"We Are All Farmers," Mark Baker Tells Foodies in His 1st Traveling Butchering Class; Bad Cheese Aftertaste at Morningland

Michigan farmer Mark Baker demonstrates the butchering of a hog, at a class organized in Concord, MA, on Saturday (photo by Eric Pierce). Michigan pig farmer Mark Baker has been under a virtual embargo the last several months because of his state’s prohibition on raising so-called “feral” pigs--essentially any pigs that Big Ag doesn’t want to see produced. The high-end restaurants he formerly supplied with heritage pork don’t want to do business with him for fear local public health authorities will come down on them. The local USDA slaughterhouse won’t handle his pigs because its owners fears regulator reprisals. 


So Baker has begun exploiting the only option he could think of: taking his knowledge about pig butchering and meat curing on the road. His first stop was this weekend at a home in Concord, MA, nearly within sight of the Old North Bridge, where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in 1775. 


There, in the garage of Farmageddon documentary producer Kristin Canty, Baker laid out a recently slaughtered pig, and over two days during the weekend instructed 16 area residents how to turn it into pork chops, roasts, ham shanks, and bacon, among other items. They paid $100 each for the new skills he instructed them in. 


He also provided insights into his struggle against Big Ag and for the right to sell his heritage pigs, free of government prohibitions. At a dinner Saturday evening, following a day of butchering instruction, Baker spoke to the attendees about his struggles with the state of Michigan. “This is not about pigs, it’s about freedom,” he said.

The state has classified the heritage breed of pigs he raises as feral, based on allegations such breeds roam wild and destroy farm fields and forests. “They say there are 5,000 to 7,000 feral swine around in Michigan,” explained. “I have never seen one.” 


Baker has sued the state over its attempt to outlaw the pigs he raises, but the suit will likely not be heard until this spring, or even later. In the meantime, he is being required to abide by the prohibition. 


He said that only one other farmer has stood with him in opposition to the state. “Most of the farmers are laying low, waiting to see what happens to us” and to the suit. 


A former military man of twenty years, Baker vowed to resist the state. “This is one farm and this is one guy who is digging in his heels.” 


Baker was clearly moved by the show of support among Massachusetts foodies who committed to spending the weekend learning how to butcher a pig. “You are doers. You are here on a Saturday cutting up pigs. We are starting to feel our food is in jeopardy. I used to think the solution was, ‘We’ll sue ‘em. The real solution is what we did here today.” 


He added: “Everyone here is a farmer. If you just grow a few tomatoes, you are a farmer.” 


Special thanks to Kristin Canty for organizing the Mark Baker event on short notice. And to Deborah Evans, who runs her own hog farm in Maine, who assisted Baker. It’s a potentially promising model for other groups around the country that want to support farmers standing up for food rights, and teach essential skills in the process. 



While Mark Baker understands the political implications of Michigan’s campaign against small hog farmers, he is being careful to avoid the trap of political ideology. In this incisive article by U.S. News & World Reports editor Simon Owens on efforts by the Tea Party to tap into unhappiness about food rights, Baker expresses his reservations of committing to any party or ideology. 




Also on Friday, the last chapter in the long Morningland Dairy saga was written when state of Missouri regulators carted off more than 30,000 pounds of condemned cheese that dairy had fought for more than two years to preserve. The three regulators had to walk hot coals before they could take the cheese, though, as you’ll see in this video of the events. 


mark mcafee's picture


When people learn to hunt and shoot feral pigs, butcher them, cook them and eat them.....that really encroaches on the processors cartel and even gives a nod to the second amendment. Go Christin Canty....you glorious rebel you!!

Re the Republican "tea party" scam: Anyone who cares about Food Freedom must reject all system attempts to hijack, misdirect, co-opt, buy off. (There have been similar Democrat scams.)

(Basic identifier of a scam - are you supposed to keep "voting" in their kangaroo elections for Reps and Dems, and keep giving them and their affiliated NGOs money?)

For starters, we must reject anything having to do with either Washington gang, or any corporate collaboration, and all aspects of system (corporatist) ideology.

Does anyone have a handbook showing the State's entire definition of feral? Pigs naturally roam, and I'd like to know what they consider roaming wild. Also, do they have some sort of evidence showing this destruction they're talking about? What do they want Mark to do - take the pigs into his home? Pigs don't even like being in a barn or shed, so unless a farmer is cramming them into a CAFO type operation, they're going to be running around in a field or barnyard lot. Does anyone who writes these "rules and regulations for the State" know anything about raising animals? It sure doesn't sound like they'd know one end of a pig from the other.

My dictionary states the following definition of feral: " 1. existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated. "

Ah-ha. If something is close to nature, you can be sure our officials will figure out a way to find something wrong with that. The answer? Raise them inside your home. Problem solved.

David Gumpert's picture

D. Smith,
The state's definition is pretty simple, contained in this Invasive Species Order:


Essentially, certain breeds of pig are prohibited, or variants of those breeds.  

@ David: The computer I'm using right now will not let me open a pdf. Ratz.

