Centre County, Pennsylvania, Tree Farmer Susan Benedict is highlighted in the Profiles in Conservation by the Forest Service NE Area State and Private Forestry.
Keys to keeping land in the family — reaching consensus, diversifying revenue
By Glenn Rosenholm
Most forest landowners are not certified accountants; Susan Benedict is. She can do the math, and that gives her a huge advantage in keeping their Pennsylvania land in the family for generations to come.
Benedict has a B.S. in Accounting from Penn State, and she works as the controller for a local real estate group. Accountants typically possess excellent math and planning skills, both of which are very important to managing real estate, including forest land.
She spent a lot of time on her family’s extensive forested landholdings. She grew to love their woods, almost as much as she would love a relative. Her family shares her affection for their land. To them, it’s not just a patch of dirt waiting to be developed; it is much more.
“We discussed this as a family, and we consider our land to be a partner or member of the family. So all the decisions we make consider the land and its health, just like you would consider a member of the family,” Benedict said. “My grandfather purchased it in 1943. We didn’t live there, but we spent a lot of time there as kids and adults. My dad, every spare minute he had he was on the property, and he took us along.”
She and her brothers later inherited the land from their father, Lewis Shoemaker, in 2006. Today, she and her brother Michael Shoemaker own 2,078 acres of forested land—an enormous family estate.
Benedict owns it in a 50-percent partnership with her brother. There were three siblings initially, though her middle brother passed away after their father died.
Today, she is 58 years old, and her husband, Leroy, is 65. They have three adult sons—Lewis, Jacob, and Zachary Benedict. “My husband and I are currently residing on the property; we moved in last November,” she said. Her living brother and partner, Michael, 55, is married to his wife, Connie.
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Read about the Benedict family as 2012 Pennsylvania Outstanding Tree Farmers at the Pennsylvania Tree Farm Program Web site.