Mary Swander

Mary Swander

Mary Swander is a well-published author and playwright, the executive director of AgArts, and the host of the “AgArts from Horse & Buggy Land” podcast. Find her work at She is a member of the Iowa Writers' Collaborative. Subscribe to her blog, Mary Swander's Buggy Land, here.


Who is this? A call from the Amish phone shack takes some guess work

By: - March 5, 2023

“What are you doing this afternoon?” a man’s voice came over the line on the telephone. I didn’t know if I were being harassed or this was someone friendly. He sounded friendly, but a harasser can sound that way, too. “Who is this?” I asked. “I’m wondering if you could run me into the doctor […]


Heart and soul: Home butchering is a lost art

By: - January 15, 2023

It started with a hunk of beef liver. I’d stopped by my Amish neighbors — Eli and Naomi’s Yutzy’s farm — to pay a bill I owed them. We stood in their breezeway, filled with old chore clothes, jackets, caps, overalls and five-gallon plastic buckets. The Yutzys had begun their butchering for the season, a […]


Only one thing dumber than a turkey

By: - November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving is big business in Buggy Land. My Amish neighbors Abram and Bertha raise turkeys — free range, no chemicals or hormones — hot items for Iowa City folks who like to drive down here to pick up their fresh birds the night before their holiday dinners. The Yutzys call all their grown children back […]


An invitation to an Amish party: Bring your hammer

By: - October 13, 2022

Abram Yutzy dismantled my neighbor Donna’s library with just a hammer, board by board, a huge room that she’d added on some 30 years ago. The library had once housed Donna’s husband Stu’s vast collection of books. Then, after 25 years, their marriage dissolved. Stu took off for California.  The books went to the local […]


The Ballad of the Freemartin Town P.O.

By: - September 15, 2022

We had faith in Faith. We knew the Freemartin Town post office ran like any other local business, so we pulled together and supported it. But our previous postmasters stayed three months, maybe a whole year if we were lucky. One up and left in the middle of the night and our Budgets (the Amish […]


Farmers and artists: Strange bedfellows?

By: - August 27, 2022

Farmers and artists?  Many think that these two are strange bedfellows. But Midwestern winters are long and farmers are creative. And handy. They often find themselves in the barn or garage after chores are done, tinkering with the objects that surround them. The farmer may be the man (or woman) who feeds our bodies with […]


Nobody talks about the Hunkerdown Bridge

By: - August 19, 2022

Right now, you don’t even want to mention the name Hunkerdown. Two words: the bridge stops all conversation. People sigh, roll their eyes and look the other way. But it wasn’t always this way. A hundred years ago, the Hunkerdown Bridge connected our two adjacent towns. Farmers loaded up their wagons and brought their grain to […]