Autumn Newsletter

Hello, Friends of Better Farm!

Better Farm News - Autumn 2014:

• News: All the Latest Buzz Around the Farm!

• Summer's Cast of Characters

• Better Radio Update

• Upcoming Events

The Farmer's Almanac recently listed an Upstate New York park as the best spot for witnessing fall foliage, and we can see why. New York State has some of the most unbelievable landscapes and such a variety of trees! We've been enjoying the ever-changing color palette going on all around us as we continue to pull pound after pound of organic produce from the garden, ready the grounds for winter, and take the rare few moments of free time we have to sit on the decks and simply watch the leaves turn.

We have you to thank for another record-setting summer. Read on to get the full rundown! Looking ahead into fall, we've got our radio station to set up and a flurry of seasonal events to ready for.

In other exciting news, my new book is slated for release in June 2015! Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living explores the intersection of sustainability and art, showing how each of us can reinvent our lives as our greatest artistic achievement. I am so excited to share this with all of you. It's got tons of interesting Better Farm history, behind-the-scenes tidbits on my own transition to the North Country, and insights on how we can tackle environmental problems and cultural isolation in new, creative and better ways. For more information on the book or to pre-order a copy, click here. A book tour, signings, and other Better-related events will start popping up in the winter and spring, so stay tuned!

As always, check in at our blog to follow all Better Farm's daily adventures. And moving forward, you can look forward to a shorter, monthly email to keep you updated on all things better.
Until next time, better be.

Nicole Caldwell
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Better Farm

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":
  • Better Farm to be Featured in Ways of Living DocumentaryWays of Living follows a road trip around America in search of alternative and sustainable ways of life. The focus is love, posi vibes, living freely, wide open hearts, harming nothing. The film—due out this winter and produced by filmmakers Jessica Watkins and Harper Cowan—explores alternative technologies and sustainable practices, and features interviews with all sorts of people—artists, musicians, farmers, commune dwellers, earth ship builders and the like! The ladies paid us a visit last month—click here to track their progress!
  • Better Farm Takes First Place in Field Days Parade—Torrential downpours couldn't stop the Better Family from showing up en masse at the Redwood Volunteer Fire Department's Firemen's Field Days this year. We made a patriot-themed float for the Field Days Parade, and outfitted the crew in Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter costumes. Dancing our way along the parade route in a rainstorm with oldies blasting, we wooed the judges and took home first place. Check out photos from the event here.
  • Summer Workshops—betterArts and Better Farm this year offered workshops in weaving, beginner's piano, upcycling, building with recycled materials, poetry, film, and winemaking.
  • Summer Festivals—betterArts this summer organized two very successful festivals, Better Festival and Summerfest. Held in June and July, these events showcased local artists and musicians, offered farm tours to the public, and featured farm-fresh food, arts 'n' crafts, and a great time for all. Thanks for helping these events be so successful!
  • Better Bees—We've established a "better" beehive at the farm, and now understand the term "busy bee" in new ways. These insects have been unbelievably busy helping to pollinate produce in the garden and creating quite the honey collection. Get ready for Better Honey in Spring 2015!
  • Partnership Brings Fresh Produce to Redwood Food PantryA new partnership has turned the Redwood Community Greenhouse into a produce operation that will supply fresh greens and veggies to the Redwood Food Pantry. Local organizations Hearts for Youth, Redwood Neighborhood Association, and Better Farm have teamed up to provide volunteer hours that will cultivate fresh, organic produce earmarked specifically for use by the Redwood Food Pantry. To that end, the Community Greenhouse has been relocated to Better Farm in order to receive the round-the-clock attention and watering a summer greenhouse requires; while also taking advantage of the extended growing season a greenhouse can provide. This winter, Better Farm's chickens will heat the greenhouse to allow crops to be grown well into snow season.
  • Better Mud Run—Better Farm in July hosted a Better Mud Run that featured more than 20 obstacles and invited the fiercest  athletes and thrill-seekers to the Better Farm campus for agility obstacles, a road run, scaling mountains, and—of course—getting really, really muddy. Special thanks go out to the Redwood Volunteer Fire Department for helping us get the course good and wet!
  • Flock Expansion—Better Farm expanded its flock this year in two ways: one, with the rescue of whopping 27 more hens from a nearby egg factory; and with the stork-like arrival of a bunch of just-hatched birds representing breeds Yokohama, Light Brahma, German Spitzhauben, and Buff Orpington. We were able to adopt out several of the rescue chickens, and the remaining sponsored rescues—along with their exotic new roommates—will help to diversify and strengthen the gene pool for a fresh hatching next spring.

