NEW CENTERVILLE, Pa. — Luce Auctioneers of New Centerville, Somerset County, has a long legacy of being a family-operated business.

Reed Luce, 68, current owner of Luce Auctioneers, started at a young age traveling to farms with his father, the late Matt Luce, to buy livestock, equipment and real estate.

Now, Reed’s sons, Adam and Jake, help their father on a day-to-day basis in the business. Adam is also an auctioneer and Jake helps with bidding.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a part of this type of life and auctioneering,” said Reed Luce. “Buying and selling have always been a part of our lives and we have met so many good people through the years.”

That is partly because Reed’s parents, Matt and Marge Luce, also deceased, and their two children, Reed and Betty Lou, were all involved in the family auction business in the early years. The family moved from Perryopolis in Fayette County to a farm in Somerset County about 60 years ago. Reed’s sister, Betty Lou Svonavec, is also an auctioneer.

The Luce business held its large biannual consignment auction in Somerset County with over 4,000 people in attendance on an unusually warm spring day. This auction has been held continuously — one in the spring and one in fall — since 1990. While it has moved to a few different locations, mostly it has been held at Luce Auctioneers farm on Woodland Road near New Centerville for decades.

“The consignment auction is a family-orchestrated event,” Reed said. “We get help from family, friends and relatives all day and there would be no way to hold it otherwise.”

During the recent sale, the Luce family sold many makes and models of John Deere, International and Allis-Chalmers used farm equipment along with some newer pieces. There was also a variety of vehicles and antiques up for sale.

For Jim and Sharon Ritenour of Somerset, the sale was the perfect opportunity to get two storage containers to store tractor parts.

“We have been coming here for years,” said Sharon Ritenour. “We like auctions and go to Polk’s Auction in the state of Indiana, where they sell antique tractors, vintage cars and equipment. When we come here to Luce’s auction, we get to see so many friends and it is like a farming community get-together.”

The auction begins accepting items a few weeks before the sale and equipment comes in from Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virgina and even Ohio. When auction day comes, it’s all hands on deck.

Heidi Svonavec, Reed’s niece — who also works full-time as the assistant director for Pennsylvania’s department of agriculture at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg — oversees all office operations for each consignment sale. While she lives in New Cumberland and travels to Somerset County every spring and fall for the sales, her brother, Gabe, lives nearby in New Centerville and has a short drive to help with the sale. Their mother, Betty Lou Svonavec, manages all food concessions for sale day.

Heidi Svonavec said the auction sells “anything and everything” from harrows, drills, combines and choppers to small lawn and garden equipment to antiques and even horse merchandise.

Reed Luce said that the auction brings the region’s farming community back together every spring before planting season and every fall after harvest. However, this year is bittersweet, he said, because of the condition of the dairy industry.

“It was sad to see so many friends who have been here for years buying equipment, now selling that equipment because they are going out of business,” said Luce. “It is a sad state of affairs for the dairy farmer right now.”

Luce reminisced about his childhood, when there were many dairy farmers in the area. Now there are only a few and he believes this year in particular has hit the dairymen hard.

“The farmer is the backbone of the community, but he can’t survive anymore. So, what are we going to do without him?” Luce asked. “It has been a downward spiral for the dairy farmer and if they don’t do something about these milk prices soon, we will buying our milk from other countries instead of getting good, fresh milk from neighbors.”

Sandra Lepley is a freelance writer in southwestern Pennsylvania.