritage with every guest that comes their way.
Yoder’s Amish Home is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm. While on the homestead tour the houses, the barn, and the schoolhouse. Enjoy the flower gardens. Buy their delicious baked goods. Take a buggy ride. Cuddle a baby animal. And enjoy the peace and quiet simplicity that is truly a slice of life in Amish Country.
Walnut Creek is centrally located in Ohio’s Amish Country, about two hours from Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh. We’re easily accessible by I-77 from the east, Route 30 from the North and Route 62 from the south.