Wheeling and Dealing

Powell uses lessons from his father
to build auction business

Powell Farms holds three
consignment auctions each year

CAMPBELLSBURG, Ky. (August 2019) – Farmers, large and small, throughout the region are likely to have machinery sitting around collecting dust or rust because they don’t use it anymore. Or maybe there’s that one piece of equipment that you know would make your job a lot easier, but you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a new one.
Powell Farms Consignment Auction, located on Hwy. 421 near Campbellsburg, Ky., has the solution. Owner David Powell holds three auctions a year, and they are among the biggest auctions of farm machinery in this region. The next one will be Aug. 17, starting at 9 a.m. Other auctions take place on the third Saturday in January and May each year.

Photo by Don Ward

David Powell poses beside his auction truck at Powell Farms Consignment Auction near Campbellsburg, Ky.

If you go, the one thing that you can be sure of is that there will be lots of equipment and lots of people there. The average auction will list more than 1,000 items for sale with 500-700 buyers and sellers in attendance. Powell charges a 10 percent commission per item, with a maximum charge of $450 on big ticket items. He has learned that chasing down signers on a transfer of ownership is too hectic, so no vehicles are sold.
The rise of Powell’s business is one of those classic American dream stories. As a young man he had his own lawn care service and then started teaming up with his father, Bradley, who bought and sold farm machinery. In 2002, not long after his father died, he started the auction consignment business.
Needing more land for his expanding operation, he bought road frontage ¼ mile from the I-71 exit, which actually borders his family farm.
Each auction takes about 45 days to organize, starting with the gathering of items to sell. Anybody who had ever sold or bought items in the past is sent a postcard reminder of the upcoming auction. That list is now up to 4,500 and helps ensure a good crowd for the next sale, he said. Powell has developed a far-reaching clientele. They include people from 15 states and one very loyal customer from Mexico.
Powell’s right hand man is Larry Ryan, who grew up in Boone County, Ky., and eventually moved to Henry County. He first worked for Powell’s father, and after he passed away, Ryan began working for David when he started the auction business.
Ryan’s main responsibly is to locate and purchase merchandise for the sales. He is routinely on the road with the company’s big truck, heading for a machinery auction someplace in the Midwest or southeast. “My favorite part of my job is auction day and catching up with the many people that I have done business with over the years,” he said.
During the auction his main responsibility is giving information to the auctioneer during the sale about items he has purchased throughout his travels.
On auction day the site may look like chaos, but it is very organized. First of all, Powell calls in his family for help. And to no one’s surprise, it is his wife, Angie, who is making sure all the business records are in order. She supervises the team that enters all of the bits of information that the selling of many items generates. He also calls in his mother and all four of his children to do various essential duties.
“Without my wife and the other family members, I doubt I could even run this business,” said Powell, 44. 
But even with all his family members working, it’s still not enough to make everything run smoothly. That takes more than 30 people, including one whose main responsibly is traffic control.
To keep things moving along, Powell has two auctioneers selling at a time, with two more in reserve to swap in and out. The auction usually takes all day with some employees working late into the night to help people load up and move their purchases off the premises.
The Providence Baptist Church members set up and sell food at the auctions.

• If you have items that you want to get into the next auction, contact Powell at (502) 558 -9491 for details on how to bring it to the site or if you have problems getting it there, for a fee, he or Ryan will pick it up for you. More information on the auctions is available online www.Auctionzip.com.

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