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New Melleray Abbey machinery auction brings good prices

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 12/09/2010 9:14 AM

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PEOSTA, Iowa — The era of farming by New Melleray Abbey monks came to end Nov. 20 when the monastery's farm machinery was auctioned in a hay field. The blustery day drew 500 auction goers bundled in coveralls, Carhartt jackets, caps and gloves.

Farmers since 1849, the New Melleray monks decided to quit farming and rent out their land. This year's harvest was their last.

"The auction went very well," said auctioneer Mark McClain of McK Real Estate Auction Co. in Dubuque. "It brought 25 percent more than I expected from the appraisals. It was a big day."

There were 316 who registered for buyer numbers.

Father Brendan Freeman, New Melleray Abbot, thanked everyone for coming.

"This is a bittersweet day for us," Freeman said. "We're getting out of farming."

He gave a history of the monastery farm, located south of Peosta, and explained why they decided to quit farming. Their reasons are similar to other family farms. The average age of the 35 monks is 70. Margins are tight, and the organic farm is no longer profitable.

Dave Ruden, farm and forestry manager, talked about much of the equipment before it sold. He thanked his employees Dale Mueller and Wayne Young.

"It's truly an honor to be here," McClain said as he started the bidding. "You'll never find a better line of equipment. It's well maintained. Much of it was bought new. The service records are available on nearly all of it."

Neighbor John Freiberger's blue heeler Bonnie ran through the crowd as buyers moved from the tools to the fence posts, cattle gates and feeders to the machinery. Freiburger bought a grain cleaner.

Trucks, grain wagons, planters, grain drills, tillage equipment, a chopper, a haybine, tractors and a combine all sold.

McClain said the top seller was a John Deere 4-wheel-drive tractor which sold for $138,000.

When McClain auctioned a Sunflower soil finisher, there were out-of-state buyers bidding via cell phone. It brought $38,500.

"The monks were really happy with how things turned out," McClain said.

Brother Placid, who worked on the farm for most of his 55 years at the abbey, watched the entire auction taking a keen interest in the price each piece of equipment brought.

"I've driven and worked on most of this equipment," he said.

Darla Hosch, her husband, Kenny, their son Adam, and future son-in-law Brian DuPont have farmed New Melleray's hay ground and will now rent part of the crop ground. Neighbor Charles Mccullough is renting the rest.

The Hosch family, who live at Epworth, bought the 8420 John Deere tractor that the monastery bought new. Ruden said they watched it being built at the factory in Waterloo. The Hosch family also bought a corn planter.

"We were hoping to buy the tractor," said Darla Hosch with a grin. "Now it will stay with the farm."