The Chesterhill Produce Auction has been a place to congregate and support farmers for many years. During my three-month summer term with Rural Action, it has become apparent that the auction holds a place in many people’s hearts whether it be the regulars who attend each week or people from out of the area. On a sunny Thursday afternoon in June, there was an unfamiliar van parked in the CPA lot. A woman named Luci Hernandez was there to visit, explaining how her and her newly wed husband live in California and are taking a month-long cross-country road trip for their honeymoon. The reason the couple stopped at the Chesterhill Produce Auction was because Luci’s grandmother was passionate about genealogy and found that the area used to be the site of “The Wagoner Family Farm” once belonging to her family. Luci was on a mission to find her family’s farm by asking around for any information and decided to participate in her first ever auction while doing so.
Halfway through the auction Luci stopped me while I was doing my usual task of going back and forth collecting and piling up produce for the CPA Buying Club to ask me about what I was doing. I then described the process and purpose of Buyer’s Club, Rural Action, and partner groups like CFI as well as how we utilize the CPA to support farmers and provide access to fresh produce to the community. After this Luci did not hesitate to help me and the other members of Rural Action out with our duties up until the end of the auction. Once the bidding ended Luci separated from us and when I later asked her what happened she said, “After the auction was over, I finally got some more info on the farm. I guess the farm was split up into different lots. The auction house was part of it, and I instantly felt gratification that I got to use my hands to help on the same property that my ancestors did. I also met the gentleman [Ura Hershberger] that owned the property that the barn sat on. He explained the barn was torn down but that the last thing left that may have been original is the white house front. He was kind enough to let me come by later so I could take some pictures. Then I had so much fun dressing up and having a photoshoot. Fashion and photography has always been my way to express myself and this way a wonderful way to express where I came from and who I am now.”
Truly the Chesterhill Produce Auction is more than a place to simply sell and buy produce. It is a place where people can not only connect with each other but possibly connect with their roots. Luci truly was a pleasure to meet and a kindhearted person. I am so grateful to the CPA for all the experiences it have provided to me and others.
Sarah Smith is an Ohio University student of Urban Planning and Sustainability spending her summer serving as an AmeriCorps member with Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture.