Chris Makes the News!

Marshalltown native hopes to inspire others

(article originally published May 23, 2010, in the Times-Republican)

Sitting outside the Better Farm Education center are, from left, Chris Menne, Clayton Carlson, Nicole Caldwell, Brian Hines, Illana Leizin, and Corinne Weiner.
Growing up in Marshalltown was all well and good.

But Chris Menne was searching.

"I wanted to find something new that would make me happy, and get more in touch with myself," he said. "I felt like something else was out there for me."

So, the 25-year-old packed his belongings and headed toward the 'Big Apple,' eventually finding a place called Better Farm.

Set on 65 acres in Redwood, New York, its principles are founded on the "Better Theory" - a belief that every experience brings with it an opportunity for exponential personal growth.

The education center was started in 1970 as a hippie commune, according to Executive Director Nicole Caldwell, but last year it was transformed into a retreat designed for attracting the curious and creative.
Through artist residencies, internships and year-round workshops, individuals participate and teach a variant of subjects including yoga, green living, organic gardening or rustic furniture building.

And as far as Caldwell is concerned, Menne has turned his life around.

"Chris has become integral to the goings on at Better Farm," she said, "from its mission of community outreach to day-to-day operations on the property."

In addition to organizing events such as an Earth Day cleanup, Menne has thus far played a huge role in on-site green projects - rewiring lights, performing minor renovations and assisting in the construction of a greenhouse made from recycled materials.

Plus, he has lost 20 pounds.

"I'm not eating fast food like I used to," he said. "That alone has been a good thing."
Menne hopes to become a full-time employee of the facility, teaching children how to be green while encouraging adults to rely on themselves and become healthy.

"I've learned a lot in the past year," he said. "I plan to take that knowledge and help other people."

Contact Tammy R. Lawson at 641-753-6611 or