Back in October, we had harvested several bushel of organic fingerling potatoes. We had more than we could reasonability expect to sell at the local markets. What did we do with the surplus? We decided to look for a produce auction. However in our area, like so many other things, we don’t have a close-by option due to our remote location. And, when we were looking at the end of October, our choices were further limited, because most of the regional produce auctions had already ended.
One auction that we found within a hundred-mile radius, and ran to the end of October, was the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction. One might think with a name like that, it would be located somewhere near Buffalo, New York. Well no, actually the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction is located south of Williamsport in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. So, we filled out the registration form on-line and waited for a reply. The quick reply came back from the operations manager with the consignor number and the message asked if we had any questions about consigning products. We did have some questions: “Do you have an organic produce section? Is there much organic produce sold at your auction? “. The response was that “We do not have an organic section. We would be glad to sell them for you but the organic label does not add value at our auction.” Those weren’t the answers we were looking for.
Doing some more looking, we found the Genesee Valley Produce Auction in Centerville, New York. It had a certified-organic area and held auctions on Tuesday’s and Friday’s through October. Long story short, we took some of our fingerling potatoes there to run through the auction.
And so, as first time consignors of USDA certified produce, it was a learning experience. One might wonder; what is a produce auction? It is many things. For one thing, it’s a large building with lots of floor-space, and with open sides. Lesson one: dress warm for it is likely to be very crisp in an open air building in October. Lesson two: look for painted lines on the floor, forming long rectangles. The color of these lines mean something. Pallets of produce are placed inside these designated spaces; for example green lines are for certified organic (Ah-ha moment). The other colors were for conventional produce, and all had rules as to how much produce was being sold per pallet; full-skids or half-skids or some had a minimum number of boxes per pallet. The white area was for NOT locally grown. So, we divided our bushels of fingerling potatoes onto six pallets of small lots in the green section, attached tags and waited for the auction.
Before the auction began, there was time to meet bidders; as a number of people had questions and were very interested in the fingerling potatoes we had brought to auction. This was a good time to exchange information, do some marketing and network with other growers and buyers; all of which we did. We heard that we should have come in September when there were the “big buyers”, who would have “snapped-up” those organic fingerling potatoes. So, we learned that we were late to market.
Does anyone understand the auctioneer’s rapid-fire cadence? Kind of hard to follow; but when slowed way down to a novice’s level of comprehension, it’s “One dollar, now 2, now 2, will you give me 2? Two dollars, now 3, now 3, will you give me 3?” But, in real time speed, it was a learning curve. Also, are those bids per pallet or per bag or lot? Another learning curve to climb. Anyways and regardless of lack of familiarity, in a matter of minutes, it was over. It turned out that there were several bidders who bought the six pallets. Some went to Buffalo (the town not the auction) to be sold at city markets, and some were purchased by an Amish family, who had a potato crop failure and needed a winter larder of potatoes. And, the other bidders were probably also buying in bulk for their winter storage needs.
The overall experience at this auction was positive. There were of course, the familiarity challenges to overcome; like finding the auction location, learning the auction rules, identifying the buyers and understanding how the auctioneer was selling the various lots of items. In short summary, we have learned a path to travel to exchange locally grown seasonal farm produce at a newly found and organic-friendly convergence.
We have fingerling potatoes available locally at Costas’ Food Center in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, and if anyone locally has need to fill their own winter larder, let us know; we have you covered.