Untapped source for local food

Raspberries and strawberries, amid other produce at the Amish-run Mohawk Valley Produce Auction in Minden.

I’m about three years too late to this party, but I’ll be back.

Since 2009, the Mohawk Valley Produce Auction on Fordsbush Road in Minden, between Fort Plain and the Herkimer County line, has given Amish farmers a chance to sell their produce and wares to the highest bidder.

The camp’s director went to buy pumpkins, mums and apples for decorations last week and came back sold that that there was potential for the 70-mile round trip to yield some great products at a great value. And he was right.

The auction house is quite an experience. On what was a light day, about 100 buyers — restaurant owners, food wholesalers and neighbors — listened to an Amish clerk and auctioneer using a battery-powered speaker push sales of Brussels sprouts, raspberries, squash, flowers, pumpkins, and more, as well as a few non-produce goods.

While 99 percent of what was sold came from local farms, they were refreshingly transparent on the other times. “These tomatoes aren’t local; they’re from western New York and they were gas-ripened,” the clerk warned. Buyers were more restrained.

Aisles of mums, pumpkins and assorted produce at the Mohawk Valley Produce Auction in Minden.

And buyers also were realistic. Four gallons of some off-brand mystery mayonnaise — “high-quality, right here. Use it in your restaurant — didn’t sell at the reserve of $7 a gallon.

We got out of there with 125 pounds of onions bound for chili and stews, two bushels of beautiful peppers, six quarts of raspberries and four quarts of chilies that went for $1 total. All told, we spent about $60.

And we’ll be back. The auction is held at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays through the prime growing season, and less frequently in the offseason.

The auction house is at 840 Fordsbush Road in Minden, about four miles outside Fort Plain. Its phone number is 568-3579. It’s open to anyone; just register at the window when you get there.

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