Amish; Old Order Mennonite; vegetable sales; Missouri Extension; outreach


The number of produce auctions led by plain Anabaptist producers has surged since the mid-1990s. Typically grower-owned, these businesses are centralized facilities providing a wholesale market to area growers for a diverse group of buyers. For growers seeking an adequate living from growing produce, these facilities help reduce marketing time and product transportation, and provide frequent sales events that guarantee payment. As such, they have developed into a solid and long-standing market for local produce. However, plain growers have experienced challenges trying new crops or scaling up production. This article details how Missouri Extension assisted plain farmers with their challenges through modifications needed for effective engagement. Outreach efforts have been reminiscent of Extension in the earlier part of the twentieth-century, which employed farm visits and tours, direct mailings, and small group gatherings. Service delivery focus has included pest control, produce food safety, effective communication, and business innovation. Extension also worked with the Clark, Missouri, produce auction to adapt to challenges presented by the new federal food safety requirements. An analysis using the U.S. Census of Agriculture data documents that farms associated with produce auctions became critical to fresh vegetable production in Missouri. Market share doubled from 2007 to 2017 (from 13% to 26%). This demonstrates that the auction infrastructure has become a regionally important supply chain channel for fresh produce. [Abstract by authors.]