Saturday, January 23, 2010

TLT auction: going once, going twice

“I think some people are hesitant to attend a live auction because they’re afraid if they lift their hands they’ll buy something,” said Susan Miller, co-chair of the Tecumseh Land Trust’s 4th Annual Harvest Auction. “You don’t buy something just by sneezing,” she assured.

The fundraiser will take place Friday, September 5th from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Springfield Museum of Art, 107 Cliff Park Road in Springfield. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of event. For more information, call TLT at (937) 767-9490 or

“The auction is fun, it’s informal, and it’s not scary," Miller continued. "The auctioneer is actively involved in the bidding process and it’s fun to watch what he does to promote an item.” Auctioneer extraordinaire, Doug Sorrell from Miamisburg, will be back again this year with his colorful brand of bid calling.

“He does a lot of fun things to get people into the flavor of the auction,” said Miller.

Sorrell will spend the early part of the evening simply walking around, talking to participants, learning what their interests are, and developing a rapport. “Of course, everybody knows it’s a fundraiser,” Miller added, “so they’re eager to participate and have fun. But we won’t let you do anything you don’t like.”

The auction will be set up in the art museum’s auditorium with tables lined up at the front displaying the auction items or — when appropriate — a description of the item.

“There will be Persian rugs or tickets to an Ohio State football game,” said TLT auction veteran Roger Cranos, “and then there’ll be a hundred pounds of seed corn or a truckload of manure."

TLT’s annual auction is the main reason why Cranos has been a long-time supporter of the organization which is dedicated to preserving farmland through partnerships with landowners. “There’s really good food and it’s a very social time,” said Cranos, who has purchased many items from past TLT auctions including patio flagstone and restaurant dinners. “However, I like it because of the diversity of people it attracts. It's different clusters of people from all around Greene and Clark Counties, from all walks of life.”

One of over 1,500 land trusts in the United States, TLT is a membership organization that works with landowners to preserve their valuable farmland through what is called a conservation easement — a restriction placed on a piece of property to prohibit certain types of development. Although there are many landowners who willingly go this route, there are others who would like to take this step but are not in a position to permanently limit their land because the financial incentive to sell the land is too great. Especially when that land represents retirement income.

“These people are hopeful that we can write grants to buy a conservation easement from them,” said TLT Executive Director Krista Magaw. “They don’t really want to sell their 100 acres so that twenty homes get built on the farm. They would rather that it stay the way grandpa’s farm has always looked.” TLT’s membership support and fundraisers — like the annual auction — provide landowners with options they wouldn’t have otherwise.

“The auction really brings together groups of people who would not necessarily run into each other,” said Magaw. “We have full-time farmers who have farmed on the same piece of land for 100 years who are very knowledgeable about farming economics and they have a very different perspective to share with our psychologists, potters, and small business proprietors who come here because they want to live in a very beautiful, very walk-able place. I find the cross-pollination at our events to be really wonderful.”

Auction newbies might want to consider starting slow — perhaps with the silent auction that will also be available that evening.

“You go around to each item,” explained TLT auction veteran Gayle Gyure, “and write down what you want to bid.” Each item will have a corresponding sheet that lists all the bids. Bidders casually stroll about the various tables and track the progress of the bidding on their desired items. They can continue to “up the bid” by writing down increasingly larger amounts or simply stop bidding.

“There’s a little friendly competition that gets going on some items,” said Magaw. “It’s all for a good cause!”

If you've ever listened to an auctioneer and wondered, “What is he saying??”, go to and type "learn auction chant basic by auctioneer Aaron McKee" in the search field. In no time at all, you’ll pick up the cadence of the not-so-secret language.

One dollar bid, now two, now two, will ya gimme two?
Two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya gimme three?

Luckily for auctioneer wannabes, Sorrell teaches an auctioneering class at Warren County Career Center. There are four elements to an auctioneer’s chant, he explained: numbers, filler words, breathing, and rhythm.

“You need to have a certain rhythm,” said the third generation auctioneer who’s been at it for 30 years. “It needs to be pleasant, something you can expect an audience to listen to for hours at a time. Being an auctioneer is very much like singing.”

Sorrell does two kinds of auctions: charity galas and horse auctions. In a horse auction, he might sell 30 horses in one hour so transactions move very quickly. He assured me, however, that will not be the case at the TLT Harvest Auction.

“In a charity gala,” he explained, “there’s no need to be in that kind of hurry. We’re going to kid and joke and everybody’s going to know whose bid is where.”

Originally published in the Yellow Springs News.

Susan Gartner is a freelance writer and photographer for the News.