FORT PLAIN - Amish farmers from Montgomery County and surrounding areas hope to have an Amish auction open by summer in an effort to offer bulk supplies of locally grown produce to local businesses
About 30 Amish farmers and about a dozen non-Amish farmers attended a meeting conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Fort Plain Village Hall Monday. The farmers and interested produce buyers discussed the different aspects of the auction to gauge interest and answer questions.
The Amish auction - which is run by an Amish board and differs from a regular auction by allowing smaller purchases and featuring only food grown locally - would allow non-Amish farmers to sell their produce.
The Leader-Herald/Kayleigh Karutis
Kevin Ganoe, right, of Cornell Cooperative Extension addresses local farmers and produce buyers during an informational meeting at Fort Plain Village Hall Monday. Crystal Stewart of Cornell Cooperative Extension looks on at left.
Committee Chairman Sam Miller, an Amish farmer from Richfield Springs, said the five-member Amish committee has met several times already and is hoping to have the auction, which would be held in a yet-to-be-built pavilion on Fords Bush Road, up and running by June 1. The auction would join local Amish farmers with buyers from across the area who are interested in buying large quantities of produce, including sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, watermelons and a wide range of other products.
Miller, who said he moved to the area nine years ago from Kentucky, said he was part of an auction in Kentucky that was held on a relative's land. The success other auctions have had led local Amish to believe it could work in Montgomery County, too.
"They were going good there [in Kentucky]," Miller said. "We saw [the auction] grow there and thought it would work here, too."
The farmers who attended Monday's meeting were asked to fill out forms indicating what produce they were interested in selling to avoid having too much of one item, which would bring the price down.
Crystal Stewart, a horticulture and agriculture educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, said the Amish approached her to attend the meeting to help educate the farmers and potential buyers. She said the produce being sold would not be for individual buyers looking to purchase a few vegetables; instead it would be a wholesale auction for larger buyers, such as restaurants and farm stands, to purchase full bushels or even pallets of product.
Food cooperatives in Albany and Little Falls are potential buyers, she said. Depending on the buyer, there would be a range of interest in how the food is raised, she said.
"Buyers will not look favorably on low-quality produce," she said. "That much has been made abundantly clear."
Food cooperatives would be concerned with having an organic, high-quality product, while other buyers may not care as much, she said.
Fort Plain farmer Greg Dunn said the auction would not be about getting the cheapest product, but the best-quality product.
"We are interested in good food," said Dunn, who is not Amish. "We want to focus on the best food available, not the cheapest."
Employees from the Montgomery County Farm Service Agency, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Natural Resources Conservation Service were on hand to take advantage of a rare opportunity: having so many Amish farmers together in one space. They presented the farmers with information on growing and told them what services each agency offers.
Miller said while the committee is hoping the auction will be operational June 1, he cautioned it may not work out that way.
"We still have a lot of legal stuff to do first," he said.
Kayleigh Karutis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org