Chris Knapp, founder of the Maine Local Living School in Temple, explains the ins and outs of the icehouse Sunday, Aug. 21, during an open homestead. Visitors were told of the homestead’s way of life and mission, which is about forming connections and relationships with all living beings. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

TEMPLE — The Maine Local Living School held an open homestead Sunday, Aug. 21, inviting visitors to tour the farm and learn about its mission.

That mission, founder Chris Knapp said, is “connecting people to place and (teaching them) how to live wisely in a place.”

The school was originally known as The Koviashuvik Local Living School. Last fall, it transitioned to nonprofit status and became the Maine Local Living School, “a center for place-based learning.”

Despite the change, Knapp believes the mission has not changed but rather “grown and deepened.”

The school offers a bevy of programming that can teach people of all ages skills for handwork, sharpening tools, wild gathering, small-scale agriculture and regenerative agriculture.

The programming starts with two core questions: “How do we live in a place? How do we belong?”


“They’re actually the same question . . . should be the same question,” Knapp said. But there is a way to differentiate them, he said.

Knapp views the former question as focused on the physical, while the latter is focused on a sense of belonging — “how do we become kin with a community . . . a community that includes all living beings, more than human,” he said.

Visitors were asked those questions while touring the land.

They are directed from the parking lot up a trail to the land. Along the path are signs encouraging them to “breathe in the earth,” and telling them “the trees are singing; the land welcomes you.”

The path to the main house is a way for visitors to enter the space with intention, with a sense of peace.

Lydia Fox etches a carving into a birch bark cup Sunday, Aug. 21, at the Maine Local Living School in Temple. She said her time there has taught her how to live life at a slower pace and pay more attention to the world around her. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

At the main house, apprentice Lydia Fox sat outside etching a drawing into a birch bark cup, which she learned how to do with Knapp. She views her time at the school as “a really good opportunity to live and think at a different pace; to really slow down and . . . notice the world in a way that feels a lot better.”


“Moving more slowly is helping me change my mindset in a more long-term way,” Fox said. “That’s a big shift.”

Similarly, co-founder Ash Knapp said she has “found a lot of joy, hope and meaningful work in being able to provide for some of our needs, being able to work with the land and use the resources around us and help other people learn how to use those resources.”

Across the grounds are the main house, an icehouse, greenhouse and outdoor kitchens, among other areas. Chris Knapp described multiple areas as “gift-capturing buildings,” such as the greenhouse with solar panels.

“Part of the framework of how we are to live is to see everything out here as a gift and then to think about if all of these gifts are being given freely, and if I’m just not to lift a finger, I will have nothing,” Knapp told visitors. “If I can have a relationship with these gifts and capture them in ways which don’t cause harm to everybody else, all the other living beings, then we’re really onto something.”

The greenhouse, for example, collects solar power to use throughout the winter, rainwater to bathe in, and other uses.

The school offers programming on sustainability and self-sufficiency. And people who reside on the homestead live and work in a sustainable, self-sufficient system.


But Knapp said the primary goal is teaching people about the value of connection with other living beings.

“You’re never going to inspire a cultural story based solely on the idea of perpetuating. That’s not a very deep goal . . . the ability to sustain this activity indefinitely,” he said. “You think about what’s really important in life, connection and relationship. Those are what fill us up. Extending those two arts of connection and relationship to the more-than-human world is something that’s powerful.”

That relationship to living beings, beyond humans, is seen across the land. For example, Knapp and the school recently planted a chestnut tree, a species wiped out a century ago, and have planted other seeds found while foraging.

“We’re in communication with all of these trees, we’re sharing space together,” Knapp said. “And we’re learning about how to help a forest flourish while doing the things that we do. The relationship with land is regenerative so that we feel like we have the power and the ecological intelligence to make positive change in an ecosystem while inhabiting it.”

Nevertheless, Knapp acknowledged it’s impossible to be “pure.”

So did Michelle Fournier, the operations manager and a teacher at the school.


“It’s not perfect, but we feel like there’s a lot of value that people can take from here,” Fournier said.

Fournier, who has a background in climate activism and community organizing, said she was starting to feel “weighed down by the negativity.” But with the school, she feels empowered by “creating the world that we want to live in, building up the new systems.”

“There’s so much positivity here,” she said. “It’s working with people to give them inspiration and skills, for ways that they can change their lives.”

Like Fox, Fournier said her worldview has been changed by her time at the school and making a “long-term commitment to a place.”

“The biggest change is starting to think about myself and us, as humans, as part of an ecosystem,” she said. “We are just animals after all, and we have the ability to be a positive force in the ecosystem and be responsible members of a community, both human and nonhuman communities.

“That feels really life-changing to me,” she said. “Because it has implications for all of the decisions that I might make in my life.”

Knapp said most important to him is that people leave the school with a sense of gratitude.

“We really wish for people to feel that sense of amazement and gratitude toward the parts of the world which make up life that people end up thinking of as mundane,” Knapp said. “We’re just really thankful . . . to be able to live this way.”

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