Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mennonite Produce Auction

The Mennonite community at South Fork in Liberty, Kentucky has an interesting array of shops.
[I have posted before on several trips we have made to the area.]
A produce auction is held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from mid-spring through October.
We went today hoping to buy freshly harvested apples.
To our surprise there were none for sale among the varied items laid out for inspection.
I over-heard a Mennonite gentleman grumbling likewise that his sole purpose in being there was to buy apples.
He was consoling himself with a sugared donut from the concession stand.
We met the woman above with her horse and buckboard just after we turned onto route 910 which leads into the hilly area of South Fork.

Curves in the South Fork road.

This horse didn't appear pleased with being hitched to the bulldozer to wait out the auction.
Pick-up trucks were parked on the road-facing end of the building which was open on three sides.
The fourth side enclosed offices, restrooms and an area where some of the help had parked bicycles.

This John Deere tractor had the standard rubber tires replaced with wheels made from three layers of heavy belting, steel cross-pads bolted on and finished with steel treads welded to the cross-pads.
J. thinks this would be a hard-riding rig!

This Mennonite family was carefully sorting an offering of green tomatoes.
The chubby little girls were cute with rosey cheeks, dark red dresses and checked bonnets.
I would have liked to take a close-up photo of them but didn't want to offend.

We were surprised to find pallets of beautiful mums.  The bidding was lively on these.  The format on the bids is for the auctioneer to announce how many items to a pallet, so the top bidder pays $2.50 x 6, for example.
Most of the mums went from 1.76 to 2.75.  At the greenhouse and produce sales just up the road we saw them for $6.50 per plant.

Another view of the John Deere tractor.

The huge gourds are dried and holes bored into the sides.  They are strung on a line or fastened to a pole as bird houses.

Smaller ornamental gourds for autumn decorations.

A close up of a bird house to be.

There were vintage varieties of some pumpkins and squash.
These were labeled "warted pumpkins."

In an auction crowd which included quite a few "Englishers" this woman of a "certain age" and style was most conspicuous!
The man seen behind the table is one of the auction managers.
As produce was brought in this man was one of several who arranged the pallets in place on the auction floor.  He used a hand-operated hydraulic jack to move the pallets, then climbed onto it and pushed it like an old-fashioned "scooter" to whiz around the area.

A pale cream-yellow mum in full bloom.

A pallet of ornamental kale.

Bundles of "fodder corn" to be sold as ornamentals.

Full view of the shocks of corn.

Pint baskets of chestnuts arranged on a tray.

This was not a calm buggy horse. When the ample lady had stowed her bundles in the wagon, the assistant manager held the horse's head while she climbed aboard.  They departed the grounds with the horse chomping at the bit.

Several small boys milled about. I suppose their mothers had some idea of their where-abouts.
One small thin boy leaned against his mother during much of the auction. She bundled her apron around him.
He was bare-armed and there was a cool breeze sweeping in the open-sided auction arena.

These two sturdy little fellows scampered around the edges of the floor, hopped down to chase each other through the soft dirt of the loading area.
They watched me with wide eyes, seeing my camera, so I waited to snap this until their backs were turned.

Just beyond the auction house several men were loading bundles of sorghum.
There is a nearby sorghum mill.
A very small boy was steering the tractor which must have had an automatic transmission.
A man ["Englisher"] who seemed to be there for the purpose of watching the auction proceedings said to me that the boy was probably only five years old.
"They teach them to work real young," was his comment.

A close-up of the sorghum heads.
We came home with four boxes of tomatoes--nice quality and at half the price of the ones I bought for canning a month ago.
J. also bid in a half bushel of green peppers at $4.50.
We shall have stuffed peppers coming out our ears!

Two of the three aucioneers had voices that interested me.
They did their sing-song chants in an almost musical pitch which at moments reminded me of old recordings of the shape-note singing which was popular here in the rural south-east of the U.S.
I found myself several times humming a note to try and determine what "key" they were chanting.


  1. So interesting. It's another world-- actually two worlds, farming and old time Mennonites.

  2. I would have loved to have been there with you, sounds such fun and we are (or were) auction addicts - indeed most of our house is built from auction purchases. I like the idea of the gourd bird houses, too.

  3. It's facinating to have two completely seperate cultures like this in the same modern environment. Both would be enriched by more sharing an learning from the other no doubt.

  4. I just love your photos of rural life in Kentucky. I think that it is one of the most beautiful areas I have seen. When I was driving truck over the road with husband at the time, I loved Kentucky and Tennessee the most, Especially the back routes and the beautiful rural life.
    We have Mennonite colonies to the southwest part of Nebraska,where I live, they are somewhat a little more liberal with equipment, the ladies are more for the old ways in the kitchen, and with canning and kitchen duties and household duties.
    Enjoy your weekend and take care

  5. It was great going to the auction with you. We've been meaning to shop our local farmer's market, maybe this will get us going.

  6. How very interesting. I liked all the photos very much, especially the Mums, very autumnal.

  7. Another interesting look at a different way of life.

    I can almost smell those chrysanthemums and I love the little boxes of shiny, ripe chestnuts.

  8. I would have loved this! Those chrysanthemums were a real bargain - in Uk I pay the US equivalent of about $9 for just one. The lady of a certain age looked a lot less attractive than the young Mennonite woman in the background! I do find the Amish/Mennonite culture appealing in many ways even though I know that it isn't all sunshine and roses.