Northport farmer loves an auction
Northport cherry grower Rick Deering has snapped up a lot of good stuff cheap at farm auctions he’s been to through the years. Problem is, he’s also collected a lot of worthless junk — about three pole barns full.
“My wife’s gonna kill me if I buy any more stuff,” Deering said. “She says I have to go to AA — Auctions Anonymous.”
But, as he points out, sometimes his ‘junk’ comes in handy, if not to him, then to a friend or neighbor.
“Every once in a while you need something,” Deering said.
Like many a farmer, he’s gotten some really good bargains at farm auctions, but readily admits, “Sometimes you don’t get such a good deal.”
Auctions are a way for farmers to purchase second-hand farm equipment at good prices, much of which they may not be able to afford brand new.
The best deal he ever got was his John Deere tractor, purchased for $3,100 at an auction about 25 years ago. He uses it every day. The worst deal he ever got was a backhoe he paid $3,500 for. One of the drive motors went out as soon as he got it home, he said, costing him $5,000 to fix.
“But I’m still using it,” Deering said. “I got it fixed and I use it once in a while.”
Deering spent $100 on a band saw he uses all the time, $1,000 on a lathe he uses occasionally and $5,500 on a bulldozer he uses sometimes. A second bulldozer set him back about $6,300. He may sell it. Then again, he may not.
“That’s my problem. I don’t like to sell anything.”
He also has a car lift that he purchased for $2,600, several drill presses — all different sizes, of course — and shelves upon shelves of greasy tools, drill bits, and other odds and ends.
“Just about anything you can look at I bought at a sale,” Deering said, his arms stretched out like Vanna White. He also has six or seven semi trailers which come in very handy for storing all the stuff he’s accumulated through the years.
One of his favorite purchases is an antique bucket truck that, when extended its full 59 feet, gives a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.
Deering also once bought 200 gallons of paint, all different colors, that he uses to paint his cherry trees.
The 60-year-old has 170 acres of cherry trees and about four acres of apple, he said.
The farm, which was once his father’s, has been in his family since 1968. Before that, starting when he was just 7, he worked on the Bartlett farm, owned by his mother’s family.
Deering said he picked up the auction bug as a small child. When he was 5 his grandmother, who owned a store called Treasures and Trash, would take him to Copemish. While she searched for dishes and household goods to sell at her store, he would be off watching the auctioneers sell cows and pigs.
He’s now on the mailing lists of several auction companies from which he gets regular notices, though he’s pretty sure his wife Nancy throws a lot of them away before he sees them.
Over the years Deering has bought a lot of stuff for Nancy, most of which she doesn’t like, he said. But they’ve been married for 39 years, so apparently she still likes him, he said. He once snagged up a pontoon boat for $2,100 at an auction — a steal, he said, because it came with a motor and a trailer. He kept it hidden at a friend’s farm for three years before bringing it home, afraid of what she would say, but she ended up liking it, he said.
Deering says he’s a quantity buyer, often buying a pile of stuff because there’s one thing in the pile he may need. That’s how he’s ended up with outbuildings that are spilling their contents into the yard.
He’s also hooked on buying repossessed storage units, some as big as 10 by 20 feet. When the units go on the auction block the doors have been opened and potential buyers can get a peek in, but otherwise what’s inside is a big mystery. The units, which used to go for $30 to $40, now command prices up to $1,000, because of TV shows like A&E’s Storage Wars, a reality show in which auction hunters haggle over storage units.
Deering said he’s never really gotten anything good from a storage bin.
“Nothing like those guys on TV,” he said. “Not even close.” He loves the show anyway. He also likes American Pickers, those two guys who’ve made a fine art of junk picking.
“Maybe they’ll be coming this way,” he said.
One day his wife may inherit all of his junk, which he has no immediate plans to get rid of. He scoffs when it's suggested that maybe she’ll sell it all and get rich.
“Nah, none of it’s worth very much,” he says.
At least not to anyone else.