Better Farm Newsletter: Winter 2014

Hello, Friends of Better Farm!

What a winter! Record-setting cold temperatures, lakes iced over before the New Year, wind chills reaching -40 in some parts of the North Country, and a week-long power outage to boot: Is anyone else ready for spring?

We're keeping things hot at Better Farm by gearing up for our busiest season yet. On the heels of a recent FCC approval and first-time betterArts grant from Best Buy, we're initiating a low-power FM station called Better Radio that will work in tandem with our websites and blog to bring you original content from the North Country. Donations to betterArts' Better Radio project are tax-deductible and will go directly into making this project a success (funding information is below). We've confirmed two summer music and art festivals to be held at Better Farm, a "Better Mudder" extreme obstacle course in July, several workshops and retreats, and the arrival this spring of a brand-new stable of artists-in-residence and sustainability students. Better Farm is also available as a venue for rustic weddings, field trip for kids to learn about the great outdoors, and a perfect place to host your next conference, meeting, or event. Information about all of these milestones is below! Stay tuned to our blog to follow all of these adventures. 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!

Enjoy the rest of the winter season—we will see you again this spring!

Until next time, better be.

Nicole Caldwell
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Better Farm

News! Autumn Recap, Winter Activities, and betterArts' First Grant

People from Better Farm and its subsidiary nonprofit betterArts kept busy all fall and in this first-half of winter with plenty of community outreach activities and milestones. Here's a review of all recent things "better":
  • Thanksgiving 'Family' Dinner Party—More than two dozen people came out to enjoy an early Thanksgiving dinner party with the cast and crew of Better Farm and betterArts. This was our third annual event of this kind, and we expect the tradition to continue for years to come! The potluck event is free and open to the public.
  • Holiday Party with Hospice of Jefferson County—betterArts in December partnered with Survivor Outreach Services of Fort Drum and Hospice of Jefferson County to present "A Time of Holiday Remembrance" for children who have lost a loved one. The event, held at Hospice of Jefferson Country's offices on Gotham Street in Watertown, featured arts 'n' crafts, lunch and cookies, a gifts giveaway, and a project hosted by betterArts that included decorating flower pots and planting poinsettias.
  • Indoor Growing Systems—We expanded our indoor water-based growing system by adding a hydroponics tank. With lettuce growing in that bed and tomatoes blossoming in our aquaponics setup, we're on track to have fresh greens and produce right up through our next outdoor growing season. Click here for the full details and how-to guide for starting your own indoor garden.
  • betterArts Receives First Grant—Best Buy Children's Foundation annually donates up to $2 million in community grants to local and regional nonprofit organizations that provide teens with places and opportunities to develop 21st-century technology skills. betterArts received $6,000 in funding from Best Buy to use in conjunction with its latest project, "Better Radio", a radio station and educational program based out of Better Farm (more information on that below!). Grant funds were used to purchase recording equipment that will be used by young adults enrolled in local schools to produce content; from music to interviews and story-telling. In addition to airing that content on Better Radio, it will be available for use in podcasts and on school websites.

Better Radio Becomes a Reality

Better Radio: A New Media Project by betterArts is a low-power FM station recently approved for transmission out of Better Farm's property. The station will be owned and operated by betterArts, and will be used along with websites and blogs to transmit content produced in the North Country. Approval of the station was announced in December, on the heels of a community grant from Best Buy to purchase recording equipment. We expect our station number sometime this spring; after which time we have 18 months to erect our tower and begin transmitting. While all of that is going on, betterArts members will be working with students at local schools to create great content for use online and on-air. Their content—and content produced by adults in the community—includes recordings by local musicians, storytelling, political roundtables, weather reports, interviews, DIY home repair tips, gardening how-tos, and much much more. We are accepting donations to help fund our tower, transmitter, additional equipment and basic start-up costs. Please email if you would like to make a donation of any amount. And stay tuned to our blog for more information on how you can get involved.


