Panek Farms will work 63 acres for school district – for free

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Albion farm will give profits from district land to ag program

ALBION – Panek Farms will soon start planting a crop on 63 acres of land owned by Albion Central School.

But before the seeds are planted, the farm will meet with students in Albion’s agricultural program to explain its reasoning for planting the crop. Panek will include students in growing, harvesting and selling the crop as well.

The farm on Monday was picked by the Board of Education for a two-year lease on the land the district acquired from Pete Dragan about a decade ago. With that deal, Dragan had use of the land until he died.

Dragan, a long-time local corn and soybean grower, died last Aug. 7 at age 96. The farm has completed the last cycle of a Dragan crop. Dragan Farms submitted a bid to continue using the land. It offered to work with the students and share some of the profits.

But the district asked that all the proceeds, after the farm’s expenses were paid, be turned over to the school district to support the ag program. Five farms were sent proposals, and only two returned with a bid. Only Panek Farms agreed to essentially work the land for free.

“It’s exciting,” Margy Brown, the Board of Education president, said tonight after the board accepted Panek’s offer. “I know it’s outside the box, but it’s a very exciting addition to what we offer the students.”

Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent, will consult with the farm on how the donation will be used to benefit the school’s ag program.

Bonnewell and Shawn Liddle, the district assistant superintendent for business, both praised Panek and Dragan Farms for their generous proposals.

“It shows the strong level of support for agriculture in our community,” Liddle said.

The lease includes a $70 per acre annual payment to the district or $4,410. That will be factored into Panek’s operating costs for using the land. The agreement gives Panek a two-year lease for the land plus a chance to extend the lease in one-year increments for three additional years if both parties agree.

Panek’s profits on the land will reviewed in profit-loss statements by Albion ag students. The profitability will then be reported to the district clerk. Net losses for farming the land are solely the risk of Panek Farms, according to the agreement with the district.