I was writing an email to a friend this morning, explaining the Amish retirement/estate auction I attended recently, and I thought, “I have enough here to write a post!” So, here it is.
Whenever I saw a poster in our community (Middlebury/Shipshewana) for an Amish estate auction, I thought, “How sad! They must not have had a single son or daughter who was interested in taking over the family farm!” But I was mistaken.
Now that I have seen the process up close, I understand it better. The bottom line is this: If a family has eight children, it wouldn’t be fair to just leave the house and farm and livestock and equipment to the youngest son! (Or, whichever child ends up with the farm—I talked more about that in this post on dawdi houses.) So, the child who takes over the farm actually purchases the farm from the parents… and if he wants the livestock or equipment, he bids on it at the auction, fair and square.
I was told that if the other bidders recognize that son as being a bidder on something, often they will back off and let him have it without running up the price. What a nice custom!
Anyway, we found ourselves at the retirement auction of our best Amish friends Glenn and Ruth. It was a huge affair, many months in the planning. For the larger outside items—which included three sets of work horses, three buggies, and lots of farm equipment—the auctioneer worked from a booth built into the back of a pickup truck. It was very well designed, with a cabin for the auctioneer and the record-keeper, and built-in speakers on every side. The truck could be moved down the rows as the items came up for sale.
There was also a sale going on all day in one of the larger outbuildings, with all kinds of household stuff and smaller items; these also were being auctioned off. Ruth told me that she took perhaps three-quarters of her household things with her to their new place next door, so the other 25% were here. I have noticed on many occasions how much more money can be made from an auction (vs. a traditional ‘English’ estate or yard sale). It’s a great way to build a nest egg for the newly retired couple!
The son who is taking over the farm bought plenty, as you can imagine. He bid on all three teams of horses, and got two of them—the other team, which he had worked with since his youth, went to a higher bidder from Michigan. One of the daughters of the family bought one of the Amish buggies—it’s also going to Michigan, where they live. Another daughter bought quite a bit of the old living room furniture.
All the family and friends were there, and there was good food served all day at reasonable prices in the large room at the back of the house where church is held. Next time you’re in Amish Indiana with a few hours to spare, look for a sign like this one. These retirement auctions are fun!
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