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Students learning to lay out and plant a garden.
Moving chickens behind beef in a pasture is an example of permaculture practices with livestock.

Moving chickens behind beef in a pasture is an example of permaculture practices with livestock.

I’m working on the Permaculture and Soils course today.  Here are some thoughts from Penny Kriebel, who will be working with Mark to instruct the course:


Students learning to lay out and plant a garden.

Students learning to lay out and plant a garden.


“O’k Permaculture Design, Penny Krebiehl:

Taking a permaculture course can be very inspiring, and for me and many others awakens a whole load of creativity, positivity and eagerness to be a part of the solutions for our world. I took my first permaculture course in 2005, with several more to follow.  Why did I repeat a permaculture course? I wasn’t “held back” nor did I fail the course, I decided to continue my study and apprenticeship and because of the value of learning from many different teachers.  Each with a shared permaculture language, yet, like the Baker family with their experience in farming and animal husbandry, shared their own passionate understanding and skill set.

In 2009 I traveled out to NY state and completed an intensive and incredibly valuable Permaculture Teacher Training with,Dave Jacke, author of Edible Forest Gardens.  Since that time, I’ve also worked alongside of permaculture teachers, Peter Bane, author of Garden Farming for Town and Country, and Keith D. Johnson, who are also editor and co-editor of the Permaculture Activist Magazine.  I feel honored to continue my study and practice of permaculture with a plethora of experienced teachers and students and have only named a very few here, but definitely recognize and credit them with being amazing, inspiring mentors, and while feeling very, very grateful.

Through the years of adopting my own permaculture life-style practice and then starting to teach, I realized that permaculture was more than just gardening and it could be used to really transform our lives and transform our relationships and turn us all into happier, healthier people.  I’ve always planned my “career” and paid work around the needs of my family, and included my own children in the design of my working hours.  Since 1997, I’ve worked at and tweaked  a creative curriculum which has ultimately taught permaculture to children as young as age five, through college age.  I’m pleased to say that in teaching my most recent permaculture design course in North West Michigan in 2012, I was able to work alongside of a remarkable group of adults, upwards to 69 years old.

Much information about permaculture is available electronically, in books and published on the web.  But honestly, the most valuable learning experiences have happened when I’ve been immersed in a learning and sharing community that an on-site permaculture course offers.  The people part of learning permaculture in a class or workshop setting is a way to consciously mimic what happens in the natural world, and has proven over and over again to be an amazing adventure in knowledge-based skill sharing.

In permaculture design we try to turn around the limiting factors of a system, so if we’ve got something that’s limiting us it becomes one of the aspects we pay attention to in our design. This is where we ask – how can we use the permaculture principles and design in all areas of our lives?

Penny at Bakers Green Acres

I’m pleased to be invited as a part of the Anyone Can Farm teaching staff and share whatever I can of my passion and learning of Permaculture Design.

Penny Krebiehl

231-922-2014    “


Check out the class, which runs May 24-26.  Hope to see you here!

Natural “Easter eggs”

Around our house, coloring eggs is a different experience.  We only use our own eggs, so our “canvas” comes in all shades of brown, with a few blueish ones thrown in for good measure.  The kids hunt through and find the lightest colored eggs they can, but sometimes it’s fun to see how the colors look on the darker eggs, too.  This year I learned a bit about food dyes, so I was inclined to go with more natural methods of dying. The thought of infusing that nasty dye into the eggs after we so carefully kept the hens didn’t set well.  I may still try it–just for fun–but we were busy with other things and didn’t end up doing it yet.  Here are a couple of links if you want to try natural egg dying:  Chai Tea Infused Marble Easter Eggs and Onion-Skin Easter Eggs.

We like all the color in the egg basket.  Each breed of layer has it’s own shade of egg.  We always have a handful of Araucana hens in the flock because they lay the distinctive blue, rosy, or green eggs.  I learned in researching thisNatural "Easter eggs": eggs come in many colors. that we actually have Ameraucana or Easter Egger chickens.  The distinctions are important to breeders who maintain specific characteristics to keep their breed distinct.  For my purposes, though, I just want pretty eggs.  Plus, most of the hens I’ve gotten have been a lovely paisley pattern in various color schemes.  The hens are as pretty as the eggs.  They are hybridized for their pretty eggs, so they don’t lay as consistently as the other breeds.  They just make a nice presentation.

