National network on location with Harrisville family
A spotlight was shown on Alcona County last week when Animal Planet came and spent more than 12 hours capturing the lifestyle and breeding philosophy of a local farm on film.
Animal Planet, a cable television network that focuses on animals and the human/animal bond, visited Quaker Hill Farm. Animal
Planet's parent company
is Discovery Communications, Inc.
Quaker Hill Farm owners, William and Kimberly, who don't have cable television, didn't know what to think when they received a call from one of Animal Planet's representatives wanting to schedule a filming date. "I thought they were
trying to sell me advertising." Kimberly said. "I almost hung up on them."
The representative explained that Animal Planet was interested in including their work with breeding and training collies as
part of a new series about dogs. In less than a week, the crew was on their doorstep. They showed up at 7:15 a.m. They filmed until dark
and, after packing up all of their gear and equipment, left around 11 p.m.
"Things happened very fast," Kimberly said. "We knew very little about what would happen...We walked into this with an open heart and it was a rewarding,
although tiring experience."
"They were fantastically kind and wonderful," she said. "They made it easy on everyone...they handled everything gently...I thought it was
going to be hard to do - invasive - but they made it easy."
Kimberly said she was pleased a national spotlight was on Alcona County again - in a positive light, as opposed to previous national news coverage
regarding the embezzlement charges and subsequent conviction of former Alcona County Treasurer Tom Katona. "Alcona will be well represented here," Kimberly said.
The Makelas came to their farm in 1985 and raised seven children. They are a Certified Naturally Grown sustainable farm which grows heirloom produce that is pastured based and they raise rare breed livestock including Oberhasli dairy goats, Cotswold sheep,
Muscovy ducks, and Buff Orpington chickens. At its peak, the farm had about 90 goats and 45 sheep, along with numerous fowl.
Today, there are about 12 goats, 12 sheep, four horses, two llamas, pea fowl, geese, ducks, chickens, "a lot of cats", and collies.
"We have downsized quite a bit since the children have all grown up and moved away," Kimberly said. "They do come to help out with haying."
Since the downsizing, William works off the farm and Casey teaches homesteading educational workshops that include sustainable simple living, cooking,
soap making, cheese making and spinning classes.
She explained the workshops help members of this generation learn about how to live off the land. "If you think about it, we are four or five generations
removed from agriculture," Kimberly said. "Many people have no memory of their grandparents and how they lived off the land." She
cited how victory gardens were common in the United States during World War II - so that Americans could help sustain their
families and not tax the nation while it was at war.
"We are in a different war now - a war with the economy - dealing with the ever rising costs of food," Kimberly said.
William explained that while it is natural for prices to go up, more and more people are looking for ways to save money by producing their own food.
"City dwellers are becoming aware of the victory garden concept and are putting in neighborhood gardens," he said.
"We went from being a producing farm and turned it into education to maintain our lifestyle," Kimberly said. "We are sharing what we've
learned. Otherwise we would be like other family farms that go away and the knowledge is lost to future generations."
The Makelas have a philosophy of land stewardship which is "to love the things we live among and enjoy the company of the animals we raise,
even if they are livestock."
With their children off the farm and downsizing to smaller herds, the Makelas found that they still needed help in the field, which is
where the collies come in. "The presence of dogs alone keeps the livestock safer," William said. "We have not lost any of our livestock
to coyotes since the collies have been in the field." He explained that while collies do herd, the breed's main focus is herd companion
dogs. They sit with the herd or "govern" the livestock.
Kimberly grew up with collies as her grandparents and parents raised them. "I have never seen a dog better with children than collies."
Kimberly said. "A well bred collie is so dependable and likes to hang around children. They govern them like they would livestock. It
is magical to watch. Collies and children are a great combination."
The puppies featured in the Animal Planet footage are fifth generation from "Lassie" who was there during filming. They kept one of
her daughters, Willow, and also kept a granddaughter, Bella. They have a total of 5 breeding females and two males and produce one or
two litters a year. "We only had one this year because we didn't have time to do all of the training...usually the pups are sold before
they are born," Kimberly said.
