The United States economy, according to most Americans right now, is less than great and this would be considered particularly true for rural America. Unemployment has always been higher in rural areas and is exponentially higher now -- nearing 20% on average for rural counties in America. Trying to look up the statistics can be confusing. However, there is an even more accurate indicator of rural economic health - The Farm Auction.
I have attended several farm auctions in the last couple months as I acquire equipment for our farm. Auctions usually take place when a farmer is "retiring" from the life and is selling off all of his possessions. You never know how much you have acquired in life until it is set out on tables for public viewing.
The auction will be selling a combination of both household items, barn items and equipment. Equipment may be the big draw for the auctions, but most of the time is spent selling household items and small tools from the barns. These are often combined into lots. This video is small snippet of of the auctioneer selling a tangled pile of ropes that lay on the table. They started the bidding at $25 and worked down from there until someone made a starting bid and then the games began. On these particular ropes -- the starting bid was $5 and they ended up selling for $15 after going up in $1 increments.
In this video, we have moved into the barn and the auctioneer is selling some ground rods used for electric fencing. (watch carefully and you will see the auctioneer "catches" me filming him - but never misses a beat.
As the video shows, most people never bid and instead are local friends and neighbors that are there to gawk and see what Farmer Joe had in his barn and see how much things go for so they can feel good about the stuff they have in their own barn. Several things did not get an opening bid so did not sell and most things went for considerably under market value. That doesn't mean there wasn't some money spent. A large tractor that was for sale went for nearly $50,000 and a 15' bush hog had some spirited bidding all the way up past $7,000. But generally, most things sold for less than $5. Most of the bidding was done by 2 or 3 large & established cattle operations that were buying up surplus to add to their own enterprises.
So....What did I buy? Well, I went for one thing in particular and ended up buying it for what seemed like a very good price. A livestock trailer. It's an older model -- but has everything I wanted. 16', goose-neck, strong floor and solid axles.
In addition I bought a seed spreader to go on the back of a tractor and a large lot of steel step in posts for electric fence. There were several other things that went for good prices and I might of had a need for in the future -- but I am very careful not to buy things that I do not have an immediate need for. So....to close on my original point. This auction further illustrated to me that rural economy is mirroring the national economy - just from a lower vantage point. Most of the small farmers there had very little money to spend and would be quickly outbid by larger cattle operations that were still able to get decent supplies and equipment for a very low price.