A Buff Orpington hen searching for lunch.For good layers we have Isa Browns and Buff Orpingtons.  Isa Browns are light, spindly birds, but they lay a lot of brown eggs!  They are bred to convert feed into eggs very well.  Because they are light they can fly over fences niftily.  To stop that we clip the feathers of one wing.  We’ve also found that hens that free range don’t bother the fence so much in the winter.  They aren’t in the habit, so they don’t tend to be as bad about it.  The Buff Orpingtons are a quiet, gentle bird.   They are a “heavy” breed, so they develop more body than the Isas.  They do lay light brown eggs well and have more tendancy to “go broody” (want to hatch eggs).  We got them to experiment with letting them hatch out chicks.  We’ve had other breeds, but only have these two at the moment.

The Pastured Poultry classes will focus more on the broiler chickens, but we’ll talk about layers and you’ll be able to see how we run them.  Layer hens are a great addition to any back yard.  Come and see how you can have your own “Easter eggs” year round!

Chicken facts

A broiler chicken in a chicken tractor: happy and healthy!The chickens are in full production mode right now.  Our twenty or so hens are laying about 20+ eggs a day, and I know the Araucanas are not pulling their weight.  Chickens are a great place to start with livestock.  They are easy to acquire, easy to keep, and are generally accepted in most urban situations.  There are two basic types: broilers and layers.

Broilers are cornish hens crossed with another breed to produce the double breasted, fast growing meat bird.  They are not genetically modified, just very hybridized (specialized through breeding).  Every now and then we’ll get a genetic throw-back–either one that favors the cornish and stays small or (less often) one that favors the other breed crossed in with less breast meat and a touch of color in the feathers.  If you see “cornish hen” in the store, it is no longer a true cornish hen.  It is merely these cornish crossed broilers processed at 3-4 weeks of age instead of the 7-9 weeks it takes for a full grown bird.

A Buff Orpington hen searching for lunch.

Laying breeds of chickens have a lighter breast and more dark meat.  They grow slower but are meant for egg production, not so much meat production.  They make fantastic tasting, super healthy meat, but don’t pack it on like the broilers.  They are more aggressive (not necessarily mean, just active) and can forage effectively for food.  They can thrive on what they forage, especially if you get an older “heavy” breed (good for eggs and meat).

Here are a few “fun facts” about chickens:

The average hen lays 300 eggs a year.

The record for multiple egg yolks in one egg is nine.

A chicken needs to eat approximately four pounds of feed to make a dozen eggs.

If a chicken has red ear lobes, it will lay brown eggs if it has white earlobes it will lay white eggs.

Chickens will lay fewer and fewer but larger and larger eggs as they grow older.

Newly laying hens and menopausal hens will sometimes lay shell-less eggs and misshapen eggs.

Chickens will lay more, larger, and stronger eggs… if they think the day is 28 hours.

The largest recorded chicken egg weighed 12 ounces and had two yolks.

The record for egglaying belongs to a white leghorn that laid 371 eggs in 364 days.

Natural "Easter eggs": eggs come in many colors.The world record for the most eggs laid in one day is seven.

Americans eat 80 pounds of chicken per capita, which is more than beef at 63 pounds per capita. That translates to about 8 billion chickens a year.

The longest recorded chicken flight was 13 seconds and a total distance of 301. 5 feet.

A Chicken can run about 9 miles per hour, a human can usually manage 12-15 miles per hour.

Chickens have a different alarm cluck for different predators.  They have about 200 different vocalizations all told.

A chicken’s heart beats 300 times a minute (about 4-5 times more than a human).

The chicken has been domesticated for 8,000 years.

Hens are very protective of their young.  Being called a “Mother Hen” is a good thing!

Hens lay eggs just fine without a rooster.  Secure hens lay more eggs.  A rooster provides protection in a pasture/forage situation.

A laying hen is called a pullet for about the first year of life.  Hens typically begin laying eggs at about 20 weeks of age.

Most hens lay for about two years, but can continue at a lesser rate until 3-4 years old.  They can live for a couple of years after that.

