Central Missouri Produce Auction (CMPA) implemented a number of changes this year. The most significant is now two auction rings are occurring at the same time for the majority of the auction. This began right away with their early plug and plant sales. Starting right away has helped buyers to adapt. The auction rings are conducted nearby so that buyers can monitor both rings at the same time. It is more demanding on the buyers' attention though. One main advantage of this change was noticeable right from the beginning; the auctions are finishing much quicker, roughly in about Â½ the time compared to previous years.
As the season progressed, growers began bringing their flats, hanging baskets, and other plants in on wagons. Thus a wagon auction ring occurred while a multitude of other flats and plants were auctioned off of rolling racks from an adjacent ring. With most plant sales having ended and the shift to produce, another significant change has ensued; products are no longer auctioned from wagons. Now products are unloaded onto carts on the auction floor. Two auctioneers work their way down parallel cart rows, proceeding about the same pace so that they are reasonably close. There are two main benefits to this, the produce is under cover and out of the sun and the growers can come early, drop their produce and return to their farms.
The length of time for a typical (busy) auction has been a concern for some time and the sentiment was that the auction could try and do more to appeal to buyers who are time constrained. These are often buyers who need larger quantities. So in the summer and fall of 2012 five different auctions were visited in PA, IA, and MO to consider options for changing the auction. In addition to the auction manager, individuals going on these visits included board members, growers, shareholders and employees.
They returned with the ideas to start two auction rings and to use the facility floor space to stage fresh produce, instead of on wagons. Larger auctions have been using more than one auction for some time; the auction in Leola, PA uses up to four! Discontinuing drive-thru is a relatively new concept, but was seen as the trend as more auctions see the benefit of letting growers unload and get back home to work. With these changes they had four goals in mind:
Another change will start in July to assist the sale of larger volumes. A 'large lots' auction will open the sales day. The auctioning of large lots will be conducted on the lower floor and will have the minimum size of 10 boxes or a bin.
Are there any negatives to these changes (besides the increased demand of buyers attention to concurrent auctions)? Of most concern is the lack of placing a personal connection of the grower to his product, which was very obvious when he would pull the load past on a wagon. To compensate growers are encouraged to stand by their product at least some of the time at some auctions. The food stand sales has decreased substantially, as buyers are often too busy to eat and the auction doesn't stretch across the lunch hour like it used to so often.
Thus far most everyone is enjoying spending less time at the auction and more at their farm or business. A good time to check out these changes is when the next Central Missouri farm tour will be held, which is August 28th. The auction begins at 10 and the tour will likely start at 11:30 since the auction is finishing so much quicker.
My appreciation to James Ramer, Manager of CMPA for his input and assistance with this article.
REVISED: November 24, 2015