Face Time: Arthur Haines and Sara Moore – alive, naturally teaching in Canton


Arthur Haines and Sara Moore with their daughters Samara and Fera haul maple sap last spring to their Wilder Waters community land called Sugarbush, which their land trust buys as part of their annual rally. Submitted photo

Married couple Arthur Haines and Sara Moore formed their nonprofit Wilder Water Community in 2017 with the goal of purchasing land in the Canton Woods to keep it in its natural state and to conserve it as a means to themselves and others to live and recreate themselves naturally. The couple also hire apprentices who teach them skills such as foraging, hunting, fishing and collecting wild plants. They also teach courses in medical botany, bow making, skin and clothing tanning, animal tracking and more.

Names: Sara Moore and Arthur Haines

Age: Arthur is 50 and Sara is 30.

Hometown: Canton

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

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

You have bought and are trying to buy more land in the forest areas of Canton in order to keep the land. Why do you do that? Humans need nature for health – this is confirmed in studies that examine the harms of divorce from nature. Unfortunately, industrial life is incompatible with wilderness. The way modern humans interact with forests is above all an exploitation. We would like to see this change into reciprocal conservation, where both parties benefit in the long term from their interaction with each other. This type of life, where humans participate in nature (rather than controlling what is allowed to live and grow in it) requires land free from industrial damage. In addition, the water flowing near our house in a small stream is beautiful, clean, clear and drinkable. We want to protect this watershed to keep this pretty stream as it is (for the benefit of all the life that depends on it).

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

What types of courses do you teach for WWC and where did you learn your skills? What types of activities are you participating in this winter? The courses we offer aim to generate autonomy, connection with nature and personal and ecosystem health. Therefore, most of the classes try to provide a way for students to access what they need for a living without going through industry for them. For example, instead of cutting down the forest and planting genetically modified plants (by selection) that are not native to this landscape, we are teaching people how to sustainably harvest wild plants from intact ecosystems. Because food is a fundamental way for humans to interact with the planet (and a reason we return to the industry again and again), our focus here is on the acquisition of wild food (through foraging, hunting, fishing and gathering). We also teach courses in medical botany, ancestral know-how, bow making, skin and clothing tanning, fiber art, natural history and tracking.

What types of learning programs are available with WWC? Learning varies depending on the time of year the student comes. Essentially, each student participates in daily and weekly community activities that are appropriate for the given season. Some seasons are busy foraging, others hunting, others ice fishing and tracking. We also like that participants actively engage with all members of the community, including the youngest.

What types of foods do you think are best for good health? In addition to fishing, do you also hunt? This question is framed as a “belief”, but there is a huge body of evidence showing that wild foods have many advantages over agricultural and processed foods. Take wild plants, for example, they are (on average) richer in vitamins and minerals (often significantly), 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 spent time with hunter-gatherers living within their untouched communities (much of this happened in the late 1800s and early 1900s) have revealed that these people were remarkably resistant to chronic diseases (i.e. they had almost zero incidence of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurovascular disease, depression, obesity, intestinal dysbiosis, etc.). Once hunter-gatherers turn to agriculture or have been driven off their land, that health outcome changes to something more similar to what we’re seeing in the United States (or worse). Wild foods are our organic standard and Homo sapiens have been consuming them for over 300,000 years. Every time you go from what the body expects to receive to something new in our experience, there are health consequences. I suggest that people seek sources like “A New Path” (Haines 2017) or “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” (Price 1939) for in-depth discussions on this topic. It’s fundamental to the way we interact with the world here at Wilder Waters Community.

If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would your favorite everyday lifestyle be like? We would spend a lot more time interacting (as wild participants) with our local landscapes. We would still be busy from day to day, but it wouldn’t be about attaining material wealth or status, or acquiring unprecedented levels of comfort and convenience. Our lives would be the experience of original wealth, the ability to meet your needs from your land and to live with other people who wish to enjoy the same. Our work would change with the season, depending on the availability / activity of plants, animals and fungi, and the weather (which would influence our daily habits). The free time would be spent doing crafts, repairing, playing, singing, dancing, telling stories and offering gratitude for those lives that allow us to live. Hopefully, such a lifestyle could be a role model for others, (demonstrating) that “keeping up with the Joneses” is not something that brings real fulfillment.

In a “perfect” world, how would you raise and educate your children? We currently have an education system that devotes a lot of time to teaching children from far lands and times far away. We know very little about our own landscapes and have to take everything we need to live with us. We are more like astronauts when we go camping than we are native to this planet. We would like to see a lot more education on the ecology of our place, so that people have a way of being other than industrial. The education system places children in single-age play groups, which delays maturation (children are not with older children and young adults, whom they could use as role models). Equally important, our normal evolutionary way of learning was to watch (i.e. be an observer) and then try to replicate what we observed. There was almost no formal education. Today people are so trained to learn through lectures that they rarely observe the world around them. We would like children to learn their place and how to be human in their landscape, do it with mixed age play groups and be mindful of all learning opportunities. Each place must have a different learning from other places, because each landscape is unique.

To learn more about the Wilder Waters community, check out 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 to their Wilder Waters community land called Sugarbush, which their land trust buys as part of their annual rally. Submitted photo

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