Hens require light to lay eggs.  Decreased winter daylight, as well as temperature extremes, stress, seasonal molting, or lack of proper nutrition can affect how many eggs a hen lays.

A broiler chicken’s brainstem is larger than its brain, and its brain and brainstem are smaller than its eyeball.

Come check out how you can have chickens in your backyard from start to finish! The Courses page describes the classes and the Calendar page tells you when we offer the course and has a button to sign up.  We hope to see you here!

Growing farmers

More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.~Spanish proverb

Picture 081 Picking produceOur children like to help us in the garden.  Really.  When they are about 2-4 years old.  That’s the age when they plant corn seeds in the green bean bed, hoe up the fledgling lettuce, and weed out the carrots by the handful.  They aren’t exactly helpful, but as they tend my garden I am planting seeds that I plan to cultivate over the seasons.  These little starts will bear fruit eventually.

I know this because I see it when I look at their healthy little bodies.  I know it when they proudly serve their Dad the carrots or zucchini they helped pick for supper.  I know it when they distinguish between cucumbers and pickles.  I know it when the older children team up to make sure the green beans get picked and ready to can so we can eat them in the winter.

Mark helping 3 year old Jim pet a baby pig.  Yes, kids do love the little piglets.We’ve found that some of our most enthusiastic visiting helpers are kids.  They are curious about life.  They are able to really do things and understand that what they are handling–plant or animal–is life, is food, is a part of things.  Kids love life.  They like to help with the baby animals.  They enjoy learning where the food on their plate comes from.  They even often like the processing, seeing how an animal is put together, how it works, why it does what it does.

Picking beans Some of the lessons in Nature’s garden aren’t so enjoyable.  Perseverance when you face of a row of weeds.  Gentleness when you’re in a hurry to move the chicks.  Patience when the calf won’t suck off the bottle right and butts you in the stomach and slobbers all over your back.  Courage when the chickens you tended twice a day for two months have to be slaughtered.  Compassion when the family dog is old and sick and suffering and needs to be let go.  Self-control when the pigs get out for the third time and won’t go back in.  These are the hard lessons.

030Our children are our future and the investments we make in them by connecting them to their food is beyond measure.  Even if it’s just a planter or two, or only for a season, the experience of growing and eating real food plants seeds beyond lettuce and tomatoes.  We feel strongly about this and invite kids who are capable to attend Anyone Can Farm classes.  We want to grow farmers!

Contact us if you are interested in bringing your children along with you.  Help make this available to the next generation by sponsoring someone on this website or through our Indiegogo Challenge.  Thank-you in advance for investing in the next generation of food producers!

Being an Overcomer

In the last week I’ve seen two comments in which people felt that they could not farm.  One gentleman lives on an incredibly tight budget.  I’m not sure what the second gentleman’s reason was.  I was left wishing I could send them more than an encouraging text message.  Anyone can farm!  Anyone can raise a small amount of food to supply themselves with at least some amount of fresh, nourishing food.

Here are some of the challenges we know of and suggestions for overcoming them:

1)      “I don’t have any space!  I live in a high-rise apartment in New York City, or an inner city apartment in Grand Rapids, MI, or a dorm room at the University of Botswana.”  If you have a window or patio, you can grow fresh herbs, lettuce and greens, maybe even a tomato plant or two.  Plants don’t need much space and many varieties can tolerate relatively little sun.  In many inner city areas gardens are springing up in abandoned lots.  Building owners are allowing their apartment renters to build rooftop gardens.  Planters come in many sizes and shapes to fit the needs of renters who can’t change the landlords landscaping.  The only limit on space is your imagination. This site will give you some clever ideas.

2)      “I don’t have money.”  If you choose to begin a new garden or add lots of amendments to an existing garden, you can spend a lot of money on your veggies.  However, a leftover cottage cheese container, dirt from anywhere you can dig a hole, and a one dollar (or less) packet of seeds can yield many dollars’ worth of lettuce.  Growing food does not have to be complex or require much that you don’t have.