Upcoming 'Better' Events and Initiatives

Compost Initiatives, St. Patty's Day parties, summer music festivals, and extreme obstacle courses: Here's your guide to everything Better in the coming months!
  • Better BucketsComposting is the process of turning food scraps into nutrient-rich soil. With up to 40 percent of all landfills comprised of otherwise biodegradable food scraps, composting is a simple way to cut a huge amount out of the waste stream while benefiting backyard gardens, homegrown produce, and increasing amounts of topsoil. To that end, Better Farm has partnered with the Redwood Neighborhood Association and other local groups and individuals to kick off a new campaign that will turn natural waste into soil and help preserve and expand the natural beauty of the area. “Better Buckets” allows individuals and families in the Redwood area to isolate food scraps from the waste stream in order to benefit their community. Better Farm will deliver five-gallon pails to those who have signed up and make regular visits to empty the buckets. Waste will be brought to Redwood's Community Greenhouse for processing (and overflow to Better Farm), where over time the food scraps will become healthy soil perfect for fertilizing flowers and produce grown in the community greenhouse. This program is brought to the community at no cost to participating individuals. Those that would like to participate can click here for more information.
  • betterArts to Host Kids' Room at Irish Fest—For the second year in a row, betterArts will be in charge of the kids' room at North Country Goes Green's Irish festival held March 14-16 at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown, N.Y. There will be lots of prizes, arts 'n' crafts, games, snacks, and fun to be had for children of all ages!
  • Better Festival slated June 21—This year's annual Better Festival is set for 12-8 p.m. Saturday, June 21. All money raised at the annual music, sustainability, and arts festival will directly fund art- and sustainability-related community outreach initiatives in and around Redwood. The day-long event will featuring live performances by local and regional bands, a gallery showcasing artwork by painters, sculptors, photographers, and more, booths featuring art and handmade items for sale, tours of the Better Farm campus, information about Better Farm and betterArts 2014 programming, arts 'n' crafts for kids (and adults!), freshly prepared and locally sourced food, a refreshments tent, games, bouncy castle, and more! To introduce betterArts' latest endeavor Better Radio, there will be a booth set up for people to create content for that station. Music will also be recorded for live-streaming and podcasts. Camping is available for $10/person/night. We are offering accommodations Friday through Monday, or any night therein. Workshops will also be scheduled throughout the weekend and include lessons in upcycling, permaculture, and yoga. If you would like to perform, display your art, or volunteer, please contact us at to be directed to the appropriate betterArts or Better Farm contact.
  • Better Mudder Coming July 2014 — We're bringing a "better" version of the Tough Mudder competition to Redwood, N.Y., in our first annual Better Mudder event in July 2014. Hosted by Better Farm and featuring more than 20 obstacles, Better Mudder invites the fiercest  athletes and thrill-seekers to the Better Farm campus for agility obstacles, wall-climbs, scaling mountains, and—of course—getting really, really muddy. Proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and sustainability and wellness outreach in the North Country. Stay tuned for more information at
  • Have Your Next Event at Better Farm—We are now accepting bookings for 2014 retreats, workshops, weddings, corporate meetings and events, lectures, and field trips at Better Farm. Better Farm is situated on 65 acres of  rolling hillsides, forests, open fields, farmed land, a pond, and a small fruit orchard. There are several buildings: the main house with two kitchens, seven bedrooms, three lofts, a library, four bathrooms, laundry room, office and two common areas; the two-story Art Barn with gallery/event space, studio, and second-story deck functioning as stage overlooking a natural amphitheater; a tool shed, wood shed, greenhouse, and small cabins for additional overnight guests. The main house, barn, and property are available year-round to rent for weddings, retreats, workshops, field trips, festivals, concerts, lectures, and more. Rent the whole property for big groups, or rent just what you need for a smaller group. Contact with your inquiries. For overnight lodging information, click here.

Better Farm's Sustainability Education Program

Better Farm’s Sustainability Education Program was created to offer individuals an immersive, introductory crash-course in sustainability initiatives. Those enrolled in the program receive a hands-on education in a myriad of seasonal topics related to sustainability and environmental issues. Instead of a traditional working farm with acres upon acres of one or a few different crops, Better Farm has many gardens demonstrating different styles of small-scale farming and stressing the need for diversity of crops instead of mono cultures. Better Farm equips students with a variety of solutions to real-world agricultural issues, including small spaces, temperamental soils, pests, and climate change. The aquaponics, hydroponics, layered gardens, fruit orchard, and forests on the property are extremely varied so students coming from all over the world will learn real-world tools that can be applied back home. The Sustainability Education Program runs in one- to three-month intervals. Those attending receive daily assignments and chores all related to sustainability initiatives and organic farming, as well as the opportunity to design and implement projects on their own. Upon completion of all units and responsibilities, participants will receive a certificate from Better Farm. College students may additionally receive course credit for completion of Better Farm's Sustainability Education Program. To learn more and to apply, visit


betterArts Residency Program

betterArts offers a unique opportunity to artists, writers, performers, and musicians with a residency program based out of Better Farm. Residencies are designed to offer artists of every discipline space and time to work on specific projects; whether a series of paintings, a composition, book, set of sculptures, or album. A private room, 24/7 access to a fully stocked communal kitchen, linens and towels, WiFi, parking, and round-the-clock access to the Art Barn are all included in a low stipend required of all residents. betterArts residents are encouraged to interact and participate in the goings-on around the property, and to help out with chores and farm-related responsibilities between three and five hours each week. These responsibilities may include working in the gardens, participating in arts-related community outreach projects, helping with house chores, cooking, or assisting with other odd jobs. At the conclusion of each residency, an artist is required to present his or her work to the public in a gallery show, reading, performance, or via some other appropriate medium. Residencies are for two weeks, three weeks, one month, or two-month periods. Basic facilities at Better Farm will be provided; but betterArts residents are expected  to provide the majority of materials and equipment they would need for the production of their work. For more information about the betterArts Residency Program and to download the application, click here.