A nonprofit institute that now offers workshops seeks to lease land for the school.
HARPSWELL (AP) – A group of local residents is looking forward to next year, when they hope to open a school that will turn back the clock.

Jim Cornish, 49, is working to establish a school for the agrarian arts and sciences that could open as soon as January.

He says he hopes the Stone Soup Institute will attract students interested in learning how to harness draft horses, slaughter chickens, build homes and raise crops.

“We want to close the gap between production and consumption,” said Cornish, a bearded logger with a thick Maine accent. “You can’t make a conscious choice about something if you’re not aware of where it came from. The real quality in life comes when you get close to the core of things.”

The nonprofit institute now offers workshops while Cornish builds the school’s woodworking shop and classrooms. The institute will lease land in Harpswell for raising crops and housing livestock, and students will build their own dormitories.

The school is a neighborhood project. Harpswell resident Peg Newberg will serve as administrator, and David Giansiracuso, will lease six acres of farmland he owns on Route 123 to Stone Soup. Neighbors Joe and Julia Stevens will lease an additional six acres. And Cornish’s draft horses, Molly, Marcus and Gus, will work the land.

Michael Patterson, 58, of Bowdoinham, will teach courses in fiber and textiles. He is excited about the opportunity to reintroduce people to the art of weaving.

“I think people have become disconnected from where things come from,” he said. “There is this great void. Younger people have no concept that you could make fiber from sheep’s wool.”

Cornish will teach students about forest management and how to use draft horses to till the soil. He worries that Americans will wake up one day and there will be no working farms left.

“We need to bridge that gap between production and consumption,” Cornish said. “If you understand the process, then you appreciate the source.”

Though students won’t earn a degree, they will walk away with something more valuable, said Chuck Alexander, chairman of the school’s board of directors.

“They’ll get an intrinsic sort of degree. They will learn about a way of life,” he said.

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