Going Full Circle

May 15, 2015

Bobier -1By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

FERRY TWP. — For a couple of hippies who moved to Oceana County and lived on a commune 40 years ago, Bill and Patrice Bobier have made enormous impacts on this community and continue to do so, going full circle.

Bill and Patrice arrived in Michigan in 1971, first residing in a commune Bobier -2across the road from where they currently live on their now 380-acre farm.

Bill, a former Republican state legislature for eight years and political activist in land and resource management, and Patrice, a certified professional midwife and owner of Full Circle Midwifery who has delivered 1,550 babies, say they are starting to slow down. They are now grandparents with two grown children and five grandchildren.

Bill, now at age 64, fondly recalls those early years when they first moved to Ferry. The commune existed for two summers, he said. During the first summer, there were five adults and two kids, and the second summer, 17 adults and three kids resided in the peaceful community located in the picturesque countryside. “It evolved into a commune,” he said, with a “hodge podge of people.” A Volkswagon bus traveled there with Baby Boomer commune dwellers, he recalled. But it was “short-lived.”

“There was a huge amount of social growth back then,” he said. The world was quickly changing as the environment, racial integration and feminism were taking the forefront in politics.

Bobier -5Bill’s natural gift of public speaking, along with his charisma, soon found him in the political world. He served six years as the Ferry Township supervisor and eventually made his mark in Michigan, serving eight years as state representative from 1990-1998, ending that stint only because of term limits.

He defeated an incumbent Ed Giese of Manistee in the Republican primary and then withstood a tough challenge from Democrat Allan O’Shea of Copemish.

“Most people get elected in the primary, not the general election,” he said. “I would never make it in a primary today. I’m too open-minded.”

Bobier -4How does a hippie end up becoming a Republican politician, one may ask? “Being Republican made more sense when I was a property owner and had a family than when I was a hippie,” he said. “I grew up in a moderate Republican family. Rural Republicans are different than urban Republicans.”

Bill, affectionately called “Bilbo” by many and well-known for his sense of humor, still sports the signature Civil-War-era style moustache. His longish curly locks have given way to white, straighter hair, and a little less of it.

Even though he still considers himself “pretty Republican,” Bill isn’t afraid to share his displeasure with both political parties. “It’s sad how both parties have treated infrastructure,” he said. “To let infrastructure crumble is criminal. I’m really mad at the legislature.

“Democrats are too indecisive — it’s not the decisions you make, it’s the decisions you don’t make. Republicans have forgotten you need to spend money to sometimes make money.

Bobier-9“People need to be able to talk through ideas without being branded for it. Democracy is hard.”

Bill considers himself lucky to have had the opportunity for his career in Lansing, which also includes his position as senior analyst with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He also taught organic gardening at Grand Valley State University. “The times were conducive to my career,” he said.

Patrice began midwife training in 1979 and opened her practice in 1982. The job requires a lot of miles on the road since Full Circle covers a large area including Oceana, Mason, Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Manistee, Kent, Montcalm, Mecosta and Lake counties.

During the near-blizzard conditions of the Feb. 14 storm, Bill drove Bobier - 6Patrice to a birth in Muskegon with his four-wheel-drive truck.

“I had babies in the hospital, and I figured there had to be a better way,” she recalled when she gave birth to her own children. “Back then it was different.” Husbands weren’t allowed in the birthing room, and many didn’t get to hold their babies until days after they were born.

“It’s a sacred event, and it needs to be treated as such,” Patrice said. “It supports the natural way a woman’s body is meant to work because we allow it all to unfold.”

Midwives have a 3 percent C-section rate compared to the national average of 32 percent. In her over 30 years in practice, Patrice’s most unusual birth occurred when she was on the road home from another birth. “I happened to be at a gas station in Hesperia and delivered a baby in the bathroom,” she said. “The father ran in and said, ‘Call 911 — my wife is having a baby.’” Patrice said she offered to go talk to the woman to keep her calm, and ended up delivering the baby in the gas station bathroom.

Patrice now is delivering many “second-generation births” — babies of the babies she delivered over 30 years ago.

For many years, her practice was averaging 40-55 births per year, but that number has now increased to 60-80 per year.

“I’m not anti-medical at all,” she said.” We appreciate medical care when things get risky.” Approximately 7-8 percent of the births are transported to the hospital.

Patrice is active in getting a bill passed to license midwives in the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House.

Bobier - 8The couple by 1987 had a “working farm unit,” Bill said, and for many years, they operated the Happy Farmers’ Co-op. “We did big vegetable production for several years,” Patrice said. “It was rough work, we put in 14-hour days. But farming is very rewarding — I can’t imagine eating any other way.”

Just like both Bill and Patrice’s careers have blossomed over the years, so have their home and farm. The kitchen of their current home is the 20-by-20 foot cabin that was moved from the Blue Lake Boy Scout Camp when they first arrived back in the early 1970s. “It’s always sort of a work in progress,” Bill said. They started with 40 acres, which grew to 380. “It’s a beautiful piece of habitat,” he said

Patrice, now 63, is a Florida native, and Bill is from Coldwater. “It’s a Bobier -7classic hippie story,” he said of how they ended up moving to Ferry.

“Florida was not a good place to be in the ‘60s,” he said. The young couple met some friends, several of whom were Vietnam vets, and looked at farms in the Coldwater area to begin a commune, but the landscape there was too rocky for farming. They found Ferry and decided it was time to venture north. “We packed up with our gear and moved,” he said. That was the beginning of a movement of several free spirits seeking a peaceful existence in the beautiful area. “That’s how Ferry got zoned, because of all the hippies building shacks in the woods,” he said.

Bobier - 3“It took a long time to get accepted,” he recalled. “We came here as hippies. When (the locals) saw that we were working the land, they accepted us.

Their Earthscape Farm has 80 cattle, and they raise hay, barley and oats for cattle feed.

The couple is trying to “cut back and slow down” a bit now that they’re getting older. “We’re able to go on vacations now and spend more time with family,” Patrice said.

“I love this land — that’s all there is to it,” Bill said. “This is 40-plus years of a civilization. This is a result of fertility.”

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