When I first started to look at creating a more sustainable life for myself, it was easy to be overwhelmed. I wanted to do everything myself! There is so much to learn and so many skills to perfect! If you’re like me and many other new sustainable DIY-ers, you might have grown up alongside a family garden or taught yourself to knit, but you weren’t raised to take care of yourself beyond convenience foods or a trip to the nearest grocery store. Researching new recipes and garden tips are fun, but sometimes you just want someone to stand at your shoulder and whisper advice in your ear. The good news is that these people exist and you can find them in schools all over the United States and abroad. Read on to learn about eleven special places that will teach you almost any DIY skill you want to learn.
Nestled in the Adirondack State Park in Lake Luzerne, NY, the Adirondack Folk School focuses on Adirondack style craftsmanship. Their courses are heavy on the region’s heritage crafts, so you’ll be able to take classes on chair building, boat building, paddle making, and lean-to building among others. Their year round classes range from half day to week long sessions, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.
The Cedar Root Folk School’s mission is “hand to hand instruction,” which they carry out on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. They teach adults and kids a mixture of rural arts and nature studies. Adult classes include primitive and homesteading skills like bow making, cheese making, fermenting, and basket making. Kids can take classes in wilderness survival, shelter building, archery and bush craft. Cedar Root operates year round, so they are plenty of opportunities to learn.
Located near La Farge, Wisconsin, the Driftless Folk School describes themselves as “center for the preservation, promotion and training of traditional crafts, the art of homesteading, natural building, energy self-sufficiency, sustainable farming, animal husbandry, and wilderness skills.” Of the five schools on this list, Driftless focuses most on modern farmsteading, offering classes that range from water-bath canning, chicken husbandry, homesteading, and beekeeping for starters. Driftless also hosts community events that include contra dancing and spoon carving. You can socialize with like minded community members while learning!
I have to admit I have a bias when it comes to the John C Campbell folk school. I have very fond memories of attending an Intergenerational Week that takes place during the summer. My Dad and I took a blacksmithing class; something I never thought I’d be able to do. Sweating out in the blacksmithing shop every day taught me to try hard at something difficult, and I proudly came away from my experience with a beautiful candle holder that I made myself.
Located in Brasstown, NC,The Campbell Folk School began as a way to provide more financial opportunities to rural, mountain people while preserving the Appalachian crafts, skills, culture of the area. Today, you can find weekend or week long classes that cover topics like weaving, cooking, candle and soap making, gardening, and so many more. Food and lodging is available to students as well as community events like dances, concerts, and auctions.
Located near a homestead heritage community around Waco Texas, The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture focuses on teaching students to live a sustainable life. Since the school is a working farm, students have plenty of opportunities to get their hands dirty with classes like Homestead Gardening and Blacksmithing. During your visit, you can also browse their Craft Village, where artisans make traditional goods. Ploughshare is also notable because they offer online classes. You can still pick up some new skills, even if you can’t make it to their campus.