3)      “I don’t know how to grow anything.”  Seeds want to grow.  Some are hardier than others, but nature wants to bless us with what we need: food.  All you need is a container, dirt, and seed.  Put it in a sunny place, water it, and keep an eye on it.   There are many places on the internet where you can find tips and advice along the way.  Many areas have gardening groups.  Many states have a university Extension Service that can advise you on building raised beds, caring for potted plants, or starting a garden.  You can attend our permaculture and soils class, with the added bonus of free follow-up phone or internet consulting.  The best way to learn is to do the thing.

4)      “I live in town and it’s not allowed.”  Easy answer: rabbits.  I’m told that during WWII, rabbits were popular in France.  The Germans were taking all the livestock.  However, rabbits were easy to hide, reproduced fantastically, and could be fed scraps of anything fruit or vegetable.  They are quiet and don’t smell much if you keep them properly bedded.  They produce a super healthy meat and are known to have the best feed conversion (amount of feed in to pounds of food back out) of any animal.  A couple of other options:

  1. If people can have flower beds, why not vegetable beds?  Many of the vegetable varieties have lots of color and add texture to a bed.  And the neighbors really don’t mind when you share some with them.
  2. Same is true for chickens.  Hens are docile, quiet things—avoid a rooster.  Share the eggs now and then.  Keep the chickens well so they are not a visual or smell nuisance.
  3. More and more cities and townships are allowing people to have small animals (chickens, rabbits, even sometimes goats, sheep,  and pigs) as long as they are managed well.  It’s worth putting together a plan and working for your right to farm.

Anyone Can Farm is here to help you around the obstacles.  We can give ideas, help you locate resources, and teach you how you can begin growing your own food or expand into other growing areas.  Plus, we’ll give you follow-up support after a class because we want to help people succeed. Sign up for a class and come see us!

Remember, Anyone Can Farm.

P.S. Check out how you can get a free class through our Indiegogo Challenge!



Even zuchinni looks good in March!

Even zuchinni looks good in March!

I was walking the other day: the sun was shining but the wind was blowing cold.  I could feel everything starting to move like a sleeping person about to wake up.  What was sleeping is ready to spring up and get going!  But now, on the 21st of March, it’s still under snow.  So it waits, building energy, getting more restless, until we get some warmer weather and it can explode.  Spring is coming, no matter what it looks like outside yet!

That makes me think of dirt, garden seeds, compost, cleaning animal areas (to start composting), and seeing familiar faces come up the driveway again to buy chicks or deliver chickens for processing or purchase some rich, biochar laced compost.  I’m ready to see the farm bustling.  In the last year we’ve met so many more people who are raising their own food for the first time.  Folks looking for compost for a garden.  Young moms and dads bringing 10 chickens for processing because they wanted to try thhelpereir hand at healthy meat for their under-5 aged children.  It’s exciting.  They have “spring energy” about them.  They are ready and willing to get up and do something, and often all they need to really run with it is a little help.

If help is what you need: ideas, where to start, how to build something, we are here!  In May we have two pastured poultry classes, a biochar class (you get to make a retort), and a soils and permaculture course (you can grow vegetables anywhere).  The Courses tab contains descriptions of the classes.  The Calendar tab tells you when the class will be and has a button to help you sign up for the class you want.  There are “free” classes available as perks on our Indiegogo challenge. Check it out, donate, share it so your friends can come with you, and let us know which class you want.

Spring is coming.  Let’s go!


Part of the Solution

Anyone Can Farm WinterWe’ve got a new project going.  While that’s nothing new, this is a project you can be part of--and we need you!!  We’ve launched an  Indiegogo campaign to raise funds so that we can start the Anyone Can Farm project (College) full steam.  We feel like this education is so crucial that it needs to be available on as many fronts as quickly as possible, but also be good quality, in depth information.  In order to make this happen, we need your help.  Please check out:

Anyone Can Farm: America’s Farm to Fork Learning Platform

Donate if you can–there are some cool perks along the way.  Share it with your e-mail list and facebook friends.  The more we spread the word the better fed we’ll all be.

Anyone Can Farm – Why Anyone Can Farm Video

ACF Video on IGG

Welcome to Anyone Can Farm.  Listen as we discuss why and how you can learn to farm and grow your own food.

I can do it!

