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Potato farm auction attracts no bids

Posted: September 19, 2013 - 12:00am

FAIRBANKS — An effort to auction off Alaska’s largest organic spud farm was a dud.

No bids were made Tuesday when the 1,134-acre Ebbesson Farms went on the auction block at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

More than 1,500 people showed interest before the auction, including inquiries from the United Kingdom, Germany and China, said Larry Theurer, a Kansas-based auctioneer with United Country Auction Services.

A handful of people also showed up for the auction, and others monitored online, but it didn’t translate into bids.

The farm about 15 miles north of Nenana has been in operation for more than a quarter century by former University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Sven Ebbesson and his family.

A lack of a bid leaves an uncertain future for the farm, which the Ebbessons have operated since 1986.

Sven Ebbesson, 76, earlier said he and his wife were having difficulties keeping up with the demands of the farm and needed to sell. He and his wife, Barbara, did not attend the auction, and instead continued to harvest their last crop before the first freeze.

Even though the farm has not yet sold, the Ebbessons have sold off their farm equipment, including machinery for farming planting and harvesting potatoes. Their three sons no longer live in Alaska, and this year the Ebbessons only planted 40 acres, down from about 200 acres at the farm’s peak.

A minimum threshold for the farm wasn’t set before the auction, but Theurer said he expected any reasonable offer would be taken. However, he said the farm wouldn’t be sold at any cost.

“They’re very motivated to sell, but they’re not going to sell for peanuts,” Theurer said.

Theurer started the bidding for the entire farm at $330,000 or broken into five lots, ranging in size from 363 acres to 140 acres. Those were offered at a minimum of $50,000, but there were no takers for either the lots or the farm.

Blaine Ashcraft, an Idaho potato farmer, stopped by the auction but didn’t bid. He said the potential of the land is intriguing, but added he was cautious of Alaska’s relatively uncertain agriculture market.

“An auction is a good place to see what value land has,” he said.

Another United Country auctioneer, Curt Marshall, said it’s not uncommon for a buyer to emerge after an auction ends.

“We’re not done,” he said. “We’re going to keep working on it.”

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