Amish-fueled auctions play big role in Ohio produce

10/30/2013 04:21:00 PM
Jim Offner

“I’d say we’ve got a three- or four-month window to buy product,” he said.

Food safety regulations are not a problem, Arena said.

“Those guys are governed by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture rules) there. They get looked at, too,” Arena said.

Jim Mullet, sales director with the Mount Hope auction, said business is brisk.

“Right now, we’re doing about 20,000 pumpkins a day; that’s probably our biggest thing, but we’re getting a variety of vegetables, too,” he said.

Vegetables hit their peak in late summer.

“It’s still coming in, although not as much as summer,” he said.

Vegetables will continue to float into the auction until the “first killing frost,” he said.

The produce auction — it’s scheduled four days a week in the summer and Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall — runs generally from late April to mid-November, Mullet said.

The Amish play an active role in the auction, making up about two-thirds of it, Mullet said.

Quality isn’t an issue with the Amish, Mullet said.

“I would put our auction people against anybody else’s in quality, food safety wise, being knowledgeable,” he said.

He also said his Amish growers are all up to date in food safety rules.

“They’re well informed in what they’ll have to do,” he said.

Mullet estimated his auction handles product from up to 60 Amish growers in the summer and more than 100 in the fall.

The auction has grown with the Amish population, Mullet said.

“In 18 seasons, there was one year it did not grow,” he said.

A lot of product is funneled into farm markets, grocery stores and restaurants, plus some wholesalers, Mullet said.

Retailers show up, too, he said.

“Our biggest (retail) buyers have 13-14 grocery stores,” he said.

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