Darrell Vande Vegte in Rock Valley

Seventy-eight-year-old Doon native Darrell Vande Vegte looks over a pile of real estate closing forms in the conference room of Vande Vegte Zomer Realty & Auction in Rock Valley. Vande Vegte has been in the auctioneering business for almost 60 years, having started when he was 19 years old.

ROCK VALLEY—Technology may be changing the way auctions are run, but for Darrell Vande Vegte, face-to-face interaction is what makes live auctions exciting.

“The biggest thing is the eye contact between people at the live auction,” said the 78-year-old auctioneer, broker and co-owner of Vande Vegte Zomer Realty & Auction in Rock Valley.

“They know you and you get to know them. Some are continual auctiongoers, and there are some you don’t see very often.”

Vande Vegte, a Doon native, is entering his 60th year working in the auctioneering business. Of all the changes he has seen take place in that time, he said technological advances in the last 10 years have made the biggest difference in his line of work.

“We started with a website, e-mail, cellphones that we didn’t have when we started. Now we have a drone that covers a view of the farmland,” he said.

Auctions themselves also have entered the digital era.

Vande Vegte Zomer Realty & Auction, which Vande Vegte and his business partner Mark Zomer opened in 2002, started holding online auctions about three years ago. The digital format offers buyers the option of bidding on farm equipment on the business’ website instead of needing to show up in person.

Some items are only for sale online while others can be bid on live or through the website. Auctions for land sales still are held in person only.

“I just never dreamed that would be a part of the auction business, but it is and it’s quite a feature and it’s a plus to both buyer and seller,” Vande Vegte said of the online auctions.

He explained the online option lets buyers stay home if they are busy with other matters but still wish to bid on a certain item. If the item is sold to someone else, bidders can simply exit out of the website.

Vande Vegte still works at the live events as a ring man while Zomer is in charge of calling the sales. Staff members at the company’s office, meanwhile, handle the online bids and answer phone calls from bidders with questions about items.

Vande Vegte got his start as an auctioneer in 1960, when he graduated from Reisch American School of Auctioneering in Mason City. Before that, he had learned about auctioneering from attending cattle sales with his father in South Dakota.

Despite his familiarity with auctions, starting out as an auctioneer was a slow process for Vande Vegte. He said older auctioneers would look down on him because of his youth.

He first assisted more experienced auctioneers throughout Sioux County before working auctions with Rock Valley Sales Co. He began working for Tri-State Livestock Auction in Sioux Center in 1968.

Vande Vegte expanded his resume in 1971 by earning a real estate license and again in 1985 by receiving a broker’s license.

Even though the world of auctioneering has changed since Vande Vegte entered it six decades ago, the most important lesson he has learned from it remains the same:

“If you treat people fair and square, they’ll treat you the same way. I always tell them the way it is, and tell them the right way.”