Keeping the family line is important to the breeding goals the Makelas have developed. The main goal is for overall good health. With that
always in mind, they then selectively breed for personality type which is - intelligence, willing personality, stable disposition,
and gentle countenance.
Training begins the first week of the puppies lives with a lot of handling, progresses to walking on a leash and swimming at
"From the very first week, our aim is to encourage psychological development, strengthen the immune system and physical
development," Kimberly said.
To help ensure confidence, many training aids are introduced during play time like low levels of water that gradually increase as the puppies
grow. "We start them in water at about five weeks," Kimberly said. "They walk in it for many days and it gradually grows deeper."
The final stage of "hydrotherapy" comes when they learn buoyancy and actually swim.
Training, paired with individual testing makes for a lot of time put into each pup and the same effort goes into placing the right pup with
its owner. "no one picks a puppy here," Kimberly said of prospective buyers. After an extensive interview with each potential owner, a pup is
chosen for them. "They have to agree that if they can't keep the dog for any reason, it has to come back here," Kimberly said.
"We have the resources to find homes for these dogs if for any reason we couldn't keep the dog, which is unlikely." Buyers also
have to agree to restrictive breeding stipulations.
Quaker Hill (Crown Thistle) collies have gone to homes across the United States and Canada, and to Australia and around the world.
These collies go to many different homes, but Kimberly explained the most tender placements go to homes that need them as companion therapy dogs.
In this situation, dogs generally go to women who have experienced personal trauma or assault and suffer from a lack of confidence to go
out of their homes alone. These collies will leave Quaker Hill Farm after they are a year old and have had much more extensive training to
be confident to handle any possible situation they might find themselves in like flying, elevators, escalators, busy city streets, et cetera.
It is these placements that make the Makelas proud of their work with their collies. "They make us feel wonderful and that all of
the work we've done is worth it." Kimberly said.
When they aren't raising puppies, herding goats and sheep, planting, weeding and picking from their gardens and producing crops for their animals,
the Makelas also prepare items for the farm's shop - honey, eggs, wool, soap, dairy goat shares and fresh seasonal produce. Kimberly
updates the farm's Web page, authoring all of the items including the children's stories,
Quaker Anne's Children's Stories. She teaches Web design, midwifery
classes, and William provides hayrides to church groups in the fall. Kimberly is also the president of Alcona Local Foods Association (ALFA)
and a member of the Alcona Quilt Trail committee.
Note from Quaker Hill Farm
and Crown Thistle Collies
by Kimberly Anne - "Quaker Anne"
Collies are the most incredible breed of dog ever to have been developed. They are exceptional family dogs, so remarkable with
and have a character
that makes them versatile in so many ways. Unfortunately, they are not always bred with the high ethic they deserve and we hope
all of our hearts that we have not brought attention to their uniqueness in any way that would compromise the breed.
It is our hope as a family, that public understanding for the true nature of a well bred and carefully trained Collie will have
expanded in such a way as to bring credit to the merit of their true nature and the value of an exceptional
breeding program. Our family has worked for many generations on breeding
dogs of exceptional quality so that families
around the country and the world can experience being loved by what we feel is
the classic all American family dog.
Working with our Collies in front of a film crew was an amazing experience on every level. The photos included here are but a fraction
of the shots of events and situations which Animal Planet filmed. Among those not shown are our Collies in the training yard
doing versatility exercises,
us cooking natural foods for the collies after a walk in our vegetable garden, and then there is the footage of spinning
Collie hair into yarn, and more. However, we feel the photos here give a good idea of that eventful day and we hope you enjoy
them as well as enjoy
the opportunity to get to know us a little better.
