LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - A farmer in Sadsbury Township recently was awarded a $597,000 state grant to make wholesale improvements to a barnyard that one consultant described as "pretty much a mud lot."
It was the largest ag grant ever awarded to a farmer by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as Pennvest.
But what is truly eye-opening is that the state taxpayer money is going to an Amish farmer.
With increasing state and federal pressure to substantially reduce the runoff of nutrients and soil choking the Chesapeake Bay, millions of dollars are being diplomatically offered to reticent Plain-sect farmers in Lancaster County to get more conservation measures on farms.
And in a break from the past, more and more Plain-sect farmers here are willing to accept government assistance to help pay for changes being demanded of them.
To be sure, there is hardly a stampede of Amish and Old Order Mennonite farmers competing for financial aid. And in some communities, the thought of taking government money remains abhorrent.
But after generations of flat-out turning their backs on taking any government aid, the thaw in attitude by some Plain-sect farmers, mainly Amish, is striking.
"Trying to stay ahead of regulations is the main thing," observes Darren Shenk of Red Barn Consulting, an East Hempfield Township company that often acts as a middleman between government funding and Amish farmers.