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June Jamming, for a good cause
Concert in honor of late Mitch Farmer raises funds for CASA, other causes
Brenau University's amphitheater fills during Saturday evening's Mitch Farmer June Jam at benefiting CASA and The Mason House.

Mitch Farmer had a lot of friends and they all came out Saturday, not to mourn his passing but celebrate his life and keep his legacy going strong.

Six months after the 36-year-old Gainesville husband and father died from a heart condition he'd had since birth, hundreds turned out at the Brenau University amphitheater for a fundraising concert Farmer founded in 2007.

The June Jam of 2010 was renamed the Mitch Farmer June Jam, and it was the biggest success since the event's inception, raising thousands for a pair of organizations important in Farmer's life.

"We decided if he was here, he would do it," said Matthew Meeks, Farmer's best friend. "And he meant so much to us, that we decided to keep it going."

A local Realtor whose love for music was matched by his charitable ways, Farmer first put together the June Jam to benefit several local nonprofits, including the Court Appointed Special Advocate, which provides services for abused and neglected children in the court system.

After the first two June Jams, Farmer became too ill to organize a third concert last year. When it was suggested a fundraising concert be held to benefit him, Farmer immediately dismissed the notion, said his wife, Kerry Rich Farmer.

"He said, ‘If we're going to do a concert we're going to raise money for something else, not for me. But if something ever happens to me, then y'all better have a big party.'"

And a big party it was. Through the work of scores of volunteers, including four area bands that played for free, Farmer's annual concert continued.

"This is awesome," his wife said, as attendees began streaming into the venue on a balmy late afternoon with coolers and lounge chairs in tow. "I am so touched by everyone's support. I just know Mitch is smiling down on us."

Peggie Hoskins, whose Vertigo Band was among Saturday's lineup of performers, said giving of their time was the least they could do.

"This is small compared to what Mitch did for this community," Hoskins said. "This is just one little way we can give back."

In addition to CASA, the event benefited the Mason Guest House at Emory, where families of patients undergoing organ transplants can stay in a germ-free environment. Farmer's family was planning to stay there as he prepared for a heart transplant.

Word of the Mitch Farmer June Jam spread well and advanced ticket sales were strong, organizers said. Hundreds in shorts and summer dresses took in the sounds as they lounged on the amphitheater lawn. Before the first note had been played from the stage, the event had surpassed the previous two June Jams for fundraising, Meeks said.

Meeks acknowledged that the last time so many of Farmer's friends were together, it was a somber occasion. Saturday was different, though some of Farmer's closest friends still had to struggle with the emotion of carrying on the event without its key organizer.

"This time we can celebrate his life and his passion," CASA Director Connie Stephens said. "He always gave back to the community, and we can all learn from his legacy."