Arthur Haines and Sara Moore with their daughters Samara and Fera haul maple sap last spring on their Wilder Waters Community land called Sugarbush, which their land trust is purchasing through their annual gathering. Submitted photo

Married couple Arthur Haines and Sara Moore started their nonprofit organization Wilder Water Community in 2017 as a way to purchase land in Canton’s woodlands in order to keep it in its natural state and conserve it as a way for themselves and others to live and recreate naturally. The couple also engages apprentices who learn skills from them such as foraging, hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants. They also teach classes in medical botany, bow building, hide tanning and clothing, and animal tracking and more.

Names: Sara Moore and Arthur Haines

Age: Arthur is 50 and Sara is 30.

Hometown: Canton

Occupations: Arthur is a plant biologist and Sara is the president of the Wilder Waters Community nonprofit and the manager for Airbnb rooms on their property.

Why did you create the Wilder Waters Community? Community is an essential nutrient that humans need for emotional health. Most of what passes as “community” today falls far short of the characteristics of historical communities that all people have in their ancestry. We believe humans need various kinds of interactions that are often missing in today’s nuclear families and single-age play groups. We have a loss of elderhood, strong pressure for institutionalized births, and failure to openly discuss risk and death. Equally important, our society lives in competition with one another for resources (this is the very definition of capitalism), and there is little equality of any kind to be truly found in our civilization. We would like to reinstate, for those who are interested, the types of human interactions that were found in small communities, which includes communal child care, equal access to and agency upon the land, egalitarian sharing of food, nature connection, and sovereignty for all individuals (including the young and the old).

You have purchased and are trying to purchase more land in Canton’s forest areas with the goal of conserving the land. Why are you doing this? Humans require nature for health — this is borne out in study after study that examine the harms of nature divorcement. Unfortunately, industrial living is incompatible with wild spaces. The way contemporary humans interact with the forests is primarily one of exploitation. We would like to see that change to one of reciprocal conservation, where both parties benefit in the long run from their interaction with one another. This kind of living, where humans participate in the wild (rather than control what is allowed to live and grow there) requires land free from industrial harm. Further, the water that runs by our home in a small brook is beautiful, clean, clear, and potable. We wish to protect this watershed to keep this lovely stream the way it is (for the benefit of all the life that relies on it).

Arthur Haines and Sara Moore with their baby, Fera, ice fishing this winter in the north Maine woods, where they caught some of their favorite fish to eat, lake whitefish. Submitted photo

What kinds of classes do you teach for the WWC and where did you learn your skills? What kinds of activities are you involved in this winter? The classes we offer have the goals of generating self-reliance, nature connection, and both personal and ecosystem health. Therefore, most of the classes are trying to provide students with a way to access what they need for living without going to industry for them. For example, instead of felling the forest and planting genetically modified (through breeding) plants that are non-native to this landscape, we teach people how to sustainably harvest wild plants within intact ecosystems. Because food is a fundamental way humans interact with the planet (and a reason we return to industry over and over again), our focus here tends to be on acquiring wild food (through foraging, hunting, fishing, and collecting). We also teach classes in medical botany, ancestral skills, bow building, hide tanning and clothing, fiber arts, natural history, and tracking.

What types of apprenticeship programs are available with WWC? The apprenticeship varies depending on the time of year the student comes. Essentially, each student participates in the community’s daily and weekly activities that are appropriate for the given season. Some seasons are heavy on foraging, others hunting, others ice fishing and tracking. We also like to have participants actively engage with all members of the community, including the younger children.

What kinds of foods do you believe are best for good health? Besides fishing, do you also hunt? This question is framed as “belief,” but there is a very large body of evidence that demonstrates wild foods have many advantages over agricultural and industrial foods. Take wild plants, for example, they are (on average) higher in vitamins and minerals (often significantly so), contain more beneficial phytochemicals, have a better essential fatty acid profile, and more fiber (less sugar) per unit mass. Medical anthropologists, surgeons, and physicians who have spent time with hunter-gatherers living within their intact communities (much of this occurring in the late 1800s and early 1900s) have revealed that these people were remarkably resilience to chronic disease (i.e., they possessed a near zero incidence of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurovascular disease, depression, obesity, gut dysbiosis, etc.). Once hunter-gatherers switched to agriculture or were driven off their lands, this health outcome changes to something more similar to what we observe in the United States (or worse). Wild foods are our biological norm, and Homo sapiens has consumed them for over 300,000 years. Anytime you switch from what the body is expecting to receive to something new to our experience, there are health consequences. I suggest that people seek out sources like “A New Path” (Haines 2017) or “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” (Price 1939) for expanded discussions on this topic. It is foundational to our way of interacting with the world here at Wilder Waters Community.

If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would your preferred lifestyle look like on a day-to-day basis? We would spend much more time interacting (as wild participants) with our local landscapes. We would still be busy day to day, but it wouldn’t be about attaining material wealth or status, nor would it be for acquiring unprecedented levels of comfort and convenience. Our lives would be experiencing the original affluence, the ability to meet your needs from your land and live with other people who wish to enjoy the same. Our work would change with the season, based on availability/activity of plants, animals, and fungi, and on the weather (which would influence our daily patterns). Leisure time would be spent crafting, mending, playing, singing, dancing, telling stories, and offering gratitude for those lives that allow us to live. Hopefully, such a life way could be a model for others, (demonstrating) that “keeping up with the Jones’” isn’t anything that provides real fulfillment.

In a ‘perfect’ world how would you raise and educate your children? We currently have an educational system that spends a great deal of time teaching children about distant lands and distant times. We know very little about our own landscapes and need to carry everything with us required for living. We look more like astronauts when we go camping then we do beings native to this planet. We would like to see much more education about the ecology of our place, so that people have a way of being that is other than industrial. The education system puts children in single-age play groups, which retards maturation (children aren’t with older children and young adults, who they could use as role models). Equally as important, our evolutionarily normal manner of learning was to watch (i.e., be observant) and then attempt to replicate what we observed. There was almost no formal education. Today, people are so trained to learn through lecture only, that they rarely observe the world around them. We would like to see children learning about their place and how to be a human on their landscape, doing so with mixed-age play groups and being observant to all the learning opportunities. Each place should have learning that is different from other places, because each landscape is unique.

To learn more about Wilder Waters Community see the Wilder Waters Community Facebook page or their website, wilderwaterscommunity.org. 

Arthur Haines and Sara Moore with their daughters Samara and Fera haul maple sap last spring on their Wilder Waters Community land called Sugarbush, which their land trust is purchasing through their annual gathering. Submitted photo


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