I have mentioned before about obtaining produce from other sources, especially if you are unable to grow it yourself. One of the places I do so is the local Amish produce auction. This is something that I have not been able to do in previous places we lived. We were never near the Amish nor produce auctions. Actually I had never heard of them till someone at church mentioned going. I loved auctions, so adding in produce only could make it better. Right?
Before you decide to drive two hours and spend a lot of money at a produce auction, let me give you an idea of how one works, some of the benefits and some of the drawbacks. As with most things you have to decide for yourself if it is something that works for you or not.
One of the things that helps make it doable for me is that a friend of mine also likes to go and we often split the produce or plants. This is also how my stand got started. We had extra produce that we weren’t sure what to do with.
For those who have never gone to an auction like this, it can be a bit of an adjustment. Ask questions when you get there to get an idea of the set up.
The produce is placed in rows, on carts. Each cart is usually one particular grower, who is identified by a number.
Each buyer also has a number, which they must get before bidding. At our local auction, the numbers stay the same from one time to the next. Some people I know by their numbers rather than their names. That is a sure sign that I have been there too much.
Also, remember the people running the auction are Amish or Mennonites. Cash or check is probably the way to go. At least at the one here, they don’t take credit or debit cards.
One detail that is hard to figure out at first is that you are not bidding on the stack or row of items. You bid by the item. Say it is a stack of 4 boxes of 24 count cucumbers. If you bid $15, then it will actually be $15 x 4, or $60 for the stack. If you bid $8 for the hanging flower baskets and there are 5 in that row, your total will be $40 ($8×5). This seems to get people at first. The auctioneer is sometimes understanding if you bid not knowing this, but usually only once an auction and you can’t be guaranteed of his grace. They often go over the rules at first and expect people to know this detail by the time bidding starts.
I would suggest going once or twice to just listen and get a feel for the flow of the auction, what price items go for, and how it all actually works.
One of the reasons I like going is the potential for wholesale prices. I am not a large buyer. I do not have a store or two or three to supply. I do not make a living going to farmers’ markets. However, I do have a family to feed and if I can do it cheaper by going there, then I will.
I have also spent money there only to get home and regret it. For example, the strawberries I just bought.
That brings up another point. Look at the produce. Turn the tomatoes over. Open the box and look at the cucumber/zucchini/squash. Don’t just look at the ones on top. Be nice about it, but look further down in the box or even the second box in the stack. Listen to what others are saying to get a feel for certain growers or catch something they saw but you missed.
Overall I enjoy going to the auctions. You never know what will be there, what the prices will be, but they are always fun. We are close enough that at times I go just to socialize. When the end of fall arrives, it feels as if I am leaving a whole other world behind.
Michell, over at Simplify, Live, Life wrote a post last fall about her first experience going. As I have been going for a few years, it was great to hear someone else’s first time experience. It is also amazing to see how similar the set-ups are. The carts holding the produce and the boxes being used look the same even.
The Penny Pantry also shows some deals she got at the auction near her. This is a great example of what you can get at the auctions. Just keep in mind that no two times going to the auction are the same. It will depend on what the farmers bring in, who is there, and the weather. I find that on cool rainy days there are fewer people willing to go to the auction, but also less stuff. That is part of the adventure.
I will be posting some more in the coming weeks about the auction. So keep your eyes open if you are a bit more curious about it. If there is something particular you want to know about I will try to address it.
Would you go to an auction to buy produce? Have you even done it? What has been your opinion of them, if you have gone?