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Farm auction a rarity

February 14, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

BOONSBORO - The Robert Martz dairy farm seems like a regal outpost along a straight swath of Mapleville Road.

A long lane leads up to the house, and barns and outbuildings are spread across the property.

This has been his home since 1951, Martz said. He was 7 years old when his family moved here - another generation raised on a farm.

"We've been farmers since Adam and Eve," he joked.

Now, at the age of 64, Martz has decided to step aside and let his son take over.

"My father worked this land. I worked this land," he said. "Now, it's my son's turn."

But while his farm will stay in the family, Martz knows not everyone is so lucky. He can drive down the road and see housing developments that now sit on land once owned by farming neighbors.

With the ups and downs of the farm economy, Martz understands it's a difficult path for even the hardiest farmer's son to follow.

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Maybe that's why Martz wasn't surprised by the hundreds of people who showed up on his doorstep Saturday for a farm equipment auction.

With fewer farms, it's more difficult to find used equipment, he said.

Because his son will be bringing his own machinery to the farm, Martz went the old-fashioned route to sell his duplicate items - an auction.

Years ago, farm equipment auctions were a common event, said Jim Cochran, owner of J.G. Cochran Auctioneers and Associates. Today, they're rare.

"I might do five or six of these auctions this year," he said. "Back in the 1970s, you would see 30 or 40 of these - one almost every weekend."

As Saturday's auctioneer, Cochran said he expected about 600 people to attend the sale, many coming from as far away as Indiana and upstate New York.

"It's becoming harder and harder to find equipment for the small farm," he said. "People are willing to travel to find what they need. Everything sold today will be put to use again."

In addition to farmers, Cochran said the auction also would attract equipment dealers and some collectors, as well as people who seldom see a farm equipment sale.

Amos Myers of Hagerstown was one of those people.

"It's a sad statement about farming," he said. "As a boy, I remember going to equipment auctions with my father. Today, they don't exist. I never thought we would see the American farm disappear, but I'm afraid it is."

Cochran said the auction included John Deere tractors, a combine, hay and harvesting equipment and cultivators, as well as two wagons of small farm-related items.

Martz said he had mixed emotions about Saturday's auction. But he wasn't too sad.

"I'm retiring, but I'll still be helping out around here," he said. "I'll have the best of both worlds."

"My relatives always worked until they couldn't get on a tractor anymore," he added. "I expect to do the same. I enjoy working."

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