Better Farm October Newsletter

Better Farm News - October 2013:

• Summer Recap: Festivals, Showcases, and Community Outreach

• How Does Your Garden Grow?

• Workshop Roundup

• Summer Sustainability Education Program

• Recent Visiting Artists

Hello, Friends of Better Farm!

It's been another record-setting year at Better Farm. We've put on more events for the community, provided more sustainability outreach, welcomed more visitors, students and artists to Redwood, showcased more art, initiated more projects, and raised more chickens this year than any year before—and we're heading into Autumn with lots to accomplish on the horizon.

The last four years have been a truly wonderful journey. The investment of our visiting artists and students, and the ongoing support of you, Better Farm's most ardent supporters, have molded this space and turned it into a premier destination for sustainability education, artist residencies, and cultural events. Stay tuned to our blog to follow all of these adventures and continued successes—and be sure to visit regularly to stay up-to-date on all things Better. If you know of anyone interested in gaining some hands-on experience with sustainability issues or an artist in search of a creative, open space in which to work on their projects, please send them our way! BetterArts residencies and farm programming in sustainability education are year-round endeavors for us.

May you enjoy a lovely autumn filled with brave new frontiers and a plethora of possibility.

Until next time, better be.

Nicole Caldwell
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Better Farm

Summer Series: Festivals, Community Outreach, and Showcases

Better Farm was home to many Spring and Summer events; and its residents made a concerted effort to have a strong presence in the community with many service activities. Here's a quick rundown of what we've been up to:
  • Better Festival—Thanks to a wonderful crowd braving frigid late-May temperatures, a cast and crew of diligent, hard-working volunteers, dozens of intimidatingly talented performers, artists, and musicians, and loving and generous sponsors, this year's Better Festival was our largest—and most successful—yet. We broke through the ceiling on our fundraising goals, which made it possible for us to offer a very full season of programming, community outreach, workshops, and events to the public.
  • Backyard Science Day—We were invited by Cornell Cooperative Extension to participate in Backyard Science Day June 10 at Lyme Central School in Chaumont. For our presentation, we built a solar oven to show kids how they could heat up food with the sun alone.
  • Pay it Forward Projects—We believe it's not enough to learn and practice sustainability and art—we believe in paying what we learn forward. To that end, folks at Better Farm make it a regular mission to go out into the community to help neighbors with their own gardens and home revitalization projects, work with kids, and provide support to other organizations. In the last few months, we put two gardens in, painted a house, volunteered at several schools, beautified downtown centers, and brought our show on the road in the Redwood Field Days Parade.
  • Open Mic Poetry Night—Through a partnership between Line Assembly Poetry Group and betterArts, Better Farm on July 2 hosted an open-mic poetry night. Individuals from Line Assembly, betterArts resident Bradley Harrison, and local residents gathered at the Art Barn to read their latest creations.
  • Summerfest—Aug. 17 marked our second annual Summerfest. The free event, featuring local vendors selling handmade goods, a gallery filled with art to enjoy and purchase, and half a dozen musical acts (plus a late-night jam session for anyone who cared to participate) is put on every year by betterArts in order to increase access to cultural opportunities in the North Country. Click here for the full rundown, photos, and information about all the wonderful artists and musicians who participated.
  • Exceptional Family Arts and Wellness Expo —We showcased in August the artwork and performance pieces of some amazing children. The Exceptional Family Arts and Wellness Expo, a partnered event between Fort Drum and betterArts, featured art and performance pieces by children enrolled in Fort Drum's Exceptional Family Members Program. Among the activities were dance performances from Amy Earle School of Dance, upcycling projects, a gallery of artwork by local students, arts 'n' crafts, tours of Better Farm's gardens and buildings, and locally produced food fired up on the grill along with organic, locally grown side dishes.
  • Better Radio —Better Radio is a step closer to becoming a reality. The Senate in 2010 approved the Local Community Radio Act, a bill that expanded radio stations for Low Power FM and which mandated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to license virtually thousands of new stations. Since then, betterArts achieved its 501(c)3 status as a non-profit educational organization. This characterization allows the arts outreach group to apply for grants and conduct fundraising efforts that fuel free and low-cost arts education, outreach, events, and much much more. The group's latest effort is "Better Radio"; a radio station and educational program based out of Better Farm that works in multiple ways to increase access to the arts for all while simultaneously providing the community's youth with New Media education. Better Radio will advance betterArts' mission of increasing access to the arts and culture in the North Country and beyond by offering the many different broadcasts; and will provide educational outreach to high school students in and around the North Country region with an interest in New Media, Journalism, Production, Editing Software, Music Mixing, and Broadcast.
  • Farm-to-Table Dinner Party—Better Farm's first-ever Farm-to-Table Dinner Party was held Sept. 26 and featured a menu of local cheeses, breaded zucchini medallions, salads, butternut squash soup, bacon-wrapped, wild-caught goose, and much much more. Stay tuned for future farm-to-table events here and locally!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We doubled the size of our gardens again this year, and added eight new chickens to our flock (we're up to 32 feathered friends!). The combined output of eggs, compost decomposition, production of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and the installation of a small orchard have contributed greatly to a sustainable, closed-loop system in which nutrients pass from compost to dirt to produce to people and chickens and back again. The North Country saw a late start to gardening season this year, with a ridiculously wet spring and cool start to summer. Once things settled down, however, we were left with a food crop that's stocked the local co-op and natural market, neighborhood bar and grill, our farm stand, and kept all the bellies at Better Farm full. Here are a few highlights from the summer: ---

