by Diana Barnum
The Farmers Produce Auction at Mt. Hope, OH has
basically the same type of building as the 30 plus other wholesale produce
auctions spread across 16 states. However, each auction tends to carve out
its own niche to fit the area buyers and sellers.
With Farmers Produce
Auction being in the heart of the largest Amish Population nationwide, the
many growers can sell what they sow in an efficient way. “This one is
patterned after one in Pennsylvania, but took on a character of its own,”
said Fred Finney. Finney’s role is an advisory board member at Farmers
Produce Auction along with selling fruits and vegetables he grows on his
Moreland Fruit Farm, in Wooster, OH.
Finney explained how a few local
produce growers visited the Pennsylvania auction in 1994. Interest was
sparked in this area to get an auction up and running to help sustain
farming. Milking cows and raising hogs no longer paid the bills for the
What started out as a meeting of 12 farmers around the
kitchen table of a grower’s farmhouse in 1994, has evolved and grown to a
building and market for many farmers to help them survive on the family
farm. The auction building is easily accessible from State Route 241 and
also County Road 235. This provides easy routes for buyers as well as
growers. The auction floor space has grown from 7,200 square feet in 1995
to 24,000 square feet in 2003 to accommodate the lines and pallets of
fresh produce brought in each sale day. A drive-thru platform situated
between two lanes of wagons, trucks and trailers loaded with produce is
used by all growers that prefer to have their produce sold from their
vehicle instead of putting it in rows on the auction floor.
is tagged with the grower’s identification number and amount of product in
the lot. Buyers learn to know each grower number by his quality. Buyers
also have a permanent number so a grower can demonstrate his concern and
follow up after auctions by approaching past buyers and asking how they
liked their produce purchase. Growers can then make adjustments to meet
customers’ future needs.
The number system also helps the buyers. For
example, if fictitious seller #422, placed rotten apples in the bottom of
his bushels and layer his best fruit on top, the buyers would find out
after their purchase. Since they know this seller’s number, they wouldn’t
place future orders or buy auction items from that seller.
differences between the Pennsylvania produce auction and Mt. Hope’s
produce auction revolve around the buyer. At the Pennsylvania auction, all
produce items were loose. After the auction, sellers were responsible for
placing their produce in the buyers’ packages. However at Mt. Hope’s
auction, all produce must be packaged in standard containers, and placed
on standard 4 way pallets. All packing and pallets are sold by the Mullets
to the growers.
The Mullet family shares the work load getting outside
help as needed depending on the amount of produce in season. Running and
managing the Produce Auction is only natural as the Mullets also own the
Mt. Hope Livestock Auction.
This advantage makes it easier for buyers
to buy, get loaded and leave. “Remember, these buyers have stores and farm
markets; they want to get this load to the market or warehouse and sell
it.” Finney says, “We have lots of pallet jacks, dock spaces and forklifts
to speed up the loading and unloading process.”
“Our buyers love to buy
from the drive-thru because they know the produce is fresh. As a matter of
fact, on a rainy morning, the horse drawn wagons loaded with sweet corn
can be tracked back to the muddy field where they just picked
Sellers are mainly from a five county area. Buyers travel from
largely a five-state area; Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and
Auctions generally begin in Mid-April, one day per week.
Frequency picks up in May with auctions two days per week. From Mid-June
through September auctions are held four days a week, then back to two
days a week in October, and one day a week in November, before closing
down for winter around Thanksgiving. The schedule can vary with holidays;
calendars of auction dates are available upon request.
A daily market
report is faxed to all participants listing produce by codes, lots and
prices, logged in high, low and average columns.
This year Finney
reported a bad year for diseases in a lot of vine crops. But overall
prices were reported pretty good, especially with the hurricane knocking
out a lot of produce in the East Coast region.
“That’s one of the bad
things about farming,” explained Finney. “We have a good year when someone
else in the country has a bad year. An ideal situation would be basic,
moderate pricing ranges across the board.”
Members of Farmers Produce
Auction Advisory Board meet with buyers and growers on a regular monthly
basis. With Finney as their liaison, the group focuses on one of their top
concerns: how to help make things more efficient for buyers in providing
them with top quality fresh produce.
For more information, contact
Farmers Produce Auction, P.O. Box 101, Mt. Hope, OH 44660, 330-674-7661
(ph) or fax inquiries to 330-674-7665 (fax).