When Jackie Lipsky was in graduate school, she asked herself a question that would come to define her life, and her lifestyle: “What can I learn to do myself?”

Every year since, she has added a new skill to her sustainable-living repertoire.

When Lipsky cooks for her family, she uses ingredients she’s grown herself. She cans and freezes, raises livestock for meat, and bakes bread and tortillas. She makes elderberry syrup, saves seeds and dries her own herbs. She milks a cow to make her own cheese and butter. She makes soap, and sews clothes for her two children (as of this writing, a third is due any day now). She keeps a stash of cloth diapers handy – just in case she can persuade new parents to try them out.

Kate Smith, outdoor classroom coordinator at the Central School in South Berwick, said in her nomination of Lipsky that she “epitomizes the lifestyle we encourage families to adopt – learning to grow and cook healthy food and become caretakers of the world.”

But it’s not all the things she does that has won her our 2017 Good Neighbor Award. It’s the herculean effort she’s made to spread her skills throughout her southern Maine community that drew our notice.

Lipsky, who is 36, and her husband, 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter live in an 1880s farmhouse in Wells where television is not allowed and Lipsky refuses to use a cellphone. She works part time as a speech pathologist, but spends much of her life teaching others how to live more sustainably.

She is a 4-H leader and a home-school volunteer, and she welcomes a Fresh Air kid from New York every year. From April through September, she hosts a free monthly community event at her home – everything from story time to an open house on raising baby chicks. (One time 89 guests showed up.)

Jackie Lipsky with her children Audra 4, and Adrian, 6. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Lipsky doesn’t throw birthday parties for her children. Instead, the family hosts a big annual “country kids” party, where children from all over – everyone’s invited – collect crickets, pick wildflowers and have potato sack races. Instead of opening presents, the Lipsky children choose a charity for a donation.

Lipsky also started a homemakers’ club “for the modern homemaker.” She holds meetings at her house, and the women share skills and tips on gardening, crafting and canning.

Maya Bogh, who co-leads a 4-H group with Lipsky, says she is “just one of the most exceptional people I’ve met in my whole life.”

“Jackie is somebody who is always thinking about how to help,” Bogh said. “She never goes somewhere and just sits there. She’s always looking for ‘what can I do to improve this situation?’ both in the short term and long term, and ‘how can I educate the children I come into contact with?’ ”

What drives Lipsky? As she puts it on her blog, bornimaginative.com, she was “born this way.”

Lipsky grew up on a hobby farm in northern New York, where her parents and extended family were “huge in volunteer work, huge givers,” Lipsky said.”We’re the third generation that takes Fresh Air kids, and I’m a third generation 4-H leader.”

“My mom got sick when I was 10 and passed away when I was 15, so I kind of grew up quickly,” she added. “I was always thinking about what do I want to do with my life.”

Her long-term goal? To pass down all of her skills and knowledge about sustainability to her children. Her son, she says, can already lay a fire that can be lit with one match. “My 4-year-old has probably made more bread than most adults,” Lipsky said.

“I love teaching them,” she said, “and I want them to be good stewards of what they have.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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