The Oxford, N.C., Produce Auction is beginning to pick up momentum, preparing for a late-June or early-July opening date.

A buyer from New York City has committed to purchase from the auction and farmers from outlying areas are expressing interest in selling produce in Oxford.

“At our last organizational meeting, we had about 12 growers from a wide-ranging area, from Fayetteville to south Virginia,” says Carl Cantaluppi, North Carolina State University Extension horticultural agent in Granville and Person counties. “I can tell the word has spread and we have some growers who are willing to buy into the concept.” At the meeting, organizers gave out grower numbers. Growers discussed what types of crops as well as acreage they would bring to the auction. “We need these people from a wide-ranging area to make it work.”

Cantaluppi anticipates 15-20 growers participating in the auction to start with. Crops ranging from tomatoes to sweet corn, lima beans to southern peas, snap beans to black-eyed peas and purple-hull peas, squash to cucumbers, muskmelons to pumpkins as well as bedding plants will be offered on the auction floor.

Commitment from the New York produce buyer speaks well for the chances of the auction succeeding in its first year, Cantaluppi believes.

“Based on what has been written about produce auctions by people in the business, if the quality produce is there, the buyers will come,” he says. “Once the buyers know that you're there, and open, they will be there.”

The New York buyer will place his order by phone, Cantaluppi says. Billy Yeargin, owner of Yeargin's Tobacco Warehouse, as well as manager of the Oxford Produce Auction, will serve as “order buyer.” Yeargin will walk the floor with other buyers in his capacity as “order buyer,” bidding on the produce.

“The order buyer concept should work well for those buyers who cannot physically be present, but would like to bid on the produce by stating the maximum price they will give in advance,” Cantaluppi says. “Order buyers will become an integral part of the auction and will bid along with buyers who come to the auction on each sale day.”

While the opening date of the auction hasn't been set, Cantaluppi anticipates a late-June or early-July first day. Organizers of the auction will meet again on May 30 to iron out details.

Meanwhile, the organizers are making the rounds to various auctions from the State Farmers Market in North Carolina, to the produce auction in Courtland, Va., and the Vineland, N.J., produce auction.