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Farm honors friend by giving away crop share in her memory

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Guin Panek, left, holds her son Grady while she and her mother-in-law Kerry Panek, right, present Kathy Jurs with a free membership to the Panek Farm’s CSA in memory of Susan Bennett.

ALBION – Susan Bennett used to stop by Panek Farms, especially in June, on her home to Barre.

“She wanted to know if they were ready yet,” Kerry Panek said about her strawberry crop. “She was always cheerful and had a good word for us.”

Bennett had many friends in the community. She was active at the Barre Presbyterian Church and as bookkeeper at Al Bennett and Sons, a feed and farm supply store in Barre. Her husband Richard was a long-time county legislator.

Bennett was also a customer for Panek Farms CSA, a program the farm started last year offering a 20-week share of berries and other fruit. When Bennett died on Jan. 11 from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, the farm decided it wanted to honor Bennett by giving away a CSA share in her memory.

Panek Farms accepted nominations and received several. Sue Davis sent in one on behalf of her daughter Kathy Jurs. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2010 when she was 29. Bennett was a steady encourager for Jurs, sending her notes and gifts while Jurs battled the disease.

Jurs beat the disease and she committed to running a half marathon in January in honor of Bennett. Jurs raised $5,123 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the most of any participant from western and central NY.

Jurs works as herdsman for the Neal family at their dairy farm down the road from the Panek’s. Jurs is well respected for her work ethic and friendliness, Kerry Panek said. Jurs also exemplifies the warm, caring, and encouraging nature of Susan, Panek said.

“She shows kindness and respect, and she was a true friend to Susan,” Panek said.

Jurs said she appreciated the CSA share, and not only for the weekly supply of nutritious food.

“I’m very grateful they chose me for this gift to honor Susan,” Jurs said. “She was a very special friend.”