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"At Maine Local Living School we came to understand a philosophy of wholeness wherein our actions form a cycle, borrowing from the earth and returning to it constantly. The experience provided us with a means to live well in a spiritually and physically sustainable way, and gave us the space to explore what that means to us. I will carry with me always the lessons I have learned."    E. Tapper, Participant

A 9 week ecological living immersion for thinkers, doers and changemakers ages 18 to 28

What makes me feel whole and vital?  What is honorable work?  How do I belong to a place?
How do I practice reciprocity?  How can I live in alignment with my values?

Come be a part of a hard-working, curious, and joyful community of young adults and mentors who are asking big questions—and living some answers.

Sliding scale tuition $3,150 - $6,300   |   Scholarships for BIPOC

The Understory refers to younger generations of trees that live beneath the canopy.  These trees, sometimes waiting patiently and developing roots, sometimes shooting for the light, are the future.  The Understory is also the subtext, the story underneath the dominant narratives, the tale that might just tell us how we got here and clues about what to do next.  We listen carefully for the stories of earth and human communities that may be hard to hear, and make space to envision and enact new stories.

Daily life

The Understory experience stands on three legs: skill building, community building, and academic inquiry.

Homesteading & handcraft skills

  • Learn real skills for living with less

  • Sharpen and use amazing hand tools

  • Craft baskets, bowls, and spoons

  • Plant, harvest and wild-gather the bulk of your food

  • Get tired and dirty!

  • Milk goats, make yogurt and cheese

  • Cook on fire

  • Ferment, dehydrate, and preserve food

  • Compost everything!

Building Community

  • Practice deep listening, compassion, and holding space for each other

  • Explore self-governance: how will we live well together and get it all done?

  • Center justice and equity in our words and actions 

  • Discover your vital self and the gifts you want to bring to the world

  • Cultivate relationships with our other community members: the trees, plants, fungi, animals

  • Expand community through helping neighbors, hosting events, and teach kids at local schools

Academic Inquiry

  • Practice relentless curiosity (why is the world as it is?)

  • Read great essays and a book or two

  • Think outside of common time scales

  • Observe, observe, observe!  Listen, listen, listen!

  • Pay attention to the stories that made our world

  • Practice patience; true learning is not often instant


The three Understory courses are:

  • Applied Forest Ecology in a Changing Climate

  • Re-storying Place: Historical and Contemporary Connection to and Separation from Place

  • Homestead Ecology: Cultivating Abundance 

The Food (it's amazing)

We grow 70-80% of the food we eat at Maine Local Living School, and you will be part of it all!  Experience the pleasure of cooking and eating foods straight out of the garden, barn, root cellar, and woods.  Our food is local, alive, delicious and healthful.  We might stretch the boundaries of what you know as food with salad made from tree leaves and wild herbs.  A favorite dinner is wood fired pizza with homemade sourdough crust, wild mushrooms, sauce canned the previous fall, fresh onions and peppers....Food is an integral part of our daily life.  We are happy to accommodate different dietary needs.

Jake_Sell_Hicks_20220413 R0343009.jpg

Photo Credit J. S. Hicks

Accommodations: sleeping close to the earth

You will live in one of three dwellings.  We have two wall tents with wood floors and the earth lodge, inspired by Wâskayikan, a traditional Cree home.  You will share space with two or three other participants.  These dwellings do not have electricity or running water, and are heated by woodstove.  You can hear the rain on the roof, owls, coyotes and songbirds.

The Homestead: live, work & play

This is a working homestead.  70-80% of your food is grown or wild-gathered on site by you. All refrigeration comes from an ice house filled in February. Electricity comes from the sun.  All cooking is done with wood.  The buildings are made from local rock and trees. You shower with water heated by the sun. All organic wastes, including human, are safely composted.


This program is for you if:

You are concerned for the health of the planet and all her people
You are willing and excited to grow as a person
You enjoy hands-in-the-dirt, physical work
You are hungry for critical academic inquiry into the state of our world
You embrace living with reduced material possessions and comforts
You are curious to build skills for sustainable, place-based, human-powered lifestyles
You want to be a maker, not a consumer
You dare to turn off your phone and turn on your attention to people and place

The Understory


"The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it."           
~David W. Orr

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