Randy buntjer

On the Auction Block with Randy Buntjer

Randy Buntjer attended his first livestock auction with his father, Don, at the age of 5 or 6. His dad had a few cattle and they would often go to the local sale barn in Worthington on Friday nights.
“I used to go with my dad to a lot of livestock auctions,” said the owner of Randy Buntjer Auction and Realty, LLC, located near Ellsworth. “I just enjoyed doing that with my dad and that’s how I got into auctioneering.”
By 10 or 12 Buntjer knew that’s what he wanted to do. He conducted his first auction — a benefit auction for the local FFA Chapter — at the age of 15.
Buntjer said it was the people that attracted him to the auctioneering business. He enjoys getting to know different people and trying to get them “top dollar” on the day of their auction.
“I love working with people,” Buntjer said.
In 1987 he attended the Mason City College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa. After that he started a machinery consignment lot on his parents’ farm south of Worthington.
“That’s kind of how I got my start,” Buntjer said.
The consignment lot, which he still operates, was a way for him to get his name out. From that start, he has continued to expand his business over the years.
In 2001 he became a licensed real estate appraiser. In 2010 he obtained a real estate license and in 2015 he became a licensed real estate broker.
“It’s just kind of something else to do to fill the time between auctions,” he said.
He said the businesses all tie together in a way, allowing him to meet people as clients for one aspect of his business and gain experience with them that might bring them back to work with him in another aspect.
Today Buntjer does auctions primarily in Nobles, Rock, Murray and Jackson counties and real estate and appraisals primarily in Nobles, Rock, Pipestone, Murray, Jackson and Cottonwood counties. He typically does about 20 auctions a year. He said the appraisals take him farther out because there are not many appraisers around. Buntjer specializes in appraisals of machinery and agricultural land.
Buntjer said the most significant change to the industry since he started is the emergence of online auctions. Buntjer said he took his auction business online about three years ago and can conduct auctions in-person and simulcast them online at the same time. He said the online option greatly expands the reach of the auction.
“You’ve got the whole world watching and bidding on it,” Buntjer said.
Through his online presence he has sold equipment to people in other states and as far away as New Zealand.
Buntjer is also a sales representative for the online auction site AuctionTime.com.
Buntjer’s business office is located at the family acreage northwest of Ellsworth. His wife, Connie, is the auction clerk for the business and at one time or another all four of their children have worked for him.
“It’s kind of a family business,” Buntjer said.
He also has a few contract workers who help set up sales and works with three other auctioneers who each have their own business.
In addition to their four children, the Buntjers also have four grandchildren, all of whom live within an hour of them.
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Meyer excited to serve as Jackson County 4-H summer intern

