River Bend Farm

A center to inspire innovative learning and sustainable living.


In 2020, The Ecology School will truly transform as it transitions to a new home at River Bend Farm, a historic 105-acre farm located on a scenic bend in the Saco River, just twenty minutes from the Maine coast. The move will propel our educational initiatives by increasing program capacity and providing “live what you learn” opportunities for participants through hands-on exploration of Maine’s ecosystems, sustainable living practices, direct connection to food systems and farming along with modeling conservation-in-action.

Our growth to River Bend Farm will feature construction of a dormitory and dining commons, both built to the specifications of The Living Building Challenge, a green building certification program and sustainable design framework. It’s also considered the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings, taking into account the impact buildings have on the environment and the health of community.

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A Special Place, Designed for Sustainability

In a pristine location on the Saco River in Southern Maine, The Ecology School’s innovative River Bend Farm campus lives and breathes a sustainable future, now. All around our program participants, groundbreaking ways of growing food and conserving energy show that humans can thrive while nourishing the ecosystems we inhabit. River Bend Farm’s forest, fields, and streams allow us to explore specific plants, animals, organisms and their habitats and in great depth, providing a richer understanding of how living and non-living factors affect one another over time in every ecosystem.

At River Bend Farm, we strive to live, learn, work and play in ways that are restorative to the world around us. Our campus will rise to the “Living Building Challenge” that asks for spaces to give more than they take from the environment around them. We have partnered with four leading sustainable architecture firms in Maine—Kaplan Thompson, Scott Simons, Briburn, and Richardson & Associates—to execute a site plan developed through comprehensive study of the property and analysis of programmatic design. By design, our facilities will inspire students and visitors, and support conservation of the surrounding Saco River watershed. 

Our working farm, dormitory, kitchen and dining commons will exceed every official “green” standard, modeling regenerative and self-sufficient ways to grow and prepare food, power our buildings, and utilize technology to minimize negative human impact on the ecosystems we inhabit. River Bend Farm opens our eyes to what’s possible, reimagining the future, now.


Site Plans

  • Site designed for human foot traffic with natural tree line windrow dividing the auto-based world from the naturally trafficked world.

  • Creation of a public pathway from Simpson Road to the Saco River for all community members to have access to.

  • Farmyard pathways are ADA accessible promoting universal access.

  • Walkway pavers imprinted with native tracks, plants, and fossils.

  • Rain gardens will capture storm-water runoff and strategically drain to nourish farm fields below.

  • Permaculture gardens will have native trees, shrubs, bushes, fruits, and vegetables.

  • New pathways and gathering areas connect to existing trail systems, inviting exploration of the surrounding property.

  • EV charging stations.

  • Construction will occur on 8.75 acres of buildable lot. The remainder is under easement with Maine Farmland Trust.

  • More than 500 solar panels will be placed over the south facing leach field and throughout the orchards. These panels will produce 248,000 Kwh per year, which is equivalent to: removing 37 cars from the road each year, 191,723 pounds of coal burned or 22,362,275 smart phones charged.

  • 100% of dining commons produce will come from onsite or local farms to demonstrate a sustainable food system and support Maine’s economy.

  • Significant outdoor gathering spaces and theater promote community and physical movement.

Dining Commons

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A 7,000 square-foot dining commons, situated overlooking a meadow and the Saco River, draws its inspiration from the property’s 1794 farmhouse. Program participants will be treated to farm-fresh, local, and nutritious foods during family-style meals in this beautiful gathering space.

  • The south facing porch provides an element of historical continuity and is configured to provide passive solar heating.

  • Water treatment will be achieved using activated carbon filters or treatment with UV light.

  • Reused 55 gallon barrels constructed into cisterns will capture rain water to be used in the permaculture gardens.

  • A highly efficient kitchen design with no combustion utilizes advance electrical induction cooking equipment.

  • 200 solar panels will be positioned on the roof, producing an estimated 80,000KwH, equivalent to 6,366 gallons of gasoline or 131 barrels of oil consumed.

  • Wainscoting will be constructed using reclaimed wood.

  • Just under 20,000 sq. ft. of Maine White Cedar siding will be used.

  • Simplicity of design allows for universal accessibility.

  • Creation of the Watershed Terrace located off the dining commons porch will be a model of the Saco River watershed. The map will enable students to visually understand watersheds and how the water cycle is central to sustaining ecosystems.




The 9,000 square-foot dormitory takes advantage of existing tree line windrows, enhancing the natural contours of the landscape and giving participants the opportunity to be immersed in a restful forest setting.

  • Reduce summer solar heat with windows facing east and west.

  • Low flow toilets, faucets, and showers will save an extra 240,000 gallons of water each year over conventional.

  • Triple-glazed windows are three times more efficient than traditional windows.

  • R35 internal walls and roof are composed of recycled wood fiber.

  • Multiple reclaimed furnishings including 60 bunkbeds and salvaged wood used for wainscoting.

  • More than 18,000 sq. ft. of Maine white cedar siding.

  • Energy Recovery ventilation system is 6x’s more efficient than conventional system continuously circulating fresh air while retaining peak efficiency

  • Unisex communal bathrooms promote community and acceptance. (These will be customized based on external partnerships.)

  • All areas are ADA accessible.

  • Walkway walls will be laser-etched with tree silhouettes.

  • Wood materials free of chemical finishes promote a deeper connection to nature and will naturally age



A full-scale agroecology farm will be established at River Bend Farm, integrating ecological agricultural practices into the program curriculum and providing experiential opportunities for youth and community members to learn about farming, food security, climate resilience, and food systems.

Permaculture design, planting pest deterrent plant species, maintaining high nutrient levels in soil, and growing hearty and local plants will promote rich harvests and model responsible agroecological farming practices.