We felt successful in our  processing training this fall in at least three cases.
Case one is Penny Kriebel from the OK CSA in Traverse City.  Penny attended the chicken processing class with the MSU Organic Farm students.  Penny has raised laying chickens for years, but never had ventured into the last purpose of her birds.  She told us a week later one of her neighbors called and asked if she’d help put their few layers in the freezer and Penny was gratified that she had the knowledge to do that.  That’s what it’s all about!

Case two is the daughters of a friend of ours.  Our kids had been bugging and teasing the two girls for some time about coming to help and learning to process chickens.  The girls raise about 100-150 birds every summer as a job, and our kids think it’s funny they won’t have anything to do with the end of the game.  Finally this fall the girls mustered their courage and came along with the birds on processing day.  I don’t think they learned Joe’s job at the cones (frankly, that’s the one job I don’t/won’t do either), but they participated in everyone else’s station.  A weekend or two later Dorothy answered the phone thinking she’d have a nice chat with her good friend.  The question, however, was, “How hot does the scalding water have to be, again?”  There had been a couple of ne’erdowells left at home and the girls felt they could do the job themselves now.  They told their parents, “That’s not so hard!”  So, with their Dad’s help, they used their new knowledge and processed the last few birds themselves!  Success!

Case three is a farmer who raises heritage hogs and markets them direct to the consumer.  They also value making their own food and edible products.  They do cheese and yogurt with their goats’ milk, can and pickle their garden abundance, and wanted to expand into preserving their own pork.  To that end, they killed one of their hogs, loaded him into the pick-up, and brought him down.  We spent a day of private tutoring to scald and scrape, seam butcher, and begin curing their big guy.  He really was big–tipped the scales at 340 pounds without his insides!  The bonus part of any Anyone Can Farm training is after-class consultation.  So they called us the next morning with a question as they prepared to brine the two hams and were able to make sure they were on track.  The other upside to our day with them is that I got to show them how to prep and use the internal organs.  When you process your own animal you have access to parts that are very difficult or impossible to get back if you let the government ensure your safety.  They have to make rules to cover animals that you really DO NOT want to eat the liver, spleen, lungs, or kidneys out of.  If your animal has been raised properly, outside, and is strong and healthy, these organs are vitally full of trace minerals and vitamins your body needs.  This was a part of the other chicken and hog processing classes that people appreciated also.

An interesting side note: Saturday we custom processed a hog for a Hungarian family who lives in Chicago.  They took home extra lard and were thrilled to be able to get it.  They told us that Illinois regulations dictate that the fat must be cut off pork and may not be sold.  It apparently contains cholesterol and contributes to obesity.  Yep.  For real.  Last year this family (and extended family–it’s a huge affair), made their sausage without any extra fat, just lean pork from Meijer’s.  They were so disappointed with the result they could barely eat it.  They were thrilled to be able to come here, harvest the pig and bring home some really good pork for this year’s sausage.

Part of the mission of Anyone Can Farm is to train people to be able to feed themselves and their neighbors.  It’s old knowledge that’s been lost in our push away from the dirt and into an industrial system.  We want to see people processing their own and their neighbors chickens.  We want to see people raising, processing, and safely preserving their own meats and preserving the artisinal farmer heritage.

Hog Harvest Days Pictures and Follow Up

The weekend started out Friday afternoon with students arriving in 1′s and 2′s.  They were dressed in warm clothes but excited to see what was in store over the next 2 1/2 days.  It was a sunny day and the temperature was in the low 40′s.  Perfect weather for what the day was going to bring.  After a briefing and a get to know each other time, we discussed what each student wanted to get out of the weekend.  With smiles and excitement, we moved over to the farm and started the process we were there for.

The day continued with the group processing 2 Hogs and walking through the steps to harvest, scaled, de-hair and prepare the animal for cutting up.

Dinner was wonderful with everyone sharing stories and tasting the wonderful farm raised foods that everyone brought and prepared.  That night, some stayed at local hotels, some right there at the Anyone Can Farm Lodge, and a few brazed the elements and camped outside.

Saturday we proceeded to learn more about how to cut up the hogs from a chef.   The chef had a hog half and each of the student groups got a half to cut up also.  It was a time of learning and experimenting on how to best part up the hog so that the best cuts of meat could be used for charcuterie.  The students also got to see the farm and how everything works to prepare the specialty hogs for charcuterie.

