May 2013 Newsletter

Better Farm News - May 2013:

• Better Festival Saturday, May 25

• Recent projects at Better Farm

• Latest Community Outreach Initiatives

• Better Farm and betterArts Summer Workshop Schedule

Hello, Friends of Better Farm!

Our open house is just nine days away, and we can barely contain our excitement. The annual "Better Festival" is our opportunity to spread the word about the work we're doing, promote local artists, performers, and businesses, let the public take a peek at our gardens and grounds, and to help betterArts, our sister non-profit arts outreach organization, raise vital funds to fuel art- and music-related workshops, education, and events in 2013. This year's festival will feature a gallery filled with work by local artists, two music stages and eight acts throughout the day, vendors offering on-site portraits, handmade jewelry, clothing, and other goods, games for all ages, a bouncy castle, camping, and a refreshments and food tent. More information is below; as well as contact information if you'd like to reserve a campsite ahead of time.

On the other side of that event is June 1; the start of our our FOURTH summer in business! We'll be welcoming people from as far as Serbia and as close as Grass Lake; from both coasts in the United States, and many states in between. Our residents will be arriving to gardens that are four times the size they were in 2010; an aquaponics garden, a series of raised herb beds, a new fruit orchard, 26 very loveable chickens, a fully renovated Art Barn, and a calendar filled with field trips, workshops, and community service projects. Stay tuned to our blog to follow their journeys!

It was June 15, 2009, when I began my own journey at Better Farm; and it is so gratifying to near that anniversary and see how far this great experiment has come. I would personally like to thank you all of you for making this living lab a roaring success.
I hope to see you at our open house May 25! Be sure to visit to stay up-to-date on all things Better.

Until next time, better be.

Nicole Caldwell
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Better Farm

Better Festival 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, May 25

For music set times, lists of vendors and artists, and camping information, visit the event website:


Recent Projects at Better Farm

With the bulk of major renovations at the farm complete, this spring has been all about fine-tuning the property and seeking out new, creative opportunities for Better Farm and betterArts. Here are some of the projects we've embarked on:
  • Recycling for Charities — Now you can help the environment and support betterArts in one fell swoop simply by sending in your old cell phones, iPods, iPads, and other electronics to Recycling for Charities. How this partnership works is simple: First, you collect your old wireless cell phones, PDA's, iPods, or digital cameras. Then, select betterArts from the list of charities on Recycling for Charities' website. A donation is then made on your behalf for each mobile phone, PDA, iPod or digital camera you collect. To complete the process, simply print out the shipping label directly from Recycling for Charities' website. Affix the label to your box, pack your collected donations, and ship! Visit for more information.
  • Better Farm Children's Book Now Available! Starry the Fawn, written and illustrated by former intern Amanda Treco, is more than a dozen pages that tell the story of Star Wars, an orphaned fawn rescued and raised by the people at Better Farm in 2012. The cost of $12 includes shipping anywhere in the Continental United States. A portion of all proceeds will go toward sustainability education initiatives and art outreach at Better Farm. Click here to order.
  • Roadside Installation: The Doors — Keep your eyes peeled as you drive by Better Farm! Artist-in-Residence Mike Brown has been working on an ongoing series of paintings on doors for several years now; culminating this week in their installation throughout the property at Better Farm. The brightly colored doors can be seen along the outskirts of the property; dotting the treeline, punctuating hillsides. There may be up to a dozen by the time the installation is complete.
  • Work Begins on New Art Barn Ceiling — Thanks to donations from Focal Point Custom Framing and Fort Drum, Better Farm's Art Barn is about to have a gallery ceiling fittingly made entirely out of upcycled picture frames. It's a lesson in upcycling, but more than that we like to think of it as a very literal intersection between art and sustainability. In return for keeping hundreds of old picture frames out of burn pits or landfills, we get to use them to create a thing of beauty—and a thought-provoking thing at that. Click here to see updates on our blog.
  • Bird Habitat Installation — In a nod to our founder Steve Caldwell (an avid birder), and thanks to some gifts of birdhouses from local friends, we're sporting a serious bird village at Better Farm.We have almost a dozen birdhouses we keep up and manage for our feathered tenants—including a gorgeous bluebird house given to us last year by the New York State Bluebird Society. In April, we added to that arsenal with two large houses made from slab wood by a craftsman in Gouverneur, N.Y., and four bluebird houses made by a neighbor.
  • Rustic Wood Carpentry — A friend of Better Farm stopped in last month with a truck bed filled with logs and a chainsaw. Two hours later, we had four benches perfect for campfire-sitting or enjoying music from the top of the hill behind the Art Barn. Here's a great spring project for those of you who are comfortable wielding a chainsaw—click here for full instructions.
  • Better Orchard — We wrote back in March about all the fruit trees we ordered to create a small orchard on Better Farm's property. Most of those trees have now arrived! We've been very busy getting the cherries, apricots, paw paws, kiwis, and more in the ground. And we're thrilled to report everything is doing extremely well!
  • Tree-Planting Initiative — We burn our own wood in Better Farm's wood stove all winter long, gleaning much of the fuel from standing-dead trees on the property. To replenish what's been taken—and to encourage cleaner air in general, we've kicked off a strong tree-planting campaign on Better Farm in 2013. To date, we've planted a dozen box elders, 50 white spruces, 10 pines, more than two dozen lilac bushes, and the aforementioned fruit orchard.


