Better Farm Spring 2014 Newsletter

Hello, Friends of Better Farm!
On this day in 1970, my Uncle Steve signed papers that would make a little farmhouse in Redwood, N.Y., his. He called up his closest family members and friends, and invited them to take part in a great experiment at this special place he'd decided to lovingly name Better Farm. Take part they did: making the trip to Northern New York from throughout the Northeast to put an addition on that tiny house so it could hold a dozen or more people at a time, furnishing it with electric and indoor plumbing, and starting a tiny garden off to the side of the property that grew small potatoes, carrots, and greens.

They couldn't have known then that 44 years later, Better Farm would boast a sustainability program inviting people from all over the world to Redwood for a premier green-living education. No one could have expected an artist residency program that would attract some of the most talented painters, musicians, performers, sculptors, and writers to create—and share those creations with people living in Redwood and the larger Thousand Islands Region. Who'd have imagined Better Farm with a radio station, partnerships with top-notch restaurants along the St. Lawrence River, a host of awards and recognitions, and, finally, a tell-all book?

But all these things have, miraculously or unmiraculously, happened—and continue to happen. Better Farm has been an organic unfolding, with its increasing popularity and visibility a true testament to the people who have come to this most special of places and turned it into something that is ever-evolving, ever-growing, and always, simply, better.

I'm reminded of the history of this place every time I move between rooms or dig in the dirt outside. As betterArts launches a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for Better Radio, or we foray into backyard beekeeping, or our music festival circuit grows to include some of the most popular bands in the North Country, I recall the history of Better Farm as passed down through stories told to me by my father and mother, grandparents, friends, and of course, by my Uncle Steve. There are so many good ghosts in this place, and so many more stories to come.

In this newsletter, we're inviting you to help us Build a Better Radio—an initiative that will bring cutting-edge, independent journalism to you on-air and online, a showcase of North Country talent, talk shows, gardening tips, fishing reports, and all the movers and shakers that make this part of the world so provocative. We've also got a workshop schedule that will keep you tapped into your creative side all summer, enough art galleries, performances, and arts showcases to shake a stick at, a Better Mud Run extreme obstacle course, and a CSA program for all you North Country locals to join that will provide you with weekly shares of fresh, organic produce straight from Better Farm.

As always, stay tuned to our blog to follow all Better Farm's adventures. And thank you so much for ushering in Better Farm's 45th year in style. It is because of all your support that this place is so sacred.
Until next time, better be.

Nicole Caldwell
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Better Farm

Better Farm News - Spring 2014:

• News: All the Buzz Around the Farm!

• Help betterArts Build a Better Radio!

• Upcoming 'Better' Events and Initiatives

• Summer Sustainability Education Program

• betterArts Residency Program


News: All the Buzz Around the Farm!

People from Better Farm and non-profit betterArts have stayed mighty busy this year with community outreach activities, projects around the farm, and new initiatives. Here's a review of all recent things "better":
  • Kickoff of Better Farm's CSACommunity-Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs, are designed to bring individuals and families living locally weekly shares of fresh produce at extremely affordable rates. Better Farm's CSA runs through the last week of November and invites members to stop in on a weekly basis to pick up their shares of produce. Learn more and sign up at
  • Better Radio Student Outreach—BetterArts kicked off Better Radio, a new FCC-approved, low-power FM station, with outreach work that equips students throughout the North Country with New Media skills such as making and editing digital recordings, broadcasting, and archiving. Projects created by students at Indian River High School and Sackets Harbor Central School will be broadcast on-air and online via podcast. This outreach project was made possible by a Best Buy Community Grant. Click here to learn more.
  • Tree-Planting Partnership with DEC—Better Farm entered its third year of a tree-planting partnership with the DEC in which 50 white spruces were planted on the Better Farm property to encourage responsible land stewardship and provide educational opportunities in conservation for young people visiting Better Farm.
  • BetterArts Kids Room at Irish Festival—For the second year, betterArts hosted a successful Kids Room at the North Country Goes Green! Irish Festival held in Watertown. Volunteers offered arts 'n' crafts stations where kids could make leprechaun planters, caterpillars, leprechaun ears, and rainbows made from recycled items; game booths where children could try their luck at bean bag tosses and fishing games, a face-painting station, jewelry making, and more.
  • Muse Presentation Features Music by betterArts Board MembersThe North Country Arts Council's annual multi-arts presentation "MUSE" this year featured music by betterArts board members AmberLee Clement and Erin Fulton. The song was written by AmberLee for the family of Walter Boname, local hunting and fishing guide and friend.
  • Better Buckets Compost InitiativeIn partnership with the Redwood Neighborhood Association, Better Farm's "Better Buckets" initiative invites individuals and families living locally to fill 5-gallon pails with food scraps that are then picked up (or may be dropped off at the community compost bins) on a weekly basis throughout the year. The dirt produced in the compost bins are available for free to the public.
  • Shop AmazonSmile, Support betterArtsAmazonSmile is a new program allowing a portion of all your Amazon purchases to be donated to betterArts in order to support arts and cultural outreach in the North Country. Here's how it works: You visit (or simply follow this link) and plug "betterArts" in under charitable organization. AmazonSmile is the same Amazon marketplace you're used to—except a percentage of your purchase amounts will be donated to betterArts.
  • Local Outreach Work—Better Farm and betterArts in May participated in the One District, One Book Initiative, H.T. Wiley L.I.F.E. Event, Macsherry Library Garden Day, and the Mustard Seed Organic Market's Annual Earth Day celebration.
  • Better Bees!—Thanks to a generous donation by the Mollica family, Better Farm has forayed into backyard bee keeping! The young bees purchased from local bee keeper Ted Elk have transitioned into their hive and are producing honey like mad. You can read about this new venture here.
  • Spent Hens Rescue Mission—For the second time, Better Farm has rescued a flock of "spent hens" from an egg factory and is working to rehabilitate and rehome the birds so they can enjoy the rest of their days out from behind bars. Learn how you can get involved here.
  • Better: The Book!—Better Farm's Executive Director Nicole Caldwell has signed a contract with New Society Publishers to pen a book called Better. Chronicling her own experience transitioning from cubicle to country and the mission of Better Farm, Better is one-part memoir, one-part call to environmental action, and one-party instructable with DIY projects for everything from aquaponic fish tanks to upcycling. Better is due for release in Spring 2015.

