Pumpkin auction a big hit once again
HIGHTSTOWN — Established at the height of the Great Depression in 1933-34, the non profit Tri-County Farmers’ Cooperative held its annual pumpkin and fall decorative goods auction on Sept. 17.
To help farmers sell their excess goods and to help local non profit, school and religious groups raise funds, a second auction was held on Oct. 1 in the afternoon.
Veteran farmer Robert Balz of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, has been coming to Tri-County Cooperative for years.
He worked nearly four decades at Cranbury-based Plant Food Company and became a manager there. Now, in his retirement, he farms a 95-acre tract on the border of Englishtown and Manalapan in Monmouth County and he and his wife Karen mind a busy retail farm stand on Englishtown Road, less than a mile from the entrance to the always busy Englishtown Auction Sales, a.k.a. Englishtown Flea Market. Balz also raises chickens for eggs and meat on R&K Farms, his 14-acre tract in Monroe Township.
For many years, Balz was vice president at Tri-County Cooperative. He recalled his mother used to use specialty cheese pumpkins to make pumpkin pies.
The location of his farm stand on busy Englishtown Road near the flea market ensures he’ll sell the mums, specialty pumpkins, gourds and fall decorative corn he’s purchased.
Board member Randy Peck of Millstone Township in Monmouth County said most members of the cooperative were pleased with the turnout from restaurant owners and church and school groups on Sept. 17.
The loading dock at the Cooperative was filled with thousands of pumpkins, mums, gourds and squash.
“Today was a beautiful day, and indeed, many people do remark they’ve never seen so many pumpkins in one place before,” he observed.
“We had a lot of participation here from our members and we had some people here today buying for restaurants, we had some winter squash and some mums here today, I brought in the first broccoli that I’ve cut for the season and that brought in some good money,” Peck said.
Tri-County Cooperative is now open to the public and managers there encourage the public to come out and see the produce on the loading dock.
The facility is open three nights a week during the season, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 until dark. Savvy chefs and restaurant owners who know the seasonality of different crops can take advantage of wholesale prices at the facility on these nights.
John Oleinik of Sunrise Antiques, Chesterfield, served as the auctioneer for some very large decorative pumpkins, squash, mums and fall corn displays.
Peck added: “I think the general word was, the farmers got a ‘better-than-OK’ price for most of their stuff, so I’d say it was a success.”