Latest Community Outreach Initiatives

We've been very busy in our community in order to bring the arts and sustainability education to the public. Here's a rundown of those efforts in recent months:
  • Seed-Starting in Redwood's Community Greenhouse — Better Farm, in partnership with Hearts for Youth and the Redwood Neighborhood Association, on April 13 invited all ages to plant provided organic, non-GMO seeds in the community greenhouse.
  • Thompson Park Zoo Earth Day EventNew York State's Thompson Park Zoo on Saturday hosted an Earth Day event that brought together several North Country organizations to deliver an eco-friendly message to zoo visitors throughout the day. The Better Farm and betterArts crew braved the absurdly winter-like day (hail and all) for a few hours to work on an arts 'n' crafts project with kids, distribute information about our upcoming open house and fundraiser, and educate the public about the sustainability outreach we're doing in the community. Click here to see photos!
  • Mustard Seed Natural Market EventBetter Farm and betterArts on May 4 shared information about upcoming programming, sustainability education, and arts outreach with the community—while doing arts 'n' crafts with children—at the Mustard Seed Natural Market's Seventh Annual Earth Day Event. The event featured free samples, eco-friendly and handmade items for sale, product giveaways, fresh food, and local exhibitors. Better Farm had a table set up at the event all day, with activities for kids sponsored by betterArts. In addition, the Mustard Seed ran a Recycling for Charities drive to benefit betterArts. Electronics donated will be recycled—and will support betterArts initiatives in the community.
  • Hamlet-Wide Clean-upBetter Farm teamed up with the Redwood Neighborhood Association again this year to pick up trash along Redwood's main thoroughfare in an annual effort to beautify the hamlet. Participants bagged and sorted garbage and recyclables found along the main thoroughfare of the hamlet's downtown. This year marked the lowest amount of trash picked up—meaning there were fewer people littering throughout the year, and a bigger ongoing effort among residents to keep things looking great.

Better Farm and betterArts Summer Workshop Schedule
Our list of summer workshops is beginning to come together. There is a suggested $10 donation for scheduled workshops to cover costs of basic materials, ingredients, and any associated instructor fees. Unless otherwise noted, we will provide all necessary materials at the workshop. Be sure to visit for updated information! Here's what we've got planned so far:
  • June 15/Beneficial Bugs and Insect Hotels— Gardens, chemically fertilized lawns, and a lack of dead wood in suburban/urban areas mean less and less habitat for wild bees, spiders, and ladybugs. You can combat this issue by creating an "insect hotel" to attract beneficial insects (read: pollinators and pest controllers) to your yard and garden. Learn how construct an insect hotel utilizing items you can find around your house and in your yard. Students will learn all of the above, and then try their hands at actual construction of an insect hotel. Instructor: Nicole Caldwell
  • June 22/Sauna ConstructionInstructor: Bob Laisdell
  • June 29/Drumming Circle
  • Drum-making
  • July 1, 2/Poetry— Instructors: The Line Assembly Poetry Group
  • July 6/Creative Upcycling and the Art of Transforming Junk — Each student will bring an old, tired furniture or clothing piece to transform into something else that is functional. From sketches to the final product, instructor Stephanie DeJoseph of La Mia Designs will help students visualize, create, transform, and finalize an upcycled piece. Encouraged materials (anyone without the following is not excluded from attending): one piece to upcycle, sewing machine, fabric scraps, old clothing, small furniture pieces. Ages 15 and up
  • Intro to Video Editing — Learn the basics of video editing. Those without video cameras may use their iPhones! Instructor: Holly Boname
  • Yoga for Kids
  • Intro to Violin
  • Songwriting Workshop with Monica Behan —This workshop for ages 15+ will explore the art of songwriting with one of the North Country's most well-established and respected singer-songwriters, Monica Behan of Clayton. Behan's music blends folk, blues and jazz into memorable pop melodies that reflect the harmonic nature of who she is on and off the stage. She entered the world of songwriting at the age of seven when she began translating the visions of her whimsical world outdoors and feelings inside onto the piano to create the miniature melodic tales that continue to characterize her songs.
    Instructor: Monica Behan,
  • Canning

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Contact Us:

Better Farm
31060 Cottage Hill Road
Redwood, NY 13679

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.