Martin County native Jazlyn Meyer is the 2020 Jackson County 4-H summer intern.
Meyer was raised on a small farm just outside of Fairmont and graduated from Fairmont High School in 2018.
She is currently attending South Central College in Mankato and planning to transfer to Minnesota State University, Mankato upon earning her associate degree from South Central. Upon transferring to MSU, Meyer plans to major in family and consumer science.
“My career goal is to become a 4-H program coordinator,” Meyer said, “or to obtain a job within the Minnesota Extension service focusing on 4-H.”
Meyer has been involved in 4-H since the third grade when she joined and exhibited her first rabbit, a Holland lop. From there, she got involved in all things related to 4-H as much as she could, exhibiting a large array of projects in addition to rabbits, including sheep, horses, photography, food revue, animal science projects, shop projects and crafts.
“I took a lot of pride in my rabbit projects and I am still raising them to standard to show around the country,” Meyer said.
In her 11 years in 4-H, Meyer held all the offices within her Silver Lake 4-H Club and was president of her club twice. She also held several 4-H Federation offices.
“My favorite part of 4-H, personally, has been the people I have met in 4-H that have become some of my best friends through day camps, overnight camps, county fairs and at the state fair,” she said. “But one of the greatest times I’ve had during my 4-H career was attending Citizenship Washington Focus, where I traveled to Washington, D.C., with 30 other Minnesota 4-Hers, learning what it takes to be a better leader. We were even allowed to meet with politicians on this trip and speak with them about how important 4-H is to each of us.”
Meyer’s interest in the summer internship position with Jackson County 4-H was piqued when she was in 4-H and her fellow 4-Hers would get help from their summer intern then, she said.
“My program coordinator for Martin County and I were always very close and she was encouraging to me,” she said. “That was how I was introduced to the internship program originally. Last year, I aged out of 4-H but knew that my journey couldn’t end there.”
So Meyer sought out the 4-H summer internship application and chose a county that was near her hometown.
“I have attended Jackson County Fairs numerous times and knew that it would be a great place to learn and share my 4-H knowledge,” she said.
As the Jackson County 4-H summer intern, Meyer will assist in the planning of online learning opportunities, and programming with other southwest Minnesota interns using technology. She will also be promoting all the 4-H project areas and will help youth turn what they love doing into a 4-H project, she added.
“My biggest motivation to become a 4-H summer intern came from my 4-H extension educator in Martin County, Kristie Gaalswyk-Pomerenke,” Meyer said. “She is the one who really helped me realize how much I love 4-H and helped me to grow as a leader.”
Meyer is looking forward to getting to know the 4-H families of Jackson County, as well as Darcy Reed Lusk, Jackson County extension educator.
“I believe this opportunity will really help me learn more of the behind-the-scenes work an extension educator does, getting to know all the tips and tricks of running a 4-H county program,” she said. “My main goal this summer is to get to know the people I am working with and, being a people person, get to know as many of the 4-Hers and their families here as I can and to assist the program as best I can.”

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On the auction block with Jess Donkersloot

Jess Donkersloot owns Highway 59 Auction Service in Slayton and Interstate Auction Center in Brandon. His interest in the auction business began many years ago in the sale barns around Worthington where he grew up and still lives today.
“Since I could walk I was in a sale barn,” said Donkersloot, now 51.
Donkersloot started working in the Worthington sale barn when he was 13. At 15 he started helping at the Slayton sale barn. At 16 or 18 he obtained his auctioneer license in Minnesota.
He said auctioneering is something people can either do or they can’t.
“If your tongue can do the lingo, you got it,” he said. “It’s nothing you can teach.”
Over the years, Donkersloot worked with auction companies in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. He spent 37 years working for the Canby sale barn.
Donkersloot said his favorite parts of the auction business are the atmosphere and the people.
“I call it the common folk,” he said.
About 13 years ago he took over Interstate Auction Center in Brandon after Luverne Johnson died. Then seven years ago he started Highway 59 Auction Service in Slayton.
Donkersloot specializes in machinery, including farm equipment and construction equipment. He also has an occasional  lawn and garden and recreational equipment sale. Most of his business is done within a 50 to 100-mile radius of Worthington where he lives with his wife Lori on the acreage that he grew up on.
Donkersloot said the auction business has changed significantly since he started in it, especially in the last few years, with online auctions becoming much more popular. His businesses have the capacity to hold online auctions, but he doesn’t utilize it much.
“I think it’s going to be a fad,” he said of the online auctions.
He believes people still want to go to the auctions, see and touch the items and maybe even have a burger while they’re there. Nonetheless, he said the online options have had an impact on his business.
“It hurts, but I don’t have a lot of overheard,” he said.
Donkersloot said he’s also seen the closure of some of the area sale barns that he spent time in as a youth. He said he used to go to six sales a week, but there just aren’t that many sale barns around now.
More recently, Donkersloot said his business, particularly in Minnesota, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions. He said his first auction in Minnesota since the pandemic began was scheduled for June 1 in Slayton. He said he planned to ask people to practice social distancing and would have hand sanitizer available. Masks are up to the individual. He said about 10 percent of the people at a May 2 auction in Brandon had masks on.
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Schmidt making the most of the land

