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Finding treasures among the trash

Crews of "treasure hunters" exchange finds in the street. Many of the people who cruise Farmington during cleanup days know what others are looking for and arrange trades.1 / 2
Nick Dauer surveys his finds from a recent outing to cruise what was left at the curb for Farmington's citywide cleanup days. He and his wife, former Farmington residents, are regular visitors during the annual event. They cruise city streets to see what treasures they can find.2 / 2

They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. That explains a lot when it comes to the treasure hunters who come to town annually about this time of year.

You see them everywhere, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. Men and women in trucks with trailers attached, driving slowly up and down the streets. They'll find a pile of discarded items set out for Farmington's annual cleanup days. They'll get out, survey the pile and pick through the items. They'll toss some into their vehicles, leave some behind.

They're out looking for trash they consider as treasure.

Some of them are out to find items they can use at home. Others are looking for things they can recycle and make use of. Still others are out looking for things they can sell.

Former Farmington residents Nick and Crystal Dauer and their family were among those out sifting last Friday afternoon. They now live in Springfield - a good two hour-plus drive - but they make it back to Farmington every spring, just in time for cleanup days.

Their trailer was full of odds and ends, as was the bed of their pickup, but most of the collection had something to do with toys - particularly, those large plastic ones that are good for outdoor use. They also had a mailbox, some discarded paint, a few oars, a wooden toolbox and a stroller. In the past, they've found two perfectly good treadmills, too.

"I think it's awesome," Nick said. "It cleans up the city but it also gives people a chance to pick up things they can use."

The Dauers started collecting goodies while they were still living in Farmington. That was about nine years ago, Crystal said. These days, they pack up their kids and make the drive, simply because they feel the trip is well worth their time.

Crystal said the type of items they search for has evolved as their family has grown. When they first started out, they were a young couple looking for a few extra things for their home. These days, they're living on a farm, and looking for things their young children can play with. After all, the price is right.

"If you add up all the money we've saved on toys, it's really a good deal," Nick said.

"And besides, if it breaks, it's no big deal because you didn't put any money into it in the first place," Crystal added.

An informal group

After a while, the treasure hunters all seem to get to know each other. They're literally traveling in the same circles. And down the same streets. And around the same neighborhoods.

"We've even got nicknames for some of them," Crystal said. "It's really just kind of a fun hobby."

The treasure hunters have become a subculture that surfaces for the five weeks of Farmington's cleanup days. They recognize each other's vehicles. They've spoken to each other, and they know who is looking for what types of items and what they're going to do with those items.

One Farmington resident, who only gave his first name, William, looks out for discarded bicycles. That's what he likes to do. He takes the bicycles he finds and fixes them up. Some he passes along to family, others he puts up for sale on Craigslist.

William has a running deal with another treasure hunter. The second gentleman looks for metal and computers. If he comes across bicycles or bicycle parts, he'll pick them up for William. If William runs across computers or pieces of metal, he'll will pick them up for the other man. They meet on the street to exchange their goods.

"I don't know what he does with those computers, but he's sure happy when I have some," William said.

Like the Dauers, William goes out every week during cleanup days. He starts on Wednesday and drives around through Saturday. The best days, of course, are Thursdays and Fridays.

Besides being able to get something for nothing, the Dauers view their treasure hunting as a form of recycling.

"It's awesome. Better than all this stuff piling up in a landfill," he said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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