[MUSIC PLAYING] 39.65, 39.65. [AUCTIONEER CHANTING] 9 and 1/2. 9 and 1/2. Anybody in for 9 and 1/2? Sold for $9.
This morning, we're at a place that's very important to me, a place I visit very frequently. It's the Finger Lakes Produce Auction. This is New York's first and largest produce auction. It was established in the year 2000. Cornell Cooperative Extension has played an instrumental role in the development of these auctions, and now there are six located throughout New York State.
Produce auction is an aggregation point for local fruits, vegetables, and flowers. All of the produce auctions in New York State are found in old-order Amish or Mennonite communities, and most of the growers for the produce auction come from those communities.
However, anyone is welcome to buy and sell at a produce auction. So produce auctions today are really an integration of several cultures, where everyone is allowed to participate in a wholesale, open economy of fruits and vegetables.
20 years ago, it was a challenge for small family farms to find a market for fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce buyers or middlemen would come into rural areas such as Yates County to buy fruits and vegetables and then sell them in urban markets. These buyers would go from farm to farm and compare prices.
And this puts the farmers at a competitive disadvantage. They had to underbid their neighbors in order to obtain the sale. The farmers didn't have knowledge of the fair market value of their product. As a result, they struggled with profitability, and many chose not to grow fruits and vegetables. This all changed in the year 2000, when New York's first produce auction was formed.
[AUCTIONEER CHANTING] $7. 4.81, 4.81. I've got 15 bushels.
Extension specialists such as myself that work with produce auctions conduct hundreds of farm visits over the course of a year. We consult with farmers on how they can effectively participate in a produce auction, how they can grow a quality product that meets food safety standards, and manage pests and diseases that threaten their profitability. Produce auctions take the burden of marketing off of the individual farmer. This means the farmer can concentrate on farming.
Produce auctions are also beneficial to family farms because it allows them to specialize in, say, one or two commodities, such as pumpkins, or tomatoes, or sweet corn. Whereas if they were retailing, they would need to grow a real broad sweep of that product line.
Behind me, you can see some pumpkins. These were grown by local family farms. They were brought to the produce auction, and then buyers from a two to three-hour radius come in and will buy multiple lots of produce. Those buyers include farm markets, independent supermarkets, food banks, as well as restaurants.
We opened the restaurant about five months ago and have been going to the produce auction pretty much ever since. I would say that that experience has been really positive. We've had the opportunity to kind of see the ebbs and the flows of the produce that's coming in and going out with the changing of the seasons.
But also from a business standpoint, I know the "eat local, drink local" thing has been really popular lately. While I love eating local and drinking local, I think it's also really important that we keep in mind the fact that we have to be a profitable business. And with that, the produce auction allows us to do both of those things.
It allows us to really focus on controlling our costs while also supporting our local community and being able to pick the best of the best. The quality is fantastic. And the ability to be able to pick exactly what I want, exactly which cases I want, are really important to me.
One of the interesting parts of a produce auction is that some of our best buyers are also some of our best sellers. And the way that works is, let's say you have a roadside stand where the family specializes in growing sweet corn. They can bring sweet corn to the produce auction and sell it, and at the same time, they could go home with locally-grown watermelons or cantaloupes to augment the offering they have on their farm stand.
We grow potatoes. We grow squash and a variety of things, and we do those in larger quantity. We do them very well. The family's done them for a long time. And we sell them here at our retail market, and we also sell them in a larger quantity at Finger Lakes Produce Auction.
It's very helpful to have a market for the extra produce above and beyond what we need here at our firm market. The Finger Lakes Produce Auction is a perfect outlet for those things because what we grow and do well, others also want access to so they can take it back to their stands.
And we also utilize what other people do very well and grow a larger quantity of, and we purchase that at the produce auction and bring it back with us. Our Yates County customers and our traveling customers appreciate our local produce, the price and the quality that we are able to offer, not only what we grow, but as a result of utilizing the produce auction and what other people also grow in the area.
So today, we have hundreds of growers that grow for produce auctions in New York State, and they grow hundreds of different crops that are sold here. As the educational coordinators for these produce auctions, we're able to draw on the diversity of expertise we have with campus faculty, as well as in the field of extension specialists. This represents a fantastic synergy of all the talents we have within our system to serve the very broad spectrum of educational and research needs that are represented by a produce auction.
For example, one of our newest extension initiatives, Harvest New York, is working with produce auctions on market development and food safety training. Produce auctions are beneficial to our communities in that we increase the amount of local fruits and vegetables that people have access to.
Here in Yates County, home to the Finger Lakes Produce Auction, we have over 50 fruit and vegetable stands. And this represents increased access to a diversity of fruits and vegetables for rural consumers.
I think it's a good thing to support the local farmer, plus the produce is better, I think. In July, I wanted to make my mother's recipe of garlic dill horseradish pickles. And I said, well, I don't see any dill. I need some dill. How much do you need? And so they just go right out there, and they picked the fresh dill. And I mean, that fresh dill smell is enough to knock you over. And so that's some of the reason why I come up here.
I'm here at the farm market to look for pumpkins and zucchini and anything else fresh that will help me throughout the week. And you can connect to the people that you buy it from. You can talk to them about how their year was with their harvest.
One of my complaints living here away from kind of like a city is that the supermarkets, they don't have the same quality than what you could find here, on the shelves here. Here we can a lot of this stuff. And it lasts for as long as we want it to, and it's great.
I grow a lot of my own produce for my restaurant, and I go to the Finger Lakes Produce Auction. And sometimes you have to buy big bins, large quantity. Sometimes I just need a little bit. So I like to support local smaller guys, too.
We find that produce auctions are a great way to get home-grown local produce into our urban markets as well. So we have buyers coming from major cities, such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Albany, coming into our produce auctions and taking that product back into communities that need increased access to fruits and vegetables.
We know in agriculture that the farm gate value of a product actually then becomes multiplied out many more times into the community. We know that the economic impact of our produce auction is much greater than the actual value of goods sold.
We have a lot of people employed at our produce auctions, employed as drivers moving product to and from the marketplace, a number of services that are provided to the people that are growing for a produce auction. That includes seed companies, fertilizer companies, tractor repair businesses.
And with all these buyers now coming into our rural counties, we see more sales that other local businesses, such as restaurants, gas stations, and retail stores, all of these are supported by the existence of an auction. Our multiplier effect is very large when we have this many family farms growing for wholesale distribution.
In research conducted by Harvest New York, it was found that produce auctions that work closely with cooperative extension experienced greater economic growth. We also found that produce auction growers that adopted season extension technologies had higher on-farm profitability than those who didn't.
What we'd love to see happen is for the consumer to understand that the product that comes out of New York State produce auctions is grown by family farms, is high quality, and is locally grown.
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Produce auctions in New York State serve as aggregation points that allow local farmers to sell their produce in wholesale lots to buyers from across the region. The Cornell Vegetable Program supports the development and growth of these auctions, and acts as the educational lead for the majority of the NYS produce auctions.
In a HarvestNY survey of top buyers and sellers, 100% of the growers cited Cornell Cooperative Extension as an important information resource.