Summer's Cast of Characters

It was a women-centric summer, with the majority of visitors, residents, and students sporting double-X chromosomes. Here's a recap of our artists and students since June:
  • Allison Bachner, sustainability student in August who recently graduated St. Lawrence University;
  • Kiran Chandra, betterArts resident who created a body of work investigating notions of time, place, communication, and dialogue. She works with paper, water colors, India and colored inks, spoken word, and video. Kiran earned a bachelor's degree from St. Stephen's College at Delhi University in India before moving from Calcutta to Boston to earn a secondary bachelor's in fine art from the Art Institute of Boston. In 2013 she earned an MFA from Hunter College in Manhattan. She now lives in Brooklyn, where she is a teaching artist with various organizations throughout New York City;
  • Xuan Du, sustainability student in July and August attending Colby College in Maine;
  • Maggie Fishman, graphic novelist and betterArts resident based in Brooklyn who focuses on drawing, painting and graphic poetry. In addition to her work as a professional artist, Fishman has worked in education, activism, anthropology, and writing while exploring how we put beliefs into action, how we connect the personal with political and artistic expression and social change—and how we can nurture and educate the next generation to build the world anew. Her ongoing graphic novel, The End of Oil, is a series of drawings and paintings in ink and watercolor which Fishman is building into a book. The pieces explore how common stories and themes shared by humanity are acted out in a world we are told is near its end. Fishman used her betterArts residency to work on the second section, using her time in a community-based living situation to reflect and clarify the themes and stories in her work. Fishman possesses a PhD with Honors in cultural anthropology from New York University, a BA with honors from Haverford College, and has earned fellowships and scholarships to New York University and the New York Studio School. She has worked as a lead researcher, visiting professor, adjunct instructor, and developer for arts outreach organizations and at colleges; and is co-founder of the River School Project. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions for more than 20 years;
  • April Lee, betterArts resident who spent July and August working on pieces for her senior thesis exhibition at Princeton University. A visual arts major, April explored wet media and sculpture during her residency;
  • Katie Mollica, full-time staffer who ran our sustainability education program and who also works with wood-burning, woodworking, and is starting her own cupcake business (check her baked goods out here!); and
  • Mary Negro, betterArts resident based out of New York City who works with drawings and collage. Mary's work centers around her feelings toward technology, the media, and digital methods of communication. She has degrees from Fordham University's College of Rose Hill and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Better Radio Update!

We've spent the last year creating a beginning archive of content for the soon-to-air Better Radio. We've had lots of help—from the public, from students at area high schools, and from artists willing to share their music with us. We have a tentative kick-off air date of June 2015. This weekend we'll be testing our tower to see where we get the the best frequency. We've also appointed a director of content for Better Radio, Allen Briggs. Allen is a board member of betterArts and is excited to help steer this project. If you're interested in volunteering or helping to produce content, get in touch at And let your broadcast friends know they can apply for a residency through betterArts that would focus on New Media!
Upcoming Events
Here's a quick rundown of upcoming events. For more information, email
  • Oct. 18 —Sackets Harbor Fall Festival
  • Oct. 23—Indian River Middle School Health Fair 5-7 p.m.
  • November Date TBD—Community Thanksgiving Dinner Potluck, 4 p.m. Email or call (315) 482-2536 to sign up!
  • Dec. 8—Nicole Caldwell guest lectures at Jefferson Community College to Intro to Business students, 12:20-1 p.m.
  • December Date TBD— Hospice of Watertown Christmas party with kids

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 year-round. 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.

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.