Our problems with an overzealous government agency have prompted us to look at solutions to the problem.  A basic 3 prong approach seems prudent, as government feeds on its own perceived power and will continue to try to regulate small farms out of existence and consolidate our food system into the hands of a few.  That is the historical way of things and appears to be the path our government, independent of party affiliation, has chosen.

The third prong, the last resort, is legal accountability.  That is the situation we find ourselves in with the DNR.  The Constitution is still a binding force and we have to be willing to stand up to feral government agencies and hold them accountable for the rightness of their governance.  We can not be sheep.

The second prong is legislative.  We’ve learned that the corporate agriculture organizations have lobbyists who work with lawmakers to make laws favorable to themselves.  Lawmakers are human beings and respond to the loudest voice.  Small farms have no effective  voice in Lansing.  We need to change that.  We have had a productive relationship with a lobbyist in Lansing and understand how government works on a practical level.  We need a legislative voice, a small farms lobby to present our needs to the legislators in an effective manner.  It’s a necessary evil.

The first prong is education.  Anyone can farm–and should.  We define “farm” as raising food, in any quantity, to feed yourself.  It can be 200 acres with cows grazing, corn growing, and a large farm house garden planted.  It can be a container of lettuce and a potted tomato on an apartment patio.  Raising food to feed people is farming.  If everyone had food growing somewhere–a roof, a community garden, a neighbor, a CSA, we would be a much more food secure nation and we would be more securely grounded in something that defines life–food.   It is our first line of defense.

To that end, we hosted two classes the past two weekends.  Weekend one was chicken processing.  The students from the MSU Student Organic Farm and a few community members came on Sunday evening.  After dinner and some great campfire conversation, they helped us pick up the chickens for processing the next day.  On Monday they dived into the processing.  They got hands on experience with the killing cones, plucking by hand (as you might in your backyard) and by machine, eviscerating, cooling and cleaning, and cutting.  Along with the how’s we discussed the why’s.  One of the community members, Penny Kriebel, got home and had a friend request Penny’s new skills on her chickens!  That’s how the system should work!

This past weekend we hosted Hog Harvest Days.  It was 2 1/2 days of work, learning, and comeradarie.  The class processed two hogs much as they would do it at home, scalding and scraping the hogs using fire heated water, learning seam butchery techniques, and then turning the primal pieces into curing bacons, hams, and salami, utilizing the scraps for sausage.  Nothing goes to waste: we utilized most of the internal organs in meals, rendered lard, and set lardo (back fat) to cure.

Someone took issue with our description of our program as “unique”.  There are other programs, right here in northern Michigan, on seam butchery and curing (Pigstock TC and ISLAND host classes in Traverse City).  Our focus on “anyone can farm” provides a truly unique perspective.  Students in both classes got to see the respective animals in the environment in which they were raised.  Even though we focussed on the end of the process, we talked about and could show how the animals can be raised from start to finish and why that process is important in the finished product.  The Anyone Can Farm classes are held on a working farm because we want both aspiring and accomplished farmers to see how various farm activities complement each other and create a permaculture system.  As an added bonus, students can help pick up the eggs for breakfast, try their hand at milking our cows, and raid the garden for the day’s meals.

Next spring we plan to kick off a summer’s worth of classes, bringing in experts on many subjects.  Let us know what you’d like to learn in order to feed yourself!  Stay tuned to AnyoneCanFarm.com for upcoming events.

Remember, anyone can farm!