One by one, horse-drawn carriages began clopping into the driveway of the Mohawk Valley Produce Auction on Friday.
Amish youths of various ages began carrying fresh boxes filled with fruits and vegetables into the facility, and dozens of prospective buyers peered onto the pallets looking for what they might bid on.
The Amish-run auction typically begins at 11 a.m., but there was a line of about 20 people still waiting for their auction numbers at that time, so the auctioneer held off until most were ready.
Amish women and children began placing baked goods on tables, many of the items labeled with when they were baked. Molasses and chocolate chip cookies as well as snickerdoodles — cookies rolled in cinnamon and sugar — were among the selections available.
There were breads baked Friday morning by an Amish woman who said she awoke at 4 a.m. to begin baking, including honey wheat and white loaves.
Baked goods bonanza
Although it’s been too early in the season for a large variety of vegetables, some locals, like Al Brownell, have been attending the auction since it opened in June just for the baked goods. A week ago, Brownell purchased all of the pumpkin rolls. The 6-inch-long, cake-like desserts are stuffed with a sweet cream cheese filling.
They aren’t cheap, though, Brownell said, especially when he’s planning to up the ante to make sure he gets a decent supply for his family of nine children and numerous grandchildren.
When the bidding for pumpkin rolls started at an earlier auction, Brownell said he scoffed at people’s initial offer of $3 each. Then the bidding jumped to $5.
“They thought they were gonna get ’em for nothing. But if they aren’t gonna bid, they aren’t gonna get it,” Brownell said of the treats that “melt in your mouth.”
Brownell said he got the bidding up to $13 apiece and bought them all.
He said he brings them home and calls up his children to let them come get some.
“I eat my share,” said Brownell, 72.
Fresh from the field
When the auction got started Friday, dozens of people crowded around the auctioneer.
He’d announce the selection and an Amish farmer would lift up the box or an item to display it for the crowd. Then bidders would lift their number cards accepting a price offered until they were successful or until somebody else bid higher.
For the Amish farmers who worked over the past year to organize the market while cultivating their crops, the quart-sized containers and half-bushel-sized boxes of vegetables and fruits available Friday are really just a sampling.
The fields are now blossoming with tomatoes and corn, and many said the variety and quantity is expected to grow in the next month.
Farmer Jacob Ash said it’s been wet this season, so corn is not looking as plentiful as it could be.
Chris Curro, interim manager of the new Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market that opened in Gloversville this week, arrived early and started inspecting boxes of vegetables and fruits and talking with the Amish farmers to learn when they were picked.
Curro said a co-op member put in a request for yellow corn and he expected to pick up as many as six bushels.
“We’re trying to fit in the variety and the quality. Price is third,” Curro said.
“We believe that good food is worth supporting our farmers for, and right now, this quality at this price, you can’t beat it,” Curro said.
Marian Martin and family members Bob, Susan and Katana were buying cabbage, berries and beans destined for the freezer. They sat in lawn chairs chatting and enjoying the atmosphere.
Farmer Marvin Byler said there have been weeks when the vegetables were going cheap. Two weeks ago, the market was held on a day with good weather but few people showed up, he said.
Friday appeared to be the biggest turnout, he said, which is good because the quantity of produce will increase in upcoming markets.
“It’s gonna peak in August,” Byler said.
Byler specializes in potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and cantaloupe, all of which will be headed to the auction.
“I’ve got tons of them,” he said.
Jessica Guenther of Oneonta smiled as she carried a box of zucchini back to family members who sat on lawn chairs in the corner of the facility.
They paid $3.50 for a half-bushel that weighed at least 20 pounds. The family estimated they’d pay $1.29 per pound in a grocery store and figured they would have to spend about $30 for the same amount in a market.
Some farmers were gently wiping off some of the vegetables to make sure there wasn’t any dust on them.
The care they took selecting them and bringing them to the auction was clear by the look of them. The unblemished fruits and vegetables shone like the fake plastic ones placed on tables for decoration.
“Folks will find that out,” said farmer Daniel King, who specializes in potatoes and said business has been “decent” so far.
King said he believed Friday was one of the biggest turnouts.
“I think interest is spreading around,” he said.
Ready for wholesale
“We’re just getting started,” said the Amish office manager for the auction, who preferred that his name not be in the paper.
“We have seen high prices, we have seen low prices, but they average out well,” he said.
The office manager said the bulk of customers so far have been retail purchasers, like families, and the smaller quantities available so far have served them well.
But the fields are blooming with fruits and vegetables now, he said, which will provide large quantities for the wholesale buyers the market was intended to serve.
Sweet corn and tomatoes will likely be arriving in bulk next week, he said.
Though set up as an auction, the Amish made sure to include refreshments like cans of soda and candy bars. An Amish woman prepared slices of pecan and cherry pie, pieces of pumpkin roll and cookies and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill.
Items for sale Friday included day lilies, silver mound artemisia, variegated weigela, red beets, broccoli, cabbage, red potatoes, currants, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, garlic, green beans, fresh glazed doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, Amish shoo-fly pie, green peppers, cantaloupes, raspberries and yellow beans, among other products.
The Mohawk Valley Produce Auction, at the corner of Fordsbush and Oldick roads off of Route 5S in Minden, operates on Tuesdays and Fridays starting at 11 a.m.