Produce Auction Blossoms in Upstate NY

9/24/2011 10:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent

SODUS, N.Y. — For auctioneer Jim Hoyt, this is a first.

In his 30 years of swinging a gavel, he’s auctioned off estates, animals and antiques. But this season, he has added to the offerings apples, cherries, cucumbers, cabbage, berries, plums and lots of other produce, plants and cut flowers, too.

Ever since Village Auction began selling farm produce this spring, he’s been busy auctioning off to the public an assortment of locally grown and shipped perishable goods every Tuesday from his 6,325-square-foot facility.

About 45 different consigning farms are involved, most of which are within a 50-mile radius of the auction house, located on Route 14. Each week, a few more farms join. Some are as far away as Georgia, trucking peaches and strawberries up to New York.

The first auction lasted only 20 minutes. A more recent one lasted two hours with around 90 bidders, a testament to how popular the produce auction has become.

“Sometimes people go to other produce auctions and resell here,” Hoyt said. “A farmer in North Rose buys a lot from guys in Maryland and sells it here.”

The local consignors bring in market baskets and quart baskets packed with everything from potatoes to corn to string beans and more for eager bidders. Once in a while, a consignor brings in items packaged in bulk, such as a huge box of cabbage, Hoyt said.

“But we find cardboard boxes and fill them,” he said.

Some buyers purchase for home canning use, others resell items at farm markets and still others sell at local grocery stores.

The produce auction is a good deal for farmers, too, who can move goods that may otherwise be wasted.

“Supply and demand is a big part of it,” Hoyt said. “If you have peaches that are ripe today, you have to get rid of them. It helps the farmer out. I’m surprised how fast the fruit moves.”

A local roadside stand might get $3 per quart for cherries. Hoyt said his auction has sold the same for $5.

The produce auctions began when Mennonite farmers new to Wayne County approached Hoyt about starting one.

“They’ve had them in Pennsylvania and a lot have moved up here and they wanted to do something up here,” he said.

Bidders include Amish, Mennonite and others.

Although Hoyt initially pictured the produce auction as seasonal, he would like to keep it going year round.

Hoyt employs 11. His sister, Renee DeWolf, is cashier for some of his other auctions. His now-grown daughters, Hannah and Kristin, used to help, “but they got jobs and moved away,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt sees plenty of opportunity for expansion in this agricultural community that’s dotted with orchards, fruit and vegetable farms and nurseries.

“I’d like to see it grow big with lots of buyers and sellers,” Hoyt said. “Some places have tractor trailers come from the South. At seven to eight weeks along we’re doing OK.”

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