St. Lawrence Valley Produce Auction Powerful Results

St. Lawrence Valley Produce Auction Powerful Results

SLVPA entrance

It has been two or three years since an earlier story on the produce auction first appeared in the print version of the Coop newsletter. With the company’s impressive growth in mind, here is an update.

When the St. Lawrence Valley Produce Auction (SLVPA)  in North Bangor, New York opens on Tuesday, April 27th it will mark the beginning of the fourth year of operation for this unique regional local food business. As SLVPA’s Facebook page notes,  “A produce auction is a wholesale auction where farmers can sell their farm products (vegetables, fruit, flowers, etc.) at a fair market price.”

Furthermore, a produce auction sells larger quantities of produce to retail businesses such as farm stands and local grocers. The general public benefits by being able to purchase and consume fresh local produce from those retail locations.

The Produce Auction Model

The produce auction model is new to the North Country though it has been used in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Western New York over the past two decades. The produce auctions in the Finger Lakes have been organized by both the Wenger Mennonite and the Old Order Amish communities. Old Order Mennonite groups use horses and buggy for transportation and tractors with steel wheels to farm. A small and growing community in Northern Franklin County now totaling about fifty families brought the produce auction model to the North Country.  

St. Lawrence Valley produce auction building
St. Lawrence Valley Produce Auction building

The St. Lawrence Valley Produce Auction began organizing in 2017, put up a large steel building on the Martin Road in North Bangor, and held its first auction on the first Tuesday in May 2018. In the planning stages people with experience, such as Yates County Cooperative Extension staffer Judson Reid,  offered training and advice to local growers. Any grower can participate but most member farmers belong to the Wenger Mennonite or Amish communities in Northern Franklin County and eastern St. Lawrence County. 

Well-Run Operation

That first season saw sales totaling $240,000. Since then sales increased by 38% in 2019 and another 31% in 2020. As Mr. Reid has noted double-digit growth in sales is a good sign in any business. The St. Lawrence Valley Produce Auction has developed a reputation as a well-run operation. The building is new and well-maintained. The number of businesses buying at the auction continues to grow. Last summer even a truck from Vermont was observed in the parking lot, the owner has a farm stand eighty miles away near St. Albans, Vermont. So the word is spreading. With the growing interest in local food and local food production due to the Covid-19 pandemic, another good season is expected for the produce auction. 

The existence of the SLVPA is a positive development for the region as well. Visiting the auction during the height of the growing season, when over thirty varieties of vegetables and fruit are on display, is a testament to the bounty of North Country agriculture. It shows diversification is possible and promising. As noted above, local consumers have another opportunity for fresher, healthier local food at small grocers and retailers, not just farm stands and farmer’s markets. In addition, having a wholesale market for local produce is another step toward building a healthy, resilient local and regional food system. 

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