Farewell to a farmer: Ken Panciera, 89

Sharing the sad news of the passing of Kenneth H. Panciera, 89, our guiding light at Russet Valley Farm.  The following talk was given by his daughter, Andrea Panciera, at his March 23, 2020, funeral, as snow blew across the Oak Grove Cemetery in Ashaway and after a three-gun military salute and playing of Taps.


When the wind is in the east, ’tis neither good for man nor beast. 

Kenneth H. Panciera
Ken Panciera, checking on his cows, at Russet Valley Farm in Hopkinton, RI. (Photo / Andrea Panciera)

As a little girl, I learned those weather-wise words from my father, as we watched clouds roll in, leaves turn over and cows huddle in the field.

Today, we say farewell to Ken Panciera as that east wind blows and as an ill wind of another kind spreads a virus throughout the world.

It means only a few of us can gather here today to honor Ken, beloved husband, devoted father, veteran and, most defining of all, a farmer.

You are also among those who knew him very well.  I don’t need to go on and on about him here. We’ll save that for another, more favorable time.

Instead, I’d like to read a poem by made famous by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, originally delivered in 1978.  It captures the essence of such strong, responsible men. And gives them a name perhaps even more fitting than farmer. Listen closely to the first sentence:

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.”

So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt (or calf). And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’

I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a tree persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps.

And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the chicks pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners.

Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son – or daughter – say they want to spend their lives ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.

I never thought I’d be doing the work of my father today.  I don’t know how long that will continue.

I do know that I plan to stick with it until that wind shifts, sweeping away the virus and fulfilling the second part of that old saying:

When the wind is in the west, there is it the very best.

Just know, Dad, I won’t be doing it alone.  Our family will kick in, as they always have.

We’ll feed the cows, pay the bills, fix the well, watch over Mom and close the gates.

And plow forward, no matter the direction from which the wind blows.

Read Ken’s obituary here.

Published by Andrea Panciera

Co-manager of family cattle farm, former digital journalist and teacher, outdoor lover, avid learner and veteran of change

4 thoughts on “Farewell to a farmer: Ken Panciera, 89

  1. Beautiful tribute. Very moving. He made a mark on this Earth, and in the earth. And in hearts.

  2. So beautiful… We said goodbye to my Dad, the brilliant and plainspoke country veterinarian the same age as your Dad, a month ago… I bet they would have gotten along just fine… pmb

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