When livestock auctioneer Jim DeGaetano brought the gavel down Dec. 14 on the last of a lot of 1,087 hogs, he brought to an end what he said is the longest-running weekly graded feeder pig auction in the U.S., Carlisle Livestock Market.
DeGaetano and his wife, Barbara, who have owned, managed and sweated through 40 years in the livestock auction business, welcomed a full house to their final weekly sale in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
In a phone interview, Jim said it was time.
The couple are both in their 70s, and while they’ll miss the business, the animals and most of all the people, they had determined that the end of 2020 was going to be the last chapter in their business story.
Jim DeGaetano said they were unable to find a buyer to take over the operation. They looked. It would be easy to say the COVID-19 pandemic was an obstacle to potential buyers. But DeGaetano said the real reasons his industry has changed dramatically for the worse are federal and state anti-agriculture policies, compounded by the growing influence of foreign-owned meatpackers and meat imports from countries with lax inspection standards.
When he started in the business, DeGaetano said, 40 or 50 local butcher shops would show up to buy an animal or two for their small businesses.
“Government has run those people out of business,” he said.
Local farmers still keep the auction a lively place on sale days, but only a handful of buyers representing big companies are on hand to bid.
Although the business climate has changed, DeGaetano said the physical demands of the job have pretty much remained steady.
“We had a good run here for 40 years,” he said. “We made a lot of friends and had a very loyal following.
“We have loved the last 40 years, and we wish we could go on forever, but it’s time to retire.”
DeGaetano said he and his wife love the Carlisle area; it’s their home and they’re planning to stay put.
They feel bad about closing and that they couldn’t find a buyer to continue the livestock business. But he doesn’t expect to have any problem finding a buyer for the five-and-a-half acre property at 548 Alexander Spring Road.