Saturdays meals were fantastic.  Jill and the kids prepared a wonderful selection of vegetables and meat with everyone full to the brim after a hard days work.

Sunday was another beautiful day with the sun shining and the temperature perfect for preparing the charcuterie and specialty sausages.  The chefs taught everything from how to sharpen the knives, to which part of the hog is best what pork product, to the fine art of charcuterie.

As the day progressed, everyone would make comments about how much they learned and how awesome it was to listen from these incredible chefs.  At the end, a collective realization came over them as they realized that “Anyone Can farm”.

Hugs to all those that attended Hog Harvest Days.  Great times and memories.


Anyone can farm…

Farmer Stuart Kunkle learning an essential skill in hog rearing.

This entry will be a bit long–just an upfront warning.  A long time ago I read Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (Scribner, 2005), in which  Mr. McCourt describes his experiences as an English teacher in inner New York city in the 50′s and 60′s.   One character in particular jumped out at me and I’ve waited all this time to be able to tell this story here.  I’m going to quote a couple pages of the book, but it applies to the concept of “anyone can farm.”  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy:

Read the rest of this page »

Hog Harvest Days

Bakers Family Pic

Charcuterie is the art and science of preserving meat. Pork is especially suited for this purpose. This is your chance to learn how to process a heritage hog from oink to ham with Mark Baker, farmer, and Aaron Butts, Executive Chef of Joseph Decuis restaurant where he has been turning Mangalitsa pigs into fabulous charcutered products. At this hands-on offering on our working farm, you will have the opportunity to learn:

*How to feed and care for a hog for optimal charcuterie processing.


*How to slaughter a hog on-farm, including scalding and scraping.

*How to use seam butchery techniques so you won’t need a huge meat saw.

*How to utilize many of the organ meats.

*How to make your own lard and sausages.

*How to cure your own bacons, hams, and other cuts.

Take home meat and some tools available for sale.

Cost: $250/person for this 2 1/2 day event, with lunches and dinners provided.

Date: November 2-4, 2012

Get more information or RSVP by calling 231-825-0293 or emailing
Remember, anyone can farm


Welcome to Hog Harvest Days

Picture 152

Welcome to Anyone Can Farm! Our firm belief is that anyone can grow food to feed themselves, to one degree or another. What is lacking is the know-how-to that will ensure our food security and independence for the future. Anyone Can Farm’s mission is to provide hands-on learning opportunities to overcome that barrier.


October 28, 29: Chicken processing

This class starts on Sunday evening with dinner, then you’ll be in the thick of it with the crating of the chickens for processing the next day. Bright and early on Monday, you join our crew in the butcher shop. You’ll get to rotate through all the positions so that at the end of the day you’ll be able to fully process a chicken. The afternoon will be spent learning how to cut and pack chickens, focusing on utilizing the whole bird. Cost is $75.00 and includes Sunday dinner and Monday lunch. Please e-mail or call 231-825-0293 to sign up for this event.

November 2-4: Hog Harvest Days

The goal of this class is to provide you with the ability to kill, scald and scrape, cut, and preserve a whole hog. It will be taught by farmer Mark Baker, who has been farm killing hogs for over 10 years. He raises these hogs in a specific manner to enhance their quality for charcuterie, which is the art and science of meat preservation. He will walk you through the slaughtering process, including scalding and scraping the hide so that the rind is preserved. Mark will also be teaching you how to seam butcher a pig to prep it for making cured meats and sausages. He will be teaching you how to use all the parts of the pig, including the internal organs, sausage making, and an introduction to curing bacons and hams.

Class starts at 1:00 on Friday November 2nd. We will be jumping right in, so come dressed to be outside and get dirty. On Saturday, the 3rd, we will be cutting the carcasses into primal pieces and working with the internal organs. Sunday, the 4th, we’ll be focussing on making sausage and curing the larger pieces.

Dinner will be provided Friday, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and lunch on Sunday. Sorry, we can not provide housing, but can assist you in finding lodging in McBain or Cadillac.

Cost is $250.00 for the three days. Please use Paypal or e-mail or call 231-825-0293 to reserve your spot.
Pork, tools, and books will be available for sale.