There are so very many people to thank for the success of this project, especially given the very short notice we received requesting
our participation. First of all, to our family who rallied together to travel from out of state as far away as NC. Hannah, Jeremee,
Cameron, Johnathan and "Uncle" John - thank you for the time in miles traveled alone,
not to mention the extreme effort exerted all the way around. John, the photography was, as ever, unbelievably remarkable - so much of what we
experienced would have been lost to memory for exhaustion alone had it not been for you. As well, the prayers of those unable to attend.
Angela - so aptly named - there are simply no words to express the appreciation we all feel for the blessing of
your friendship. Your hard
work on our behalf is a treasure to us all. Our thanks to your whole family too for supporting you being here,
and especially your children for working with the collie
pups so wonderfully!
Sherry and "Bella", thank you so much for being here on such short notice and working so hard. Sherry, you have done a
beautiful job with Bella -
is a credit to us all!
Lisa, you made working with the pups in the water that much more fun for your marvelous sense of humor and exceptional handling of
the little swimmers - those "champion athletes"! Your sensitive understanding of dogs comes through so clearly when you are
handling them - you make them more confident for your faith in their abilities.
Erin, you grew up down the hill from this busy farm and we are so pleased that you joined us to help during this very special event.
Our dogs really love you.
Cheryl of the Alcona County Review, for your generous and kind representation of our farm, life and family we can not
When I read your article about Quaker Hill Farm and the filming event here I could not hold back the tears. It was a large and wonderful
We have shared and sent
of the paper to people all around the country and the response has been positive over and over again.
Thank you hardly seems enough for your thoughtfulness, but thank you so much!
To the filming crew and producer from Animal Planet - Meg, Rich, Jed & Henry - you were all extremely kind to us and handled
everything not only professionally
but more importantly, sensitively, very patiently and carefully considerate of our lives and work here. I have to admit, we were all a bit
nervous about the prospect of such an enormous project (one of a kind for us!), but you had us all at ease every step of the way. We
are grateful for the rare opportunity to share our lives with others in such a way and to have met and worked with you all.
Photos of Animal Planet Filming
Animal Planet producer interviews Kimberly Anne (Quaker Anne) about the long history of Quaker Hill Farm and
Crown Thistle Collies.
Bill and Kimberly Anne with Lassie & Willow during filming by
Animal Planet at Quaker Hill Farm. Bill and Kimberly
carefully evaluate and extensively train their Collies.
Unloading camera equipment onto the tracks to film the herding demonstration.
One of the dairy goats checks the camera tri-pod for readiness.
Animal Planet producer and film crew discuss the upcomming shot.
Willow is fitted with a custom designed harness-held camera to get footage from her
perspective working on the field.
Willow herds the livestock for the Animal Planet film crew.
Willow vogues for the camera!
Willow takes a much needed rest with her trainer, "Quaker Anne".
Being a film star is hard work!
While the film crew set up for the barn scene, Animal Planet producer, Meg, stands for a shot with
the Makela family.
As part of the unique imprint training process pioneered by the Makela family, collie pups are confident, capable
swimmers by 7 weeks old. Daughter Hannah swims with a pup during Animal Planet filming.
During filming, Hannah was assisted in the pool by Lisa T. of
Alcona Chiropractic & AC Natural Foods in
Harrisville. Lisa really
enjoyed working with all of the pups in the water, but especially "Kayla", who later went to her lovely forever home in MA.
Children playing with the collies for filming.
The film crew took extra special care to make everyone feel comfortable during filming.
Our grandson Johnathan playing with collie pups while being filmed.
Collie puppy enjoying the spotlight.
Crown Thistle's Bella watches the filming under a shady tree.
We train some of our very special Collies to be reading dogs or therapy/companion dogs.
Our grandson Cameron reads to his
beloved lifelong friend Crown Thistle's Lassie while being filmed by Animal Planet.
A boy and his dog experiencing a moment together
that is now the
memory of a lifetime.
The photographer having to stand to have his own picture taken!
We are greatly indebted to photographer John Parsons who captured the Animal Planet filming event throughout the entire day.
His hard work produced absolutely remarkable photos that ensured truly unique memories for this family.
"Hey, Mr. Serious, I said - Smile!"