Summer Workshop Series Review

Whether making wine or constructing an insect hotel, here's our short list of workshops offered in recent months:
  • Beneficial Bugs and Insect Hotels — Tidy 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. At this workshop, people were taught how to construct an insect hotel out of scraps found around work rooms, forests, and trash.
  • The Art of Beer and Wine: Intro to Brewing and Fermentation — This summer, Master Brewer Paul Jennings taught a a three-part brewing series that educated the public about making beer and wine. Groups created oatmeal stout and two varieties of blueberry wine.
  • Sauna Construction — We broke ground this summer on a sauna constructed entirely out of recycled materials like pallets and old tree stumps. The hands-on class examined materials, ways to refurbish discarded materials, and basic tool tutorials; culminating in the construction of a sauna on-site at Better Farm. Expected completion date for this project is November 2013. Stay tuned for updates!
  • The Humanure Compost System — Whether you 're hosting an event and need a few extra porta-potties, in need of a toilet out by your work room or garage, re-doing your camp on the lake and lack a bathroom, or if you're ready to transition from a water-based septic or sewer system, the "humanure" compost toilet is a simple, cheap, ecologically responsible way to deal with human waste. This workshop explored the basic concepts of compost toilets and the ways our culture deals with waste, and culminated in a step-by-step project to create a simple compost toilet.
  • Creative Upcycling and the Art of Transforming JunkIn this owrkshop, each student brought an old, tired piece of furniture or clothing to transform into something functional. From sketches to the final product, wonderful instructor Stephanie DeJoseph of La Mia Designs helped students visualize, create, transform, and finalize an upcycled piece.

Summer Sustainability Education Program
This year brought with it an amazing group of students eager to learn all they could about sustainability issues, green living, and organic farming. Whether out in the garden cooking up organic pest deterrents, building structures with alternative or upcycled materials, or foraging for edible wild plants, this group's enthusiasm was contagious and their willingness to utilize creative problem solving and non-traditional methods was downright inspiring. Here's the crew we were lucky enough to work with for the last several months:
  • Kara Colarusso, a graduate of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., who majored in environmental studies and is pursuing a career as a yoga instructor. Her interests in sustainability and local farming—paired with a passion for working with local communities to help educate them about local agriculture—inspired her to pursue an education at Better Farm;
  • Jesse Coyle, a student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry working on a bachelors of science in conservation. She hails from Syracuse, and was raised on a small cattle farm in Central New York. She chose Better Farm because she wanted to broaden her knowledge of alternative building, green gardening, and wilderness survival;
  • Jacob Firman, an environmental studies major at Oberlin College in Ohio, who was passionate about food justice, addressing climate change, and working to create a more sustainable and just world;
  • Rebekah Kosier, a student at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., grew up in a rural area in Alabama. She had the opportunity to witness the process of farming and to know many farmers; but she came to Better Farm in order to connect sustainable farming practices to her interest in food sovereignty;
  • Kathryn Mollica, a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., whose employment at Whole Foods opened her eyes to the benefits of organic farming and changed her world.
For more information about Better Farm's Sustainability Education Program, click here.


Recent Visiting Artists
We had an amazing group of visiting artists who provided much inspiration and beauty to all the goings-on at the Better Farm campus. These artists immersed themselves in the local community; helping to construct our float in the Redwood Field Days Parade, providing workshops to the public, and lending a hand in ongoing projects in and around Better Farm. Here are all the wonderful artists who have come to Better Farm since May:
  • Bradley Harrison graduated in May with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas. The Colfax, Iowa, native recently completed his first full-length poetry collection, which is pending publication, and has published a chapbook of poems called "Diorama of a People, Burning" through Ricochet Editions at the University of Southern California. He worked during his residency on new poems he seeks to develop into a second, full-length collection.
  • Vivian Hyelim Kim is a visual artist from Elmhurst, N.Y., who makes installations, paintings, photographs and art books. She has her MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and her BFA from Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. While at Better Farm, Vivian is keeping a visual diary that took its form of a wall installation. She took walks in outdoor surroundings, picked one element of nature every day, and brought it into the studio. To see samples of Vivian's work, visit
  • Ashley Jones is a visual artist with a BFA in printmaking from California College of the Arts. She attended Clayworks on Columbia in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Diablo Valley College in Pleasonton, Calif. Her work has been shown extensively at galleries from coast to coast and she has been the recipient of several scholarships and awards for her art. Ashley lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. See more of her work here.
  • Natalie Collette Wood is an artist living in New York City who  joined us to experiment with sculpture and collage using found objects, spray paint, foam, and metal to create abstract pieces that hang from the ceiling or wall. Click here for images of her work.
For more information about the betterArts Residency Program, click here.

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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.