I should have known they would have certain breeds targeted for this sort of nonsense. It figures. They get all those ducks in a row before they go around harassing people, I'm sure.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

The video shows the govt people as inhuman and nothing more than lackys.

How poetic to butcher within site of the Old North Bridge.

mark mcafee's picture

Who cares what kind of cow you milk or pig you raise or pig you eat....why should the state care one little bit about this issue?

Andy Rooney got it right years ago....

OPDC sales are crazy....we can not get to the end of a truck delivery route with out running out of product on trucks even after we over load extra product. Then,.....stores call and want the truck to return to drop off more product becuase they are already sold out in three hours. I guess....Andy Rooney was 99% right. The fat part is not perfect, but he got all the rest is dead on.


"If dairy farmers want to sell more milk....they should go back to selling what comes out of the cow!!!
Quote Andy Rooney....

This is from 7 years ago... great visionary thoughts and very predictive of todays dairy distaster and the emergence of raw milk as a new market.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

Why does the pasteurized milk in the stores say not to freeze?
Back in the 60s mom froze store bought milk if she thought it was going to spoil. So why not freeze it now?

Because they'd rather you throw it out and buy more.

Yep. Because we live in a *disposable* society and people don't understand thrift like your Mom did. I was glad to see your post about frozen milk though, Sylvia, because it reminded me to take out a glass 1/2 gallon jar of raw milk I had in the freezer. My grandkids were here last night and there was just enough of it thawed so they could each have a glass.

I have friends who tease me and call me a "prepper" just because I can or freeze some veggies and fruits every autumn. They don't ^get it^ either. But when someone needs some of my frozen pumpin to make a pie, they don't hesitate to ask. ::see my eyes rolling?::

Sylvia Gibson's picture

Canning is something I need to learn. When mom did it, she shooed us out of the kitchen, claimed she didn't want us around in case the canner (her mothers, which I now have) may explode. It's huge, and probably needs the rubber gasket replaced, has a gage on the lid. Looking back, I think she kept us away because she wanted peace and some quiet. There was 5 of us plus friends around all the time.

If they didn't call you a "prepper" you may be called a hoarder! At least you know what's in/on your food and how it was processed.

I always thought the term hoarder meant that you kept all kinds of unimportant stuff. My oldest son's MIL is a hoarder. She wanted to move last year and asked him if he would help when the time came. He told her he absolutely wouldn't touch her stuff with a 10 foot barge pole. My DH has had too much influence on that boy I think, because he is not one bit afraid to speak his mind! He'd rather come straight to a point than meander aimlessly around it - just like his Dad. Very plain spoken/outspoken. Imagine that. ; ) He says she has one whole room in her basement full of stuff, including bags of trash!! OMG. And he says she keeps it locked as though the treasure of the Inca's were in there. Is hoarding a disease or just a quirk?

I don't can all that much stuff now that my DH and I are empty-nesters. I've gotten more interested in freezing things - so much easier. That gadget you mentioned sounds more like a pressure cooker than a canner. My canner is just a big graniteware kettle with a regular lid (no gauges) and it has the metal racks inside so that the jars don't touch the bottom of the kettle. There's probably more than one kind of canner though, I don't know.

Yeah, I know what's in most of the foods we eat. If I have the time I preserve stuff; if I don't have the time, I don't flake out if I don't get it done. For years friends have called me Susie Homemaker, yet no one hesitates to ask if they want or need something they think I might have. Go figure.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

I'm not a doctor so cannot diagnose (just a disclosure) There are many reason why people hoard, it has been my experience that some hoard to replace something (that something can be real or imagined). Inanimate objects don't usually harm you.(In the case of hoarding trash, it can harm). If social services hears of it, they may interfere. I don't agree with many of the 'terms' used. I wouldn't call hoarding a disease, I think it's a confused/misguided/survival thought process of the mind. It's definitely not a quirk and can be difficult to resolve. http://www.ocfoundation.org/hoarding/causes.aspx

The same with phobias. The brain only wants to protect us. It takes someone with great knowledge in dealing with these issues to resolve them correctly. There are no quick fixes. Another example is panic attacks, for some reason the brain is stuck in the flight or fight mode. Fear is a learned response and can be unlearned. Something that is much easier said than done. The patient has to participate in resolving the fears or it doesn't work. Since there is no tests that prove "chemical imbalances" the medical community is only guessing and assisting big pharm make big $$$$. Tell your son his MIL has some emotional issues, and she probably doesn't even realize it, or if she does, she may not have a clue how to resolve it. The world is a terrifying place for many. And should he decide to assist with cleaning stuff out, he may need haz-mat gear or at least a respirator so he doesn't inhale crap and remember mold spores can become airborne and land on mucous membranes (eyes/mouth). There are big safety issues for those who clean hoarders homes.

Maybe it is a big pressure cooker, I know mom also used it when she canned. As a kid, I wouldn't have known what she was doing.

