Saturday, June 19, 2010

Amish Auction.

One of the many memorable highlights of the week we spent on Earth Song farm was the trip to an Amish Auction, held 3 days a week, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Homerville, Ohio. It usually starts in early April and runs sometimes almost till Thanksgiving, when a lot of home baked goodies and seasonal decor is being sold.
That day we came to buy freshly picked, Amish grown organic produce to bring to the local farmers' markets to sell to people who are too busy making money during the week.
As I was watching Amish buggies lining up on the back parking lot, my memory cells were going into overdrive trying to soak in and remember as much as I could. Farmer Steve threw in a few facts later on and was very patient answering all my "I want to know it all" questions.

Mirek's estimate is that the size of the auction warehouse is about 8,000sq. ft. On average there would be around 400-500 buyers showing up, thus bringing the prices to a higher level. The day of our visit there were only about 200 buyers, which meant there were some great deals to be made (not for the Amish, though).

There are 3 buying areas in the auction house. Family area, where smaller quantities are being sold (a lot of people coming to visit and camp in this part of Ohio enjoy not only going to the auction as an entertainment trip, plus all the fresh local produce they can buy). Farmers area, where local farmers can boost their stands on farmers' markets by adding some of the Amish grown produce. And then there is a "super bulk area", where the buyers for larger stores and supermarkets get great prices on all things seasonal.

In average there would be 50 Amish men, women, kids and babies in arms. That day the male Amish population was busy in the selling/packing area. And the Amish women and girls were mostly lined up against the wall, watching what's going on at the auction, and talking to each other in Pennsylvania Dutch. They were all dressed in hand sewn dresses, made of some kind of heavy material. I think they wore linen, because only in this fabric (or cotton) you would be more or less fine in the intensifying heat of the summer.
The dresses did not look like silk, which would be a better choice in a hot weather, I think. For the reason, unknown to me, the color preference was either dark green, blue or black. You could not see any body flesh, as the sleeves were long, collars were high, and the length of the dresses was almost down to the ground. You could see black socks and black sturdy shoes. All the hair was neatly tucked in and the head was covered with a black cap. To make the dress fit the figure, the pins were used around the waist to straighten all possible misfits of a hand made dress.
The little girls were dressed just like the rest of the women. Only their dusty bare feet were seen under the dresses. The babies in arms looked like Amish dolls.

All the men wore the same color. Blue shirts and pants, two different shades of blue with a vest over the shirt. Almost all of them had beards and longer hair seen under the brims of a hand made straw hat.

This particular auction house has been in operation for about 8 years.
How it works in detail it would be a lot for me to write. But to give you a general idea I will describe in a nutshell. Each family and each buyer gets assigned a number. There is an Amish man with a pen and a clipboard writing down the numbers, as the announcer is making me wonder how they do those sounds with her tongue while moving from one spot to another, selling the produce the auction style. After all the bids are placed, the buyer pays at the auction office (by cash or check only) and the Amish family gets their money for the sold produce. The auction house charges 10-20% fee from the Amish. The buying folks are in a more advantageous position since there is no food tax in Ohio. Flowers are taxed 6%.

That Friday farmer Steve bought for $350. He would resell the produce for around $1000. And the fresh red and black raspberries, black cherries, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, corn, yellow squash, green zucchinis, cabbage, peas and other great food items will be very popular among the farmer's market customers.

In about two hours all the bids were placed. The hard working Amish boys got busy packing their sold produce into vans and trucks. I watched how one Amish boy was lifting and carrying 20 lbs. bags with corn with the speed of a lightning. My estimate he was not older than 8.

Do you think it is fair to buy a box of organic zucchinis that so many backs toiled on, little hands watered and picked, for $1.00? I don't think so. And neither does farmer Steve. That is why when he gets fortunate and buys produce really cheaply just because there were no other buyer interested in it, he resells it on the farmers market for a good price and generously brings an extra bonus to the Amish family.

I think only if you try to raise food yourself you can appreciate all the efforts that go into the process, you will understand that money is just a paper, the vegetables are a lot of labor and sweat.


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