WEST SALEM, Ohio — Whether you’re looking for a few vegetables for the weekend or to stock the shelves of a grocery store, a new produce auction on the border of Wayne and Medina counties has you covered.
County Line Produce Auction opened June 5 and sells produce three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, beginning at 5 p.m.
The primary auctioneer, Nick DeFelice, said the opening drew 500-plus, as well as a few buyers from other states. He estimated about 95 percent of the produce is grown within a 10- to 15-mile radius.
“We want people to come out and check it out,” he said, stressing the buy-fresh, buy-local concept. “A lot of people want to know where their food comes from. They can come out and meet the farmers and buy good product.”
DeFelice, 25, has sold produce in the area for about five years, and also sells produce at the Blooming Grove Auction in Shiloh. He said he was approached the first part of the year by the Amish community, about constructing a new produce auction facility.
Their first meetings were held in a woodshop, and in a three-day period they constructed a 27,000 square-foot facility with about 450 feet of loading dock.It’s located within miles from Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 224.
DeFelice is one of three facility owners. The auction includes a seven-member advisory board. He sells alongside auctioneer Paul Emerson, and the sale manager is auctioneer Chuck Stiver. The business will employ about 10 part-time workers once it is fully operational.
Sellers include large farms, as well as medium and smaller size growers. Buyers include grocery stores and restaurants, as well as individuals who want something fresh during the week, or to can for later use.
A drive-thru sale area is still being built, where produce will be loaded onto a wagon and sold from the wagon, inside the drive-thru.“It will be picked, put on the wagon, brought to the sale and sold right off that wagon,” DeFelice said. “And it goes right into the box truck, headed straight to a grocery store. It will be on the shelf the next day.”
That’s one of the benefits of starting the auction at 5 p.m., he said, because growers have time to harvest during the day, and the produce is sold and hauled to stores and restaurants during the evening.
“It can be on somebody’s plate in less than 24 hours,” he said.
Neat and tidy
Stiver helps the business stay up to date on food safety regulations, although most of those apply to the growers, he said. The produce usually includes traceback information, so that if there’s an issue, the grower is known.
Stiver said he hopes to eventually hold some produce safety and grower meetings at the facility, making it into “an educational hub” for growers to learn the latest, and keep their operations up to standard.
The business was granted an agricultural exemption by the Homer Township zoning inspector, which was upheld in June, following an unsuccessful appeal from a second Homer Township produce auction.
The auction business is often competitive, but DeFelice emphasized “this was a community decision,” and “is a big asset to them.”Most of the labor to design and construct the facility was donated by the community, which included a few hundred Amish and English.
County Line Produce Auction is located at 11707 Jeffery Road West Salem, OH 44287. It can be reached at 419-853- 0123.