Six years ago, around the family table at Peter and Keith’s garden farm in Bloomington, Indiana, daughter Liberty and her husband Edward were livening the dinner talk with dreams of the future. That night was like so many others, but then…. after a day of gardening and a hearty meal, we felt the dream quicken, pulled out a sketchbook, and began to make notes. A picture emerged of a barn-like house enclosing a large garage and workshop for winter projects, with a sprawling, multi-use space above. Root cellars built into the earth would store the harvest, a greenhouse would bring the plant world home all year, while a sauna in the middle would warm us from the inside out. Of course, the farm kitchen with a giant table welcoming family and friends would hold the beating heart.
Farming separately but still dreaming of a more connected way of living, Edward and Liberty seized the moment of the pandemic to pull up roots and make their way to Michigan with their 2 boys, 10 chickens, and pup Luca in tow.
In the winter of 2021, our newest Michiganders were able to buy the property next door, adding 8 acres of woods, pasture, and potential orchard and garden space to the original ten. Together, our reunited family built the first of two pit greenhouses to increase cold-season growing space. We are now planning the expansion of poultry flocks, fencing, and many connecting paths, lanes, and trails. Crops are ramping up as the Spring approaches, so we invite you to follow this continuing adventure, and to taste the fruits (and roots) of our joint labors.
Peter and Keith began the journey soon after, finding a desolate and broken-down 10-acre mobile home park near the small coastal town of Montague, and just 5 miles from Lake Michigan. They bought the land, moved north, and enlisted skilled local friends to help build the big house. Moved in four years later, they named their venture Blue Sky Farm. Though we visited back and forth, Liberty and Edward returned to Tennessee to homestead, raise their young family, and ultimately create a small farm business on 13 acres of clay, limestone, and hickory forest.
Meet the Family
Keith Johnson was raised in a small village in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by a family of artists, forest foragers, and enterprising gardeners (from whom he learned at an early age he was related to Johnny Appleseed). He has been a commercial landscaper, stonemason, and organic gardener since 1976 and he’s been teaching Permaculture since 1995 and has instructed over 1200 students.
Peter Bane is a native of the Illinois prairie whose interest in good food and simple living led him to become a teacher and practitioner of permaculture design at mid-life. Publishing Permaculture Activist magazine from 1990-2015, he became a prolific writer and contributor to journals and collections on forestry, building, and all things permaculture. After two decades of teaching and advocating for permaculture design, a learning journey that took him from Norway to Nepal & Canada to Chile, he summarized his experience as an ecovillage pioneer and suburban innovator in The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country. Peter was a founding board member of Permaculture Institute of North America (www.pina.in), and is now its Executive Director.
Liberty Bane was born and raised in the world of permaculture design, spending her childhood summers foraging and exploring in the mountains of North Carolina. She acquired a love of plants and learned gardening as an art form at Keith’s side and developed a passion for building design and forestry from her father, Peter. She’s gardened on many scales over the years, from apartment balconies to non-profit farms supplying fresh produce to low-income families. After earning her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Liberty applied her skills and passion for backyard gardening, edible landscaping, and animal husbandry to feed her family and help others do the same. Liberty has taught gardening classes to children and adults, provided site design consultation to homesteaders, and has now decided to pursue a career in regenerative agriculture, work that keeps her close to home, raising two boys with her husband.
Edward Carter is an East Tennessee native, raised in a tight-knit loving family, who has a passion for technology and learning about interconnected systems. He is a full-time network engineer and a hard worker who brings his technical expertise, interpersonal skills, and level headed knack for analysis and troubleshooting to the family farm dream.
About the Farm
Through the repair and rehabilitation of our own dry sandy landscape, we aim to model a way of living that provides for our own and our communities’ needs for food, energy, and shelter without exploitation or pollution as well as provide information that empowers people to do so for themselves.
In season, we grow and sell vegetable and flower seedlings, followed by produce from the gardens and orchard.
We also offer online and in-the-field events as conditions allow.