Help betterArts Build a Better Radio!

With your help, we can get Better Radio on-air and online with groundbreaking, grassroots content ranging from sustainability to art. A new Kickstarter campaign by betterArts invites you to make Better Radio a reality by helping to procure necessary funds for a transmitter, antenna, and other equipment. Visit the Kickstarter page and pledge your support here.

Upcoming 'Better' Events and Initiatives

Summer music festivals, extreme obstacle courses, and workshops galore: Here's your guide to everything Better in the coming months! Visit our upcoming events page for more information.
  • 31 Dragonfly Festival—The Redwood Neighborhood Association, Indian River Lakes Conservancy, betterArts, and Better Farm present the First Annual Dragonfly Festival. Held at the public pavilion in the center of Redwood, this event features live music, a cook-out, arts 'n' crafts, costume contest, homemade wine tastings, and more.
  • 21  Better Festival—Enjoy live performances by local and regional bands, a gallery showcasing artwork by painters, sculptors, and photographers, booths featuring art and handmade items for sale, tours of the Better Farm campus, information about Better Farm and betterArts 2014 programming, arts and crafts for kids (and adults!), freshly prepared and locally sourced food, a refreshments tent, games, bouncy castle, and more! Click here for all the information.
  • 12  Better Mud Run—The first annual Better Mud Run kicks off at high noon. Hosted by Better Farm and featuring more than 20 obstacles, Better Mud Run 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. Click here for info.
  • 18 Open Mic Poetry ReadingNo cover, all poets welcome! Pre-registration encouraged, pre-register by emailing
  • 2 Upcycling WorkshopThis all-ages workshop invites students to transform old items into something new. Furniture, clothing, or anything else you find is welcome! Crafts supplies like glue, needle and thread, embroidery floss, and others will be available. There is a suggested $5 donation for this course. Email to pre-register. Instructor: Stephanie DeJoseph of La Mia Designs
  • 16 Redwood Field Days ParadeCheer Better Farm and betterArts on in their annual Redwood Field Days Parade float! Parade starts at 6 p.m. on Route 37 in Redwood.
  • 18-23 Blast Off With Piano—This introductory piano camp is held for 45 minutes Monday through Friday. Students will learn fundamentals of rhythm reading and keyboard geography, and how to play with others through board games, ensemble piano playing, and other age-appropriate activities. Children will be divided into three age groups: Ages 5-6/10-11 a.m., Ages 7-8/11 a.m.-12 p.m., and Ages 9-10/12-1 p.m. There is a 6-student max for each age group. On Saturday, students are invited to perform at 12 p.m. to kick off the annual Summer Fest, a music festival held at Better Farm. Students do not need a keyboard instrument at home to practice on. The camp studio is equipped with enough keyboards for in-class use. Cost: $70, pre-register by 8/11 at Instructor: Jason Comet of Watertown Piano Lessons.
  • 23 Children's Weaving Children from second through fourth grade are invited to this two-hour class to learn two types of weaving. Students will acquire basic weaving knowledge, gain hands-on experience, and discuss basic weaving vocabulary. Students may additionally bring old clothes, fabric, or yarn for their projects if they like. Cost for class: $5. Email for more information or to pre-register. Instructor: Local artist Alyssa Curley is a fiber-working expert. She earned a BA in Art Education from SUNY Potsdam.
  • 23 SummerfestGet the full rundown at!

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.

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Better Farm
31060 Cottage Hill Road
Redwood, NY 13679
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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.