The Mill School closed in 2022, and The Lost Kitchen took over that portion of the Mill building
and grounds previously used by the school. The hydropower operation, utilizing Natel Energy’s
Restoration Hydro Turbine D-55 (patent pending), will continue to be in operation, powering
the Mill building and other facilities owned by The Lost Kitchen.
We started this project uncertain as to what the rehabilitation might lead to, but were
convinced that this building needed to be preserved and hoped that in doing so we might bring
new life to Freedom’s town center and serve the community and economy of western Waldo
County. At a minimum, we figured the project was worthwhile in just extending the life of this
almost 200-year-old building, and we were able to get the Mill listed on the National Register of
Historic Places which reestablishes its central place in the community. In addition, we saw an
opportunity to provide low impact hydropower in a world desperate for solutions to climate
change that do more good than harm. Compass Light Productions (www.compasslight.com)
produced a short documentary film as we were rehabilitating the Mill. It can be found at:
https://vimeo.com/75880834; Password: mill).
As it turns out, we got incredibly lucky.
First, Laurie Redmond and Polly Shyka approached us about starting a school to serve the
children in the County who were being home schooled. Laurie and Amanda Jamison opened
The Mill School in the fall of 2013, serving 20 children each year from kindergarten through
eighth grade. Much of their curriculum was focused on that special piece of land where the
Mill is situated. Many community members donated items to the school and volunteered their
time, and the Town generously allowed them to use Mitchell Field for some of their outdoor
activities. They ran the school until 2022.
Second, Erin French approached us about starting a restaurant in the downstairs of the
building- our second woman-owned business. Neither she nor we had any idea of what that
modest idea would lead to. The Lost Kitchen has become known across the country, in part
because of its location in Freedom and the warmth of the old building, and is providing a
significant employment base for many Waldo County residents. The Lost Kitchen has also
generously used their notoriety to raise over $1 million over the last two years for local farmers
devastated by PFAS contamination and local residents in need of food assistance.
Third, we established a working partnership with a start-up company in California, Natel Energy
(www.natelenergy.com). Natel has installed a state-of-the-art hydroelectric turbine that
allows safe fish passage during its operation and uses this site as both a demonstration site for
future customers as well as a real-world test site for their continuing innovations. The turbine
now generates about 70 MWh of power each year.
Last and not least, the reconstruction allowed us to work with the Town Volunteer Fire
Department to install a “wet” hydrant to serve the firefighters’ needs as they serve not only
Freedom, but the neighboring towns as well.
We feel blessed to have found this opportunity and are very proud of how the Mill has served
the Town and County, enabling The Mill School and The Lost Kitchen to become the incredible
successes they have been.
We look forward to supporting The Lost Kitchen in any way we can as they continue to build a
vibrant, successful business serving the Town of Freedom and western Waldo County and
drawing an audience from around the world to appreciate this inspiring place and the joy of an
unsurpassed farm-to-table dining experience.