As the snow fell thick and steady at the Hillsdale Fair­grounds, a crowd of farmers huddled outside around a diminutive figure who com­manded his audience with a wooden cane and voice that pierced the biting wind with rhythmic cer­tainty.

“C’mon partner! Do I hear a $320, $325?” the elderly man said as the price of the round hay bale rose by the nodding heads of farmers until it was pro­nounced, “Sold.”

Martin “Barney” Barnhart  of Hillsdale County has been an auc­tioneer for nearly eight decades. Born in 1920 on a farm in Reading, Michigan, the 95-year-old can still be found every Sat­urday morning at the Hillsdale Sale Barn selling hay and swine.

In the last year, Barnhart received recog­nition for a lifetime of auc­tion­eering and com­munity service in Hillsdale. In 2014, he was elected to the Michigan Auc­tioneers Asso­ci­ation Hall of Fame and also received its Lifetime Achievement Award.

On July 14, Barnhart traveled to Texas to be awarded a cer­tificate for being the oldest working auc­tioneer in the nation.

Barnhart was first exposed to auc­tion­eering as a small boy when he accom­panied his father to Iowa for Belgian draft horse auc­tions.

There, the “golden, musical chant” of the auc­tioneer fas­ci­nated the young Barnhart, an aspi­ration which became a reality in high school. In 1939, when his senior class decided to make a film of each other’s future careers, Barnhart orches­trated one of his first auc­tions at the family farm — class­mates hung on the outside of a corral while Barnhart stood in the ring holding a Belgian draft horse and called for bids.

Ini­tially self-taught, Barnhart started his auc­tion­eering career right out of high school in 1940 and free­lanced auc­tions while earning a degree in agri­culture from Michigan State Uni­versity. He later went to Redford Auc­tion­eering School in Woodville, Ohio.

“You know Barney, it’s really amazing that you can remember all that you do,” a friend of Barney, Ned Beaver said as they sat talking over lunch at the Fair­grounds restaurant fol­lowing the Sat­urday morning auction.

The waitress added, “Hey Barney, are you 96 or 95?”

“Hey now, don’t make it any older!” Barney said.

With 75 years of expe­rience, Barnhart remembers when the Hillsdale Sale Barn was one of the largest feeder pig and swine auc­tions east of the Mis­sis­sippi River.

“Every­thing has become com­mer­cialized. There’s hardly any farmers today that have live­stock anymore, I know of only two herds of cattle from U.S. Highway 12 to U.S. Highway 20,” Barnhart said.

Criss­crossing the country for sales from Ohio to the Dakotas, Florida to Texas, Barnhart’s largest auction was in Min­nesota where he sold an entire logging town, com­plete with a bank and jail.

“I like to get out before the sale starts and just mingle with the people. You know, how you and I are just talking, that way then I got them on my side and they got some faith in me. Know your crowd and treat ‘em with honesty,” Barnhart said.

The father of five and now a widower, Barnhart’s credo has been life according to  his faith.

“Set your goal that you’re going to become some­thing and live each day with faith. Have faith, love, hope, honor, health, and friendship,” he said.

Barney said he will con­tinue to auc­tioneer until he “takes the last bid.”

“Everybody asks me that question and I hope that’s what I’m doing,” Barney said. “I had one friend that was selling and then bingo, he was gone. If you don’t love what you’re doing, get out of it, because you’ll never make a success out of it.”