Most Belmont Countians know if you head down a country road in the western or southern reaches, you're likely to pass an Amish horse and buggy or two. They might be surprised however, on a weekday excursion south of Barnesville to run smack into a large Amish produce auction in full swing.
The Captina Produce Auction takes place at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday from May until the end of October. The elevated open-air shelter - with a high trussed roof raised by the local Amish community - is located on Ohio 148 near where Sandy Ridge Road bottoms out, or about 4 miles east of Ohio 800.
"A lot of people don't know this is here," said Dottie Folmar of Wheeling, who comes to the auction regularly with her husband, Tom, to buy tomatoes, peas and green beans to can.
Photos by Betsy Bethel
Sellers and buyers mingle during an auction at Captina Produce in Belmont County. The auction, run by local Amish farmers, starts at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday from May through the end of October.
"We have bought, oh, let's see, about 400 pounds of tomatoes so far. I've made tomato sauce, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce and tomatoes," Folmar said.
It sounds like a lot, and it is (literally and figuratively). But with the going prices at auction, it's not unreasonable.
For example, Folmar said a couple weeks ago, melons were $1.86 a pound at Wal-Mart. They purchased a 10-pound box of melons at Captina for $3.40, or 34 cents a pound.
This is the auction's fifth year, said manager Aden Yoder of Woodsfield. It was started to help out the local Amish farmers, but non-Amish are welcome to sell, too. The committee that runs the auction receives 10 percent commission from the sellers, which is put back into operating expenses.
"We have fun. We don't make a lot of money, but we have a lot of fun," Yoder said.
Yoder and auctioneer Dick Pryor of Barnesville run the show, starting at 10 a.m. on the dot at the far corner of the shelter. Buyers come early to check out the lots. Boxes of tomatoes are piled five or six high, corn comes in three 20-pound bags to a lot. Beans, onions and peppers are sold by the bushel. A buyer might get 150 cantaloupes at 25 cents apiece. The auctioneer snakes his way down one aisle and the next, and the crowd follows.
In recent weeks, the auction has gone on until about 1:30 or 2 p.m., said Marie Hill, who handles the money in an enclosed office on the east end of the shelter. Everything must go. Hot dogs and other refreshments are sold out of a trailer beside the shelter. Yoder's seven daughters make and sell baked goods, including doughnuts, streusel pie, muffins, cookies and apple fritters. Behind the gravel parking lot, horses munch grass under shade trees. Young boys pass the time by riding dollies along the smooth concrete aisles. A man smokes a pipe. Farmers swap stories, and relatives catch up. Many sit on benches, awaiting the bidding for the produce they've been eyeing.
Behind the scenes, once Pryor says "Sold!", another buyer might approach that one and ask to purchase a portion of the lot.
"I'm here because my son needs a bushel of picklings and I need a half-bushel of tomatoes," said Marianne Cermak of Dillonvale, a first-time auction buyer. Her husband, William Cermak Sr., and son William Cermak Jr., were hoping to buy from a seller who purchased a large lot.