Farmers coop offers chance to link with larger accounts

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By Kristen Snyder

Auctions are a place where learning to detect and interpret even the most minute change of body language is key. 

As the amplified voice of the owner and auctioneer, David Neville, rambles the increment prices of the merchandise, most of the communication on the floor of Capstone Produce Market was being done through looks, small nods of the head and quick hand gestures. Others looked over the produce, which sat in bins lined up in rows through the warehouse, conversing with each other as Amish workers brought in palette after palette of fresh produce.

Capstone Produce Market, located at 7432 Carrollton Rd., Campbellsburg, opened in the fall of 2009, after Neville saw the need for a produce market to connect producers with commercial buyers wanting to buy local.

 “There was a diversifying of Kentucky agriculture and the mainstream conversation about the local foods movement…the opportunity was there,” Neville said. “All the stars were lining up.”

About 14 counties around the Campbellsburg area contribute to the Capstone Produce Market, which is open all year, specializing in different products each season, Neville said. Local farmers from Carroll and Trimble counties are among those who participate in the market.

In the winter they sell hay, straw and firewood; in the spring they have flowers and then as the season turns into summer, various kinds of fruits and vegetables become available including corn, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe and much more. In the fall they have their “Golden Harvest” sale, which includes Indian corn, pumpkins and gourds. During slower periods, the market also sells goods such as playhouses and furniture made by the Amish, whom also work at the market. 

“This is a hybrid auction,” Neville said, which makes Capstone different from other produce auctions in other areas of Kentucky. “We’re English owned and Amish run, so we can take advantage of technology that the others might not, like our website.”

Neville said the business is making progress and there are more producers and buyers coming in all the time. Amos Troyer, one of the Amish who work at Capstone agreed.

“It’s picking up pretty fast, in the next couple years its going to get pretty big,” Troyer said.

Most of Capstone’s business is with larger commercial customers that buy wholesale. Neville said there are about a dozen buyers that buy large quantities for more commercial use, such as Whole Foods Market and surrounding school systems, but they also sell to individuals in smaller quantities.

There are a lot of advantages to buying produce from the produce auction, Neville said.

“In most cases, the produce was grown within 50 miles of the consumer,” Neville said. “Things that are shipped across the country are bred to withstand shipping, they’re tough. Ours are bred to taste. A lot of times our consumers will eat something that was picked the same day. Buy local, eat fresh.”

Some people may think that a large produce auction like Capstone would hurt smaller farmer’s markets in the area, but Neville and the workers at Capstone think differently.

“The farmer’s markets and produce stands do better with a produce auction near by because it gets people thinking about buying local,” Neville said. “We’re not really direct competition for them because our clients are bigger buyers, and their client is the family.”

Providing an outlet for local farmers also helps the community.

“It’s a good opportunity for local farmers,” Samuel Troyer said, who is one of the Amish workers at Capstone.

Neville agreed. “It’s a good clean business. It helps out farmers in a real direct way. They bring in their produce and they take away a check,” Neville said.

Capstone Produce Market also sells growers supplies to help with any of their producer’s needs.

In addition to selling produce, they also have “Homeplace Cafe” so people can buy snacks during the auction. They hope to partner up with local chefs who will prepare food from the produce brought in and give samples to buyers.

“Chefs would go out to the floor and pick out their ingredients and fix it up and give samples to people,” Neville said. “The chefs will get a little publicity and it will give buyers and idea of the quality of the food we sell here.”

 Neville has big plans for Capstone in the near future. They plan to build more buildings on the property, including docks for semi trucks for loading and they also will have cool storage trailers for short term holding of produce for pick up. They hope to have these expansion completed by September.

Capstone will be having produce auctions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Aug., starting at 11 a.m.

 “We have really tremendous producers in this area,” Neville said. “Come and check it out.”

For more information visit www.capstoneproducemarket.com.