Near the border of Belmont and Monroe counties sits what manager and auctioneer Justin Moore calls “the best kept secret in Belmont County”. Captina Produce Auction is a collaboration between local Amish farmers and English auctioneers. Captina Produce Auction was started in 2005 by local Amish growers as a place for them to sell their produce in one location, rather than from road-side stands. Floor manager John Yoder donated the land and others donated the lumber and labor to build the auction house.
Last spring the farmers approached local auctioneer Justin Moore to help them grow the business.
“They were lacking in communication,” Moore said. The office, run by Justin’s mother, Renee, now utilizes computers with auction software. Captina Produce Auction has a web site and is on Facebook, where updates and market reports can be found, as well as being available seven days a week by phone at (740) 425- 4495. Moore can be reached at (740) 238-0955.
The family-run business also includes Justin’s sister, Jessica who is a clerk in the office.
Moore graduated from auctioneer school in St. Louis, Missouri in 2009. He sells livestock once a week in Barnesville and also works at the family business, J-Mo Meats in Barnesville. Moore, who lives nearby, said he enjoys the produce auction and says it is different than livestock auctions.
His apprentice, Mason Plumly, also graduated from the St. Louis auctioneer school in 2012, following his graduation from Barnesville High School.
A food stand, run by Jody Hunter,  is available on auction days.
Justin said 95 percent of the growers are local and 90 percent live within a 10-mile radius of the auction. The auction is held each Tuesday and Friday from June through November beginning at 10 a.m., but growers begin preparing their produce the previous evening. Renee added that many growers pick their produce the morning of the auction. The growers decide how their produce is sold.
Justin said the sales are over by 1:30 p.m. on a typical day and even though they are held twice a week, it is a five-day a week job. He said a Wednesday evening auction may be added in September for smaller lots.
“In peak season, we sell between $25,000 to $30,000 of produce per week,” Moore said. “A lot of people don’t realize the volume we move through here. We are Belmont County’s hidden secret.”
 Yoder said business has increased 30 percent over last year. “This has been a record year for volume,” he said.
Moore said produce sold varies by the season and can include just about any produce you can think of that can be grown in the area.
“We stand behind our quality,” Moore said. “We pride ourselves on a smooth and efficient sale and a quality product.”
He said in a good week, the auction has 100 buyers who include Bel-Mor Market, Jebbia’s Market in Wheeling, Ebbert’s Farm Market in St. Clairsville and many other “stand buyers” who buy the Amish produce and re-sell it at road-side stands. Many of the buyers come from West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Moore said this fall when pumpkins and gourds are offered the distance range of buyers will increase.
“It has been great for the community, increasing the profit for the growers. Many growers make their living here,” Moore said, adding that they come early to help and stay late to sweep up and help take care of the auction house.
“They are some of the hardest working people I know,” Renee said of the Amish.
One of the growers who makes a living for his family at Captina Produce Auction is John Weaver. Moore said the auction sells approximately $50,000 of Weaver’s produce each year.
Weaver has been selling at the auction for five years and agreed that this year has been his best so far. He grows on a total of nine acres. Weaver said his yield has been plentiful and the prices good.
Moore said all growers go through a “field walk” done by the Department of Agriculture and take a food safety course through the Ohio State University Extension Agency. All the Amish growers have wash houses at their homes and the produce is washed thoroughly before it is packaged.
Moore said more growers are welcome and an addition to the building may be needed soon to accommodate the volume of business they have been doing. He said the building is also available on a consignment basis for estate and other auctions.
“If you have never been to a produce action, it is worth coming at least once, just to see how it is done,” Moore said.
The Captina Produce Auction is located at 39050 W. Captina Highway.