The ending of a chapter in our agricultural history

The Carlisle Livestock Auction’s grand finale

548 Alexander Spring Rd, Carlisle

In the early 1980s, a land use crossroads was reached in York County. For the first time, half of the county’s acreage was used for non-agricultural purposes. This was a moment of consequence in a county that had long been among the nation’s leaders in agricultural output.  Indeed, the county had ranked in the top 50 in some categories.

What forces drove this change?

A recent visit to a livestock auction not far from the county’s northwest border revealed several threads to show some of this complex tapestry. One thread is that farmers and agribusiness owners are having trouble finding successors, and are left with difficult choices.

Jamie Kinsley, the visitor to the Carlisle Livestock Auction, tells about that evening in this piece: “Selling the last chicken at the last Carlisle Livestock Market Auction.”

Handlers display rabbits for sale as buyers bid to get the best price. Chickens and more rabbits wait in the cardboard boxes for their turn.

The question

Owners, Barb and Jim Degaetano, accept that their auction house has closed. They are ready for retirement, and no one has offered to keep it running.

“It’s just the way America is growing,” Barb says. “The outskirts are getting developed, and that’s nothing to mourn. It’s just a part of a changing country.” Unlike many others who are involved in agriculture, Barb doesn’t lament the expansion of industry: “It’s just the way of the world. What are you going to do? Life moves on.” 

How do we balance our traditions with modernity? We want to preserve our history, yet not stifle our ability to develop. In what ways can we hold on to the best parts of our past while still welcoming a changing future? 

Sources: Wandering in York County blog; Jim McClure’s Never to be Forgotten; Jamie Kinsley provided photos.


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