The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on May 19 with Jim Mullet, manager of the Farmer’s Produce Auction, Mt. Hope, Ohio. The auction, primarily supplied by Amish growers farming within a 15-mile radius of the auction, features up to 400 regular growers and up to 300 buyers in a season that runs from mid-April to the second week of November. Read the entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.
8:31 a.m. Tom Karst: What are the top items at the auction?
8:32 a.m. Jim Mullet: We sell a lot of peppers, sweet corn and melons.
8:33 a.m. Karst: Any idea on what percentage of production that Amish growers account for in Ohio?
8:34 a.m. Mullet: For us here, 75% of our sales are from the Amish. The biggest Amish farmers have 25-30 acres. There are growers in the state with 1,000 acres. We may have 1,000 acres total.
8:41 a.m. Karst: What is the dollar amount handled by the auction?
8:42 a.m. Mullet: The first year (1995) we had $250,000 in sales and last year we had about $3 million.
8:46 a.m. Karst: The Amish have been growing produce for a while. Do you hear much about how the buyers relate to the Amish?
8:47 a.m. Mullet: Local grown produce is a big deal. Buyers that come from Cincinnati, Columbus, or Cleveland, they go back and tell their buyers (what they are offering) it is Amish grown produce, and their buyers think it is organic. But it is not. It is as close to organic as you can get, but they do spray if they have to take care of bugs and pests and diseases.
8:49 a.m. Karst: So generally there is no organic handled at the auction?
8:50 a.m. Mullet: Very little.
8:51 a.m. Karst: But the auction still has an attraction for the buyers?
8:52 a.m. Mullet: Most of our buyers have been coming for years. They trust the growers, they know how good the product looks and the shelf life, and it is a plus for them to know where it is coming from.