Two-Part NCPR Series Features Better Farm

Dec 09, 2015 — Nicole Caldwell is co-founder of Better Farm, a 60-acre sustainability farm and artists’ colony in Redwood, near the Thousand Islands. Caldwell inherited the farm from her uncle, who organized a commune on the property back in the 1970’s. Left paralyzed after a car accident, Caldwell’s uncle, Steve, moved to the North Country where, with the help of friends and family, he ran a farm, enjoyed the outdoors and taught others about sustainable living. Today, there’s a new generation of residents from around the world.

Six years ago, Nicole’s uncle died and her life changed when she left New York City, the metropolis, for the “micropolis” -  Better Farm, in rural Jefferson County. Caldwell recently published a book, “Better - the Everyday Art of Sustainable Living,” based on her experiences and her uncle’s philosophy about living an environmentally conscious life.  

It's no longer the place where people [go] to 'check out.' It's now a training ground for people to 'check in.'

Earlier this year, Todd Moe stopped by Better Farm to talk with Nicole Caldwell about some of the challenges of being a writer, farmer, community organizer, and running Better Arts, a not-for-profit arts and music collective.

At Better Farm you’ll find flocks of “rescue” chickens, a thriving organic garden, an art gallery, and even a small radio station. Caldwell says it’s a continuation of her uncle’s vision from 45 years ago.

Part I: Better Farm Beginnings With Nicole Caldwell

Part II: Better Radio With Eileen Kaleel

An organic farm and artists' colony in rural Jefferson County has expanded its reach beyond its geographic boundaries. Better Farm in Redwood broadcasts local interviews, music, and news from the second floor of a former hay barn. 

Staffed by volunteers, WBTS (88.5 FM) is a low-power radio station that broadcasts to an audience within 15 miles of the Better Farm campus. Todd Moe stopped by this summer to talk with the founders of the North Country's newest community radio station on a farm that fosters art and innovative gardening, too.

Spread over a "campus" of more than sixty arces, Better Farm, started out as a commune in the early '70s.  Writer and editor Nicole Caldwell inherited the farm from her uncle and moved from New York City to the North Country about six years. She's kept her uncle's dream alive by offering a space for artists, student farmers and gardners, writers, musicians, and artists. Some stay for a day. Some learn innovative gardening techniques and start their own CSA's.


Eileen Kaleel and her family moved to the North Country when her husband was stationed at Fort Drum. But they didn't want to live on the base, near Watertown. Originally from Florida, Kaleel wanted her children to explore the natural world and experience the four seasons. So, they settled near Redwood and became active in the local community.

Today, Kaleel is a volunteer at Better Farm and loves its many community aspects. She's one of the founders of Better Radio, the farm's newest addition. It's a low-power radio station based in one of the farm's outbuildings. Its goal is airing live music festivals, interviews. and locally produced programs. 

Better Radio, also known as WBTS, began regular programming just a few months ago. Some of its broadcasts are also available via podcast. Better Farm director Nicole Caldwell and Better Radio program director Eileen Kaleel gave Todd Moe a tour of the station's barn studio.

You might say the farm's home-grown idea for its own radio station reflects its innovative approaches to farming and gardening, too. Better Farm is home to dozens of "rescue" chickens that are pampered with plenty of space and cozy coops. And, a huge organic, no-till mulched garden that serves as a outdoor classroom for college interns.