MUNDY TOWNSHIP — As a camper, counselor and volunteer over the years, Jentery M. Farmer had a passion for Camp Copneconic.
“Jentery was the person you’d want to have around camp,” said Executive Director Brandon Dreffs. “He was great with other staff, great with kids, great with the program. It was so shocking and devastating to lose him because he was such a great role model.”
Farmer, 27, died of natural causes April 24 at his home in Swartz Creek.
His memory will live on, however, in a small apple orchard that will be planted in his name at Camp Copneconic.
In addition to memorializing Farmer, the orchard will provide learning experiences for campers “which Jentery would love,” Dreffs said.
Fundraisers are being planned to allow the community to contribute to the cost of acquiring and planting the trees and installing benches in the orchard, which will start with about 10 trees of several varieties.
“At least annually, someone who was associated with the camp passes, and the family asks to plant a tree,” Dreffs said. “The idea is, as people want to plant a memorial tree, this memorial orchard will continue to grow.”
Each subsequent memorial tree will be accompanied by a plaque designating the donation.
The initial orchard will measure about a quarter to a half acre. Camp staff will work with apple experts to determine which varieties to plant.
The idea of apple trees stems from an annual camp award, The Giving Tree, and Farmer’s affinity for beekeeping.
The award is named after the Shel Silverstein book and is awarded to the counselor who gave the most to campers, fellow staff and the YMCA, “who gave the most of themselves,” Dreffs explained.
“We’ve always had an affinity for apple trees because, in the book, they constantly give back,” he said. “The trees will give back, by giving fruit and providing an education.”
In addition to the trees, the camp will install some bee boxes, an idea that Farmer pitched a couple of years ago. The bees will help with pollination and allow counselors to teach campers about the food cycle, pollination, the importance of bees in the food cycle, and sustainability.
Benches placed in the orchard will provide another important element.
“Sometimes, kids just need a place to be calm and chat with a counselor,” Dreffs said. “Sometimes, kids get overwhelmed. This will be a quiet space where kids can relax and talk to a counselor.”
Some specifics – such as a formal name for the orchard, and what will become of the apples and honey it provides – are still in the works.
Farmer was well known around his hometown of Swartz Creek, where he served on the city council, Hometown Days committee, park board, Planning Commission and more. He also chaired the YMCA’s scholarship program.
“Even when he was no longer an employee of the Y, he still wanted to volunteer and help make sure other kids had a chance to go to camp,” Dreffs said. “We are saddened by the loss, but optimistic that Jentery would love this idea to continue to give back to the kids.”