In 2011, the value of New York vegetable production reached $355.5 million, ranking New York fifth nationally in the value of fresh market vegetables. As a way of selling fresh fruits and vegetables, produce auctions have become popular across the country and New York is home to five auctions. These produce auctions provide the perfect market for small, family-sized farms with any volume of produce to sell their fruits and vegetables to a buying audience. In turn, buyers looking for local fresh produce are able to buy from a nearby produce auction.
Produce auctions are open and selling fresh fruits and vegetables from spring through fall. This is the perfect place to buy seasonal fresh produce that is grown locally. In the spring, you can expect to find a variety of fruit and vegetable crops such as asparagus, rhubarb, spring onions, spinach, lettuce, and red beets. As spring turns to summer, look for peas, strawberries, early cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, small potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and blueberries. By late summer, the produce auctions will be selling tomatoes, sweet corn, cantaloupes, peppers, watermelons, sweet onions, potatoes, and peaches. To end out the growing season, the fall crop auctions will offer winter squash, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, turnips, red beets, sweet potatoes, and apples. These lists are by no means complete, but show how expansive the crop selection is at the produce auction.
Buying fresh fruits and vegetables at your local produce auction is easy! If you are a new buyer, the first thing that you will need to do is stop at the produce auction’s front office where you can ask questions, receive instructions and will be issued a printed bidding number. With your printed bidding number, head out to the auction floor where you can generally expect to find the lots arranged by size. Large lots usually consist of four or more boxes and can be found on pallets or being pulled by wagons. Smaller lots typically consist of less than four boxes. While the produce auction prefers to sell lots as a whole, they are flexible and have been known to break up the lots, allowing the buyer to indicate how many units in the lot they would like to buy. As you can see, produce auctions are not just for large wholesale buyers, the smaller lots also make auctions a good fresh produce source for small-scale buyers.
It is recommended to arrive a little early so that you have time to look at all the produce before the bidding begins. When the auctioneer reaches the produce you would like to buy, have your printed bidding number ready. Flash your number when you hear the auctioneer call the price you would like to pay. Put your number away if the price exceeds the amount you would like to pay. If you are the highest bidder, keep your bidding number displayed so the clerk can take down your number. After you have completed the bidding process, you can load your purchase. For large lots, generally the farmer is responsible for seeing that the buyer gets the right produce, but for small lots, the buyer is responsible for picking up and loading the produce. Once the produce is all loaded, don’t forget to pay your bill! Before leaving, stop by the front office to pay for your purchase. The bill must be settled before the action ends or late fees will be assessed.
Now that you know how to buy produce through an auction, here is a list of New York’s five produce auctions.
• Chautauqua Produce Auction is located at 7844 Route 474, Clymer, NY, (716) 355-6500 or (716) 355-6391, auction time: Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m.;
• Orleans Produce Auction is located at 12590 Ridge Road, Albion, NY, (585) 332-0763, auction time varies but generally, Monday at 11 a.m. and Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m.;
• Finger Lakes Produce Auction is located at 3691 Route 14A, Penn Yan, NY, (315) 536-8446, auction time: Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.;
• Seneca Produce Auction is located at 2033 Yerkes Road, Romulus, NY, (607) 869-5470, auction time: Tuesday at 10 a.m.; Friday at noon; and
• Mohawk Valley Produce Auction is located at 840 Fordsbush Road, Fort Plain, NY, (518) 568-3579, auction time: Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m.