Chris Schmidt and his family are making the most of their 200 acres of ground near Garvin.
The land is home to the Schmidts’ Heartland Heritage Farms. The operation produces sheep, beef cattle, natural hogs, pastured chickens and pastured turkeys, along with corn, soybeans and small grains.
Schmidt, whose farm was part of a recent soil health study conducted by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota in partnership with the Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the University of Minnesota Extension and the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management at the U of M, credits his ability to get so much out of his land to no-till and cover-crop methods he implemented back in 2012.
Schmidt admits he first incorporated cover crops into the operation at the suggestion of his son as a way to provide extra forage for his sheep. When starting off with no-till, he even initially agreed to pay his father for every bushel of corn below 175 bushels per acre. He said they were both surprised when corn yields that year shot above 200 bushels per acre. Integrating livestock into the mix increased his soybean yields by between 25 and 40 percent in some cases.
Those higher yields — and reduced input costs — made Schmidt a believer in no-till and cover crops and today those soil health practices are in play on all the family’s cropland.
Schmidt also maintains a precise crop rotation and grazing rotation that has paid economic and environmental dividends as well.
Though Schmidt said challenges remain — including finding markets for his small grains — he said he continues to be motivated by farming and is excited to be adding to the soil rather than simply extracting from it.

On the auction block with LaDon and Allen Henslin

LaDon Henslin had his first taste of auctions at a young age.
“I went to auctions with my grandpa when I was little,” said the now 67-year-old. “I was always intrigued by them.”
He enjoyed the big crowds and the fun and exciting atmosphere and wanted to be a part of it. LaDon worked with other auction companies before eventually starting a new auction business called Norling-Henslin with Lefty Norling, in 1980 in Bird Island, Minn. The business changed from Norling-Henslin to Henslin Auctions as it is today in 2002.
LaDon’s son Allen, 39, started helping his father with auctions at around 13 years old and became more involved while in high school. Allen said he enjoyed the people part of the business, working with the buyers and sellers and getting to know other auctioneers.
After high school Allen went to college at Minnesota State University in Mankato and continued to work with the family business. He earned a real estate license and auctioneer license in 2001.
In addition to the Henslins, the company has several other employees as well.
“Some of the employees have been with us longer than I’ve been with the company,” Allen said.
Henslin Auctions specializes in farm and construction equipment, farm land and real estate. Allen said they’ve sold millions of dollars of real estate and thousands of acres of land over the years.
Most of their sales are in the upper Midwest, but their online presence has allowed them to sell to people all over the U.S. and in other countries.
Today it’s not uncommon for auctioneers to have online auctions, but Henslin got in early and has been doing online auctions since 2002. Allen said the move to online in addition to live auctions opened up the market place and brought in more buyers and sellers.
“The majority of our sales are online,” Allen said.
Their online presence includes a variety of models, including virtual live auctions in which they show the equipment or real estate for sale to buyers watching online, simulcast that has people attending at the auction site and online, and timed online auctions without a live auctioneer.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, Henslin has stopped doing live in-person auctions and is relying on live virtual and timed online auctions. Allen said they didn’t want to stop due to the pandemic and their online options have allowed them to continue doing business.
“We really haven’t been affected at all,” he said.
Allen said they miss the interactions with the people, but it’s what they had to do at this time. That being said, it’s the people they meet and provide service to that both men enjoy most about the business.
“You not only make customers, you make friends,” LaDon said.
LaDon said their company has benefited from the fact that they’re not afraid to learn new things and evolve over time to better serve their customers. When he started, they didn’t even have a fax machine, much less online auctions. LaDon and Allen are both lifetime members of the Minnesota State Auctioneers Association and National Auctioneers Association and attend conferences through those organizations, which promote professionalism, ethics and ongoing education.
While the internet is the biggest change that has occurred during his 40 years of experience, LaDon said there have been others. When he started out four decades ago, no one in the auction business had sound trucks, he said. Now that is standard. Advertising has also changed. It used to be primarily print ads, now they use a combination of print, online and radio. Payments methods have changed too. People can now submit electronic payments that are deposited immediately.
The company’s willingness and ability to change and adapt has the Henslins feeling optimistic.
“We’re excited about the future of our service,” Allen said.
He said their ultimate goal is to go above and beyond to provide the best service they can for their customers.
“We take pride in what we do,” Allen said. “Our name is on the line every day.”