What happens when a farm implement dealer with surplus inventory joins forces with an entrepreneuring auctioneer?
In Durham, that combination led to a farm consignment auction Saturday that drew more than 700 people from near and far, some even from Mexico. Beautiful spring weather led to an enjoyable day for sellers, buyers, and those just there to spend a day in the sun visiting with neighbors.
This was the second consecutive year Harry Rhodes, owner of G & R Implement of Durham, and Lyle Leppke of Leppke Realty & Auction of Hillsboro have staged the event, which provides area farmers the opportunity to sell equipment they no longer use but that is still serviceable.
The two conceived the event last year when Rhodes was looking for a way to shed some excess equipment.
“I had so many balers and I figured I needed to reduce inventory. I talked with Lyle and we decided to have a consignment sale along with the reduction,” Rhodes said.
“To start a consignment sale, you try to build around something, and Harry being here with equipment and parts helped us,” Leppke said.
“Nobody wants to consign to a sale if there’s nothing there. If you prove you’re having a sale first, then everybody brings things. Build it and they will come is kind of what this thing is,” Leppke said.
With Rhodes’ connections to area farmers and Leppke advertising three months in advance for consigners, this year’s auction had approximately 70 sellers who brought large items such as tractors, balers, swathers, cultivators, trucks, trailers, cars, boats, and four-wheelers. There were plenty of smaller items as well, including spare parts, riding mowers, metal and wooden posts, and shop tools and equipment.
Rhodes said the sellers were primarily from Marion and Dickinson counties, with a few from McPherson County.
“Some of them have driven 40 miles to get here,” Rhodes said.
Sellers choose to participate for various reasons, Leppke said.
“Some are updating their equipment and need a way to get rid of it,” Leppke said. “Some have equipment they found in a hedge row and thought they’d turn it into some cash.”
A consignment sale with 70 sellers entails a great deal more work and expense than a single-family farm auction.
“A typical farm sale I can go there one day and take pictures of everything they’re selling. Here, I’m working for 70 people, and so that’s extra work. Trying to put a website together with pictures, if one guy has a tractor he wants to bring, I drive to take a picture. Another guy wants to sell a truck, I drive to take a picture.”
Another difference is the additional advertising Leppke does to attract sellers before he advertises the event to the public. All the extra effort is worth it to Leppke.
“If you’re in business, it’s something you enjoy doing, and it’s also something a community needs to get stuff gone that otherwise lays around,” Leppke said.
This year’s sale had more buyers than last year, Leppke said.
“We were over 300 numbers, in the range of 325,” Leppke said.
Some buyers came to bid on specific items. Rocky Fitzmaurice of rural Lincolnville only had eyes for a blue 1970 Ford Torino.
“I know the man who owns it. I know this old car has been taken care of, because he’s particular with all his equipment,” Fitzmaurice said.
He arrived shortly after the start of the auction at 10 a.m., and was still waiting near the car at 1 p.m.
“Hopefully they’ll start up here on this end next. They might be up here around 2,” he said.
An hour later, Fitzmaurice owned the Torino.
“I went a little higher than I expected, but it’s what I wanted. It drives like a dream,” Fitzmaurice said.
James Kohman is a 23-year-old from Tampa who decided after completing high school he wanted to go into farming, but didn’t come from a farming family. Starting from scratch, the consignment auction was a less-expensive way for him to build his equipment inventory. He purchased a White tractor, at a good price, but he wasn’t ready to say he got a good deal.
“I don’t know yet. You never know for sure when you buy it at an auction,” Kohman said. “The rear end could go out on the way home.”
As with any auction, there were buyers like Davy Hein of Durham who bought on impulse.
“I’ve gotta see if my wife will OK this check,” Hein said. “I just bought that S-10 truck.”
Buyers weren’t only local farmers, Leppke said.
“Some of this equipment by this summer will be in Mexico. The Mexican buyers will be here, the swappers will be here, the salvage people will be here, the local farmer across the road will be here. This stuff will go every direction there is,” Leppke said.
Leppke himself was a buyer, standing in for buyers who called in or left bids on various items.
“I could have anywhere from 20 to 30 bids from different people on different things in my pocket,” Leppke said. “They’re looking at a four- or five-state area, so the auction they want to go to, they’ll go to, and they may leave bids with me.”
Many sellers were there to see what their items would bring, as well as to enjoy the day with friends.
Ransom Wiebe of rural Durham had several items for sale, including a field cultivator.
“It’s a perfect day today,” Wiebe said. “We brought a few items up here. Whatever it brings, it brings.”
Keevan Hein of Durham was satisfied with the sale of wooden posts he cut specifically for sale at the auction.
“I had corner posts, line posts, and gate posts. I did better than what I expected, actually. I wanted $9 for the lines and $15 for the corners, and I got $20 for the corners and $10 for the lines,” Hein said.
Robert Neuwirth of rural Pilsen had mixed results for the lots of miscellaneous parts and equipment he brought to the sale.
“I had some drills that didn’t sell worth a damn,” Neuwirth said. “There were two junk dealers going down that line buying all that stuff.”
The event was also a family affair, with children taking turns sitting on four-wheelers and playing in the grass or on the playground adjacent to the auction grounds.
Morning Star Church ran the food concessions, and people filled the tables in the dining area much of the day, many there solely to socialize with friends and neighbors.
“They ran out of food. I heard they made over 500 hamburgers,” Rhodes said.
Leppke said the event was successful beyond his expectations.
“We had a good day. Everybody was anxious to be outside and enjoy the sun, and buy things or watch them sell,” Leppke said.
“Over the years, I think this one will do well, and it will be a good contribution to the community,” Leppke said.