Oh boy, I know a little about phobias. When I was in college I developed what was called agoraphobia (which literally means fear of the marketplace) but mine was more like claustrophobia in enclosed places where there were lots of other people, such as a theatre, mall, or an airplane. I resolved the theatre thing (although we rarely go to the trash Hollyweird has put out in the past 20 years anyway), and I'm not a bit interested in shopping at a mall, but I still cannot fly, which is sorta by choice as well as anything else (and my husband has a small plane pilot's license!). I developed that phobia in college when crammed into a dorm room with five other girls and only one window. About 35 years ago I had a good friend who was a child psychologist who dealt a lot with children from broken homes who had major, major phobias. Long story short, she taught me some breathing exercises (one in particular that I still use) and that has been a Godsend for me. I don't really have the phobia anymore, but in some situations I can feel it coming over me, so I drag out the breathing exercise from the back of my brain and utilize it. I also used that same breathing pattern when I quit smoking 18 years ago - that and water, water, water until I couldn't stand the sight of my bathroom anymore. In three days I could have cared less about ever smoking again and I never have. My DH used the same method to quit a year after I did. When we were in college in the early 1970's it was "in" to smoke, doncha know. I'm sure glad we both eventually quit. Haven't missed it a bit. I still LOVE the smell of a good cigar or a pipe with cherry blend tobacco though. I think I always will because there are memories attached to those smells.

I don't think my son will ever give in and help his MIL. He's pretty stubborn and he's already told her no, so I doubt it will change. Maybe he knew the hazards, I don't know.

Sylvia Gibson's picture


Does this mean the govt et al will shut them down? Will the "lawyers" attack them and "own" them? Will the lawyers sue the crap out of them so they have to shut down?

1 in 6 with food poisoning...grow your own, buy local, see the farm.

Three things jump out at me from that article, just for a beginning.

Firstly, blaming the farmworkers and food handlers (restaurants) for having dirty hands is only a small part of the equation. The biggest blame, as we saw back in 2003 or 2004, was run off from CAFO farms. Polluted, antibiotic-laden, festering rain/snow run off and ponding. They just don't want BIGPHOOD to have to buck up and take the blame.

Secondly, the poultry industry is damn lucky they don't kill off more people than they do with their CAFO filth. The outbreak 10 years ago was more about fresh ground turkey being infected, rather than deli meats. Another BIGPHOOD success story, huh?

Thirdly, "improvements in beef handling" has little to do with it. That industry refuses to admit that grass-fed beef is where the "improvement" is coming from. In the regular beef industry, they consider pink slime and meat glue to be "improvements". Gads.

Lots more there to pick on, but you get my drift. Another story pointing fingers the wrong direction and misdirecting proper blame.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

Oh. My. Gosh.

They truly just do NOT understand, do they?

[quote from article at link provided about by Sylvia]: "The studies, in Malawi, led by scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, reveal that severe malnutrition often involves more than a lack of food, and that feeding alone may not cure it.

The antibiotic study found that a week of the medicine raised survival and recovery rates when given at the start of a longer course of a tasty “therapeutic food” made from peanut butter fortified with milk powder, oil, sugar and micronutrients. Malnourished children are prone to infections, and the drugs — either amoxicillin or cefdinir — were so helpful that researchers said medical practice should change immediately to include an antibiotic in the routine treatment of severe malnutrition." [end of quote]

This is their idea of "therapeutic food:?? Really? Peanut butter (a known allergen to lotsa folks); powdered milk (ack); oil (probably rancid); sugar (really?!); micronutrients (what on earth do you suppose their idea of a micronutrient is for Pete's sake). Arggghh, I read stuff like that and it makes me want to scream. And then on top of it all they want to dose them with antibiotics. Good grief. None of that will help malnutrition in the long term. If they save someone for 1 day, they skew the statistics to include that one day.

Yeah, scarier and scarier is right. Those poor malnourished people are living in happy ignorance if they think any of that stuff is going to help them.

In that article from US News and World Report where it talks about the Bledsoe's having to pour bleach on their meat, I hope that inspector didn't think that would ruin the meat, and I hope the Bledsoe's didn't either. Especially if you act to finish the soaking process. I used to follow a "food program" back in the early 2000's where we soaked meats, eggs, veggies and fruits in Clorox bleach water (but only Clorox, no other type of bleach). There were probably 300 or so other women who did the same and none of us encountered one single problem. The original concept was developed by Hazel Parcells decades ago. To my knowledge the military used this cleansing food method for years before the MRE's were "invented/concocted".

Sylvia Gibson's picture


"Acceptable drinks for most students would include low- or no-fat milks, 100 percent juices and water."

No one in my family would touch milk other than whole milk. My daughter used 1/2&1/2 on her cereal.
I see orange juice that's been sitting in a vat for a year and adulterated is ok?

"I've struggled with my weight all my life, and it's not an easy thing to deal with," Vilsack told Reuters."

And it didn't occur to him that it was caused by what he put in his body? Coupled with lifestyle.

From the picture caption in the link: "Students have a nutrition break mid-morning consisting of milk, juice, an orange and either mini sausage roll or Vegetarian Italian bagel "

I question in what way this crap is healthy? What are the ingredients? The orange is the only healthy item I see.

Sylvia Gibson's picture


I've no doubt that most if not all, fast food joints, along with most processed foods have these toxic ingredients. How could there be any questions on why so many are in ill health?