Better Farm's Autumn Newsletter

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Hello, Friends of Better Farm!

With summer behind us and winter bearing down, at Better Farm we've used the autumn months to ready our gardens for winter, continue our ongoing project of rehabilitating a bunch of rescued chickens, start some interior renovations, and explore partnership opportunities with area businesses, schools, and organizations. As we enter our fourth year of programming, it's a blessing to be able to look back at what was a record year for us in attendance for workshops, internships, and artist residencies. Our community outreach has hit an all-time high, and we've really begun to make a name for ourselves in this little hamlet along the Canadian border. Creating a true synthesis for sustainability initiatives and artistic expression is a direct result of your support and interest—so thank you, thank you, thank you!

Whether we're splitting wood, installing the groundwork for a hobbit house or mandala garden, dreaming up new educational activities, or lending our voices at community events or in classrooms, —all while continuing our initial mission of giving everyone who passes through this special space the opportunity to seize his or her moments and truly embrace the idea of seeing each hardship—and blessing—as an opportunity to grow, expand, and be better. Thank you to all who have been involved and showed support for these projects! You can learn more about how to get on board with our endeavors below.
Please contact us to schedule a visit or tour, or visit to find out more about what we're doing.

Until next time, better be.

Nicole Caldwell
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Better Farm
Better Farm News - Autumn 2012:

• Rundown of Recent Activities

• Newest Additions to Our Flock: Interns & Artists-in-Residence

• Upcoming Initiatives and Projects

• Holiday Shopping for a Great Cause
Rundown of Recent Activities

The last few months have set all kinds of records for community outreach and on-site events. Here's a quick rundown of what we've been up to:
Newest Additions to Our Flock: This Season's Interns and Artists-in-Residence

Our cast and crew in the last year is as diverse as ever, with artists and interns visiting us from every vocation. Here's a short list of who's visited us since we last checked in:
Salman Akhtar
Elyna Grapstein
Jackson Pittman

BetterArts Artists-in-Residence
Kristie Hayes BeaulieuKristie Hayes Beaulieu is a high school art teacher and professional visual artist who visited us for two weeks from Syracuse, N.Y. through the betterArts residency program. Her work has been featured in more than a dozen group and solo exhibitions in galleries as far away as Detroit, and her recent "x-ray art series" has been featured on the cover of Academic Medicine and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists' medical publication.
Sally Jane Kerschen-SheppardSally Jane Kerschen-Sheppard is an award-winning playwright, certified yoga instructor, production manager for theatre events, and worker in the not-for-profit sector who joined us for the month of August to work on a new, full-length play.
Kevin Carr—Kevin Carr is a 22-year-old artist from Canandaigua, N.Y., who joined us for the month of September. He attended Alfred University's School of Art and Design to receive a bachelor of fine arts with a minor in women's studies. He has also served as director of Alfred University's Robert C. Turner Student Gallery, and as a teaching assistant at his school's painting department. His work has appeared in several galleries and in print.
Lily Chiu —Lily Chiu is a writer and poet who joined us this month. She is a Stanford University graduate who's alternately worked as a project manager for Boltnet, director of Marketing with eduFire, and senior sales engineer with Omniture. Lily spent her betterArts residency continuing a body of work about contradictions; particularly what it means to be alive through the juxtaposition of nature and human beings. Ultimately this work is moving toward a larger collection of her writing.


Upcoming Initiatives and Projects

We've got no shortage of upcoming projects in and around Better Farm, from garden designs to interior renovations to education and outreach. Here's what we've got on tap so far...
  • Mandala Garden—The Mandala Garden is a popular permaculture design approach. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning "circle", and the geometric garden design was first proposed by Linda Woodrow in her book The Permaculture Home Garden. The art of Buddhism and Hinduism often takes the mandala form. True to permaculture fashion, the actual mandala shape in a garden application is malleable in accordance with conditions in your own backyard (slope, water runoff, orientation toward the sun). Building a mandala garden is a great way to break up your garden beds into a riot of living colour, allowing easy accessibility and visual interest. It’s circular in shape and has a number of keyhole paths or spokes that invite you to look closer at the assortment of plants on display. Intern Jackson Pittman has taken measurements for a mandala garden at Better Farm, which will be located in the middle of our existing, main garden. He'll have the whole thing mapped out by the time he leaves, making for easy implementation come spring.
  • Hobbit HouseBack in September, a few of us took a hike on Better Farm's property to scout out a perfect location for a hobbit house. One of our favorite potential spots was this, the foundation for the farm's original, 19th-century barn. A few of members of our work crew last month took a chainsaw to the sumac and other trees within the foundation, soon after which we cleared out remaining brush so we would have a blank canvas to work with.For the next step, our chief designer Aaron Youngs will be applying his measurements of the space to determine what we need for tires to build exterior walls, and he'll be consulting with some real-deal architects to create legitimate architectural drawings to work off of. We'll start the bulk of the construction in the spring.
  • Earth Ship—Another project we've been working on, is the creation of our Earth Ship. Started over the summer and continued this fall, the structure will boast tire walls, a sunken floor, and living roof.
  • College-Level Curriculum—We're in the process of speaking with several area and remote colleges and universities about creating an immersion in sustainability program at Better Farm. Students would be able to visit in the spring or fall to gain hands-on experience with things like rainwater catchment, permaculture, and alternative energy. Stay tuned for more information and a syllabus!
  • Outreach with Hospice of Jefferson County—BetterArts will send volunteers to participate in Hospice of Jefferson Country's Time of Holiday Remembrance event from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at 1398 Gotham St. in Watertown. The holiday remembrance event is for children ages 6 to 12 who have experienced the loss of a loved one and will feature holiday crafts, lunch, and cookie decorating. To RSVP or for more information, contact Joyce Combs at (315) 788-7323 by Dec. 3.

Holiday Shopping for a Great Cause
This year, use your money and gift-giving prowess to support artists and farmers instead of big box stores and imported goods. Here's a quick list of great gift go-tos:
  • Sponsor a Spent Hen—Back in late August, we adopted 20 "spent hens" from a local egg farm. There, the female birds' confined space didn't allow the ladies to stretch their wings or legs, or fulfill normal behavioral patterns or social needs like scratching in the dirt, chasing bugs, and taking dust baths. This was a sad-looking bunch of birds. As you can imagine, constantly rubbing against the wire cages meant these birds—all of whom we named Rapunzel—lost a lot of feathers; and many of the ladies had lots of bruises and abrasions. In order to reduce injuries resulting from excessive pecking—a behavior that occurs when confined hens are bored, stressed, or frustrated—the front of the laying hens' beaks had been cut off. Since then, we've given the birds plenty of space to run around at Better Farm, scratch in the dirt, learn all about dust baths, and eat to their hearts' content under the bright sun, blue sky, and fresh air. We've fed them a steady diet of layer feed mixed with cracked corn (to help them put on weight against the cooler temperatures) and lots of delicious food scraps from Better Farm's kitchen. Two months have never seemed so critical, or life-altering. It only costs $5/month to sponsor one of our rescued hens!
  • Better Farm MerchandiseClick here to see what we've got!
  • BetterArts MerchandiseClick here to see what we've got!
  • Buy From Local ArtistsClick here to see a rundown of recent visiting artists—many of these links will redirect you to those artists' home pages, where you can commission work or buy already-existing pieces. Or, visit sites like to find all kinds of great, homemade gifts.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.