Loveville Pro­duce Auc­tion makes for in­ter­est­ing daytrip

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

The re­cent string of hot days has kicked our gar­den into over­drive.

This year we tried grow­ing some­thing com­pletely new to us — sev­eral va­ri­eties of beets — and ev­ery so of­ten I’ll pull one up to get a feel for their progress.

The good news is the beets are al­most ready, and one day soon I’ll be spend­ing the en­tire day in the kitchen pick­ling, pack­ing and putting them up. My hus­band likes to joke that no mat­ter what time I start can­ning, “it al­ways takes till 8 o’clock.”

My fin­ger­tips will be stained pink for a cou­ple of days and the neigh­bors a few doors down will won­der what the smell is (pick­ling spices smell pretty good if you ask me). I’ve got a daugh­ter who loves pick­led beets, but not the kind from the gro­cery store. Can you blame her?

Put any­thing from a home gar­den in a matchup against its gro­cery store coun­ter­part and home­grown al­ways wins. I’ve never had a par­tic­u­larly good tomato from the gro­cery store, but any day now I’ll be en­joy­ing the first of many de­li­cious vine-ripened to­ma­toes picked from my gar­den.

When I first started can­ning, back when I was preg­nant with our first child, I could spend an en­tire Satur­day scour­ing the farmer’s mar­kets and road­side stands look­ing for deals on boxes of “sec­onds” or try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a bulk price on what­ever was in sea­son.

Those days are over for me now, though, since I’ve got four kids, a hus­band and hence­forth a full sched­ule on the week­ends. I still make my rounds of the lo­cal spots each week to load up on freshly picked fruits and veg­gies, but when I need a cou­ple boxes’ worth, I head to the Loveville Pro­duce Auc­tion.

I’m not sure how I found out about the auc­tion, but I wish I could re­mem­ber who told me be­cause I’d like to thank them. Dur­ing my travels, I’d seen the large con­crete and metal auc­tion house plenty of times while driv­ing down Loveville Road, but I’d never paid much at­ten­tion to it be­cause I al­ways thought it was open only to peo­ple whose pre­ferred mode of trans­porta­tion is horse and buggy. Ac­tu­ally, while the auc­tion is run by lo­cal Men­non­ite fam­i­lies, it’s open to the pub­lic and any­one can pur­chase items.

It’s a friendly place, a busi­ness that op­er­ates pri­mar­ily on the honor sys­tem, where just a hand­shake can seal a busi­ness deal and a per­son’s word is equal to their sig­na­ture on a con­tract. When you’re done bid­ding and ready to go home, just walk up to the of­fice win­dow and set­tle your ac­count with old-fash­ioned cash (credit cards are not ac­cepted).

First-timers have to check in at the of­fice with ID to get

a bid­ding num­ber, ei­ther a per­ma­nent num­ber if you plan on at­tend­ing fre­quently or a tem­po­rary num­ber for only that day.

There’s an old-timey feel to the place. You won’t see a lot of cell phones and there are no com­put­ers be­hind the of­fice clerks’ desks. It’s a quiet, peace­ful place. That is, un­til the auc­tion gets un­der­way.

I have to ad­mit I was mighty ner­vous the first few times I held up my num­ber to make a bid. But as I brushed up on my mul­ti­pli­ca­tion skills (Mrs. Ben­der, my sec­ond grade teacher, would be proud), I have got­ten pretty good at quickly cal­cu­lat­ing the price of a pal­let of pick­ling cu­cum­bers or half-a-dozen sacks of ears of corn.

I’ve also learned the pro­to­col for be­ing the next bid­der on left­over items in a lot the high­est bid­der didn’t want. And, in in­stances where I ac­ci­den­tally bought more than I meant to, I’ve learned there’s al­ways a friend willing to split the goods.

But buy­ing that much bulk is not for the light­hearted (or peo­ple with small ve­hi­cles), and un­less you are plan­ning to stay up past 8 o’clock to fin­ish can­ning, you might want to check out the small lot auc­tion that starts a half-hour af­ter the reg­u­lar auc­tion.

Sev­eral years ago, some­one in charge had the bril­liant idea to start a sep­a­rate small lot auc­tion for sell­ers and buy­ers who didn’t want to deal in pal­lets and sacks, and came up with this al­ter­na­tive, which is per­fect for the small-batch can­ner or some­one in­ter­ested in buy­ing food in amounts just

right for a fam­ily.

Truth be told, those first few years I wanted to keep the pro­duce auc­tion my lit­tle se­cret, but it seems like word has got­ten out be­cause nowa­days the place can get packed.

I’ve met gro­cery store buy­ers who drive all the way from Alexan­dria, Va., for heir­loom to­ma­toes and mom-and-pop farm stand own­ers look­ing to aug­ment their of­fer­ings and got­ten to know the reg­u­lars who are there like clock­work ev­ery Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day.

It’s stand­ing room only for the large auc­tion, but seats are set up for the bid­ders on the small lot side. Some days are more crowded than oth­ers, but it’s al­ways a good idea to get there a lit­tle bit early if you want to get a chair.

On the small lot side, most of the op­tions re­flect what’s in

sea­son for that time of year: pota­toes, salad greens and spring bed­ding plants dur­ing the be­gin­ning of the op­er­at­ing sea­son. As sum­mer pro­gresses, the of­fer­ings get more di­verse.

The first year I at­tended the auc­tion I was as much a stu­dent of fig­ur­ing out when to bid as I was fig­ur­ing out ex­actly what kind of fruit or veg­etable I was look­ing at. I’ve never seen so many tomatil­los, okra and ground cher­ries be­fore.

No two days are ever the same at the auc­tion. In early spring, horse-drawn carts line up and drive through an open­ing in the load­ing docks show­ing off carts full of hang­ing bas­kets of all sizes and col­ors that are auc­tioned off to the high­est bid­der. In the fall there are “pa­rades” too, only this time the goods are mums and pump­kins. It is a beau­ti­ful

sight to see.

The Loveville Pro­duce Auc­tion would make an in­ter­est­ing daytrip from any­where in the tri-county area. If you have young­sters at home this sum­mer, they are wel­come at the auc­tion and can see first­hand ex­actly how lo­cally-grown food gets from the farm to the gro­cery store or farmer’s market and then to the kitchen counter. And there are al­ways a few young boys sport­ing straw hats and sus­penders who would be more than happy to help you trans­port your pur­chases out to your car for a small tip.

The auc­tion is open at 11 a.m. Mon­days and 9 a.m. Wed­nes­days and Fri­days from May through Oc­to­ber. For the full sched­ule and ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion, go to www.vis­it­st­ doc­u­ments/2017_loveville_pro­duce_auc­tion_brochure.pdf.

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