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Producing Excellence

Mickey Fowler

Toney, AL

Type of Operation: Auctioneering and land sales

Size of Operation: 34 acres, up to 100 auctions annually

In Business Since: 1978

Farm Credit Partner: Alabama Farm Credit

As confusing as the varied collection of items at Fowler Auction might seem, to John “Mickey” Fowler, they all share a common thread: value. “Everything out here is worth something,” says Mickey. “It’s my job to know what that worth, or value, is. That’s the key to success when it comes to auctioneering.”

As a boy growing up on the farm that he still calls home, Mickey says he learned early that people and things are inextricably linked “one way or the other.” In fact, at the age of 12, he learned the hard way when his family’s farm home burned to the ground. The experience left Mickey with an appreciation for his parents’ work ethic and the determination as well as the desire to better maintain the farm implements that survived the disaster. After graduating from high school, he launched his own paint and body shop, and in 1974 decided to return to his farming roots with a row-crop operation.

One challenge was finding affordable farm equipment, and he began to notice that more experienced farmers in the area would travel to states in the Midwest, where used agricultural implements were more plentiful, to outfit their farms. “At some point, I thought to myself, ‘Well, if they can do that, then why can’t I bring equipment back and sell it?’” he recalls. “With my paint and body-shop experience, I knew I could fix these things up and make them look good.” He founded Fowler Auction and Real Estate Service, Inc., now one of the largest auction companies in the northern Alabama–southern Tennessee region.

Within a few years, his auction sales were attracting farmers from neighboring states, but with other auctioneers at the helm, the profits were slim. In 1978, he took a two-week auctioneering course, and has been growing his reputation and his business ever since. Today, it is situated on a 34-acre campus, employs seven full-time staff members and conducts 75 to 100 auctions annually. On the strength of this growth, in 1981, he sold his farming operation. The bulk of Mickey’s business has shifted from farm equipment to real estate, much of it cropland, and in 2012, he added a traditional real estate listing option to his repertoire.

Although the auction industry has been negatively affected by both the recent downturn in the national economy and Internet sales, Mickey says he is hopeful for the future. “We will always need land to grow crops and livestock on, equipment to produce it with and a house to live in,” he says. “As long as I’m able, I intend to help my community accomplish those things.”

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