Farm auctions signal a change

Several inches of snow meant a day home for the whole family, so we loaded up the kids and all went to a farm auction.

Our oldest two sons spent the day jumping in puddles left by melting snow and cleaning snow of the equipment for sale, unaware of what was going on around them.  The adults knew that the day’s events signaled change on yet another farm.

During winter our mailbox is full of brochures advertising farm equipment auctions. They are usually held for one of the following reasons:

  • The farmer is retiring or has passed away and there isn’t another generation who wants to continue farming.
  • The farmer has stopped growing a specific crop and is selling all the equipment they used to grow and harvest it.
  • The farmer is under financial strain and has no other option but to sell out.

This sale fell in the second category – the farmer had decided to stop growing tobacco. Over the last few years, quite a few farmers have fallen in this category as contracts to grow the leaf have been steadily cut.

Auctions are like family reunions. Usually farmers from all over the area attend and sometimes come from other states. Sales can draw several hundred farmers. Some are there looking to buy and others want to see what prices the equipment brings. It’s not uncommon for there to be multiple sales on the same day. At some sales equipment brings good prices but at others, items can sell below market value.  

Conversations revolve around farming and the weather. You can learn a lot by just listening, which is what I tend to do when I have a chance to go to a sale. There are comparisons of different equipment. Debates on green (John Deere) vs. red (Case IH). Talk about how many acres everyone is planting, what varieties they are using, the cost of land rent, and many other farming issues.

After the sale we stopped at a local gas station and grill for a late lunch. As we waited with several other farmers who’d attended the sale, conversation revolved around who bought what, the prices everything brought and the general state of farming. Our boys ate thier french fries and sandwiches, oblivious to the conversations around them about the end of an era for another farm.

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