June 16, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

John Miller ensures he has plenty of produce for his customers by supplementing what he grows with purchases from the Fairview Produce Auction Inc.

The auction is in its fourth year and everything from apples to zucchini can be found at the market which has sales on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Miller, of Slaughters, said he uses the market for buying and selling.

"I usually find what I need here and at a good price," he said. "They try to have good quality and that's the only thing I'm interested in. They have quality here and in quantities enough that they take care of what I need."

Miller, who operates a commercial vegetable stand and provides produce to markets in Henderson and Indiana, said he also has used the market to sell some of his overproduction.

"It works excellent for the grower and for the buyer," he said.

The Fairview auction is unique to Kentucky. The idea came from Amish and Mennonite families who moved into western Kentucky from Pennsylvania.

On auction day, produce comes in on horse-drawn buggies and wagons as well as trucks and trailers.

Shares were sold and the money used to buy land and construct the auction facilities. In its first year about $100,000 in produce, flowers and bedding plants were sold. It has grown by about $50,000 a year since then, said Harold Eli, Kentucky State University extension small farm assistant. Hay, straw and firewood are also auctioned on a monthly basis in the summer and twice a month in the fall.

Steve Sauder, auction manager, said the main purpose is to benefit the small, family farm. The small, family farm is an excellent setting for children to grow up in, he said.

With an auction in the community, Sauder said, it makes it possible for small, family farms to grow something profitable.

Bidders include people wanting the vegetables for personal use as well as representatives of stores, restaurants and vegetable stands.

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has aided the farmers in putting together groups of commercial buyers.

"The more buyers we have, the more produce we need, it kind of works hand and hand," said Jay Stone, Christian County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

The extension service provides technical support so that farmers can produce top quality crops. UK has also worked with the auction management to put together standard packaging. This allows buyers to know what they are getting and take it directly to their stores, he said.

Produce goes to Hopkinsville, Owensboro and Indiana but the bulk of the commercial buyers come from Clarksville and Nashville, Tenn., with most of the produce going to roadside stands and grocery stores.

Howard Parish of Manitou sold blueberries at last week's auction. Parish said the auction is a good outlet for small farmers to sell produce.

"It's a good thing," he said. "It's been good for me. Not many people from my area have used it so far but I think more will as they learn about it."

Most farmers using the system are from Christian and Todd counties but it is not limited to those growers or to those who hold shares.


Jay Stone, 270-886-6328