Written By:
Carol Spaeth-Bauer, Wisconsin State Farmer

DOUSMAN, WI - Jenny Markham-Gehl cashiered $300,000 auctions when she was in eighth grade. It didn't make any difference what the weather was like or what they had going on, if there was an auction her dad Jim Markham was doing, Jenny and her brother Tim were expected to be there to help. There was no such thing as a day off. If an auction was booked, they were there to help — running tickets, holding up items for sale and eventually ringing. 

Growing up in an auction family poised Markham-Gehl for a career she loves and the recognition of being named Champion at the 2019 Wisconsin Auctioneer's Championship Contest at the Wisconsin Auctioneers Association (WAA) annual convention in Stevens Point, WI on Jan. 27.

While Markham-Gehl grew up around farm and estate auctions in Dubuque County, Iowa, when she decided to take the leap to become an auctioneer, it was as a benefit auctioneer. 

When she called and told her dad about her decision, he paused and didn't say anything. When he finally spoke he pointed out that benefit auctioneering "doesn't pay too good." 

"I did benefits for 30 some years and never charged them, you know, the local fire departments and schools," Jim Markham explained. "I just used it as advertisement for our main auctions." 

"I think he was just dumbfounded that I was going to do that," said Markham-Gehl. "I always did other roles in the auction business. I would do cashiering or even clerking."

But Markham-Gehl had done her research and sees a market for fundraising auctions, especially in the Milwaukee area. Plus she could include her dad and her brother who help as ring men and provide "signals and communication styles that just can't be reproduced."

"I think we could really make a difference in the fundraising market," said Markham-Gehl. "There's so much more to it because we do a lot of consulting, so I'll work with non-profit organizations a year ahead of their events. There is a way to set up teh fundraising auction — set it up in a way to keep interest. It matters where everything is placed in the event."