Better Farm to be Featured in 'Ways of Living' Documentary

Jessica Watkins, left, and Harper Cowan, documentary filmmakers for upcoming film Ways of Living.
Better Farm is to be featured in an upcoming documentary, with filming at the farm commencing this Friday.

The documentary, Ways 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 documentary is a part of a larger collaborative project called ANIMA RISING, the scope of which utilizes websites, a blog, and documentary film to produce creative content that raises consciousness, increases awareness, and inspires viewers to think—and live—outside the box.

Next stop for the filmmakers is Better Farm, where we'll treat our visitors on Saturday to a classic Better Farm family dinner party, work in the gardens, tours of the grounds, information on the cultural outreach work of sister organization betterArts, sing-a-longs, storytelling, and the opportunity to meet all of you who make this place great.

Here's the official trailer for the documentary Ways of Living:

Learn more:
Been touched by Better Farm? Want to be featured this weekend? Email us at info@betterfarm.
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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.

Hobbit House Part II: Grounds Prep

Amazing hobbit house design by Wooden Wonders.
Back in September, a few of us took a hike on Better Farm's property to scout out a perfect location for a hobbit house. One of our favorite potential spots was this, the foundation for the farm's original, 19th-century barn:
Mike and Adam last week took a chainsaw to the sumac and other trees within the foundation, which meant today was the day to clear (read: burn) all the brush so we have a blank canvas to work with.

Here are Jackson and Aaron getting to work:





...and here's the space mostly cleared out:

For the next step, Aaron will be applying his measurements of the space to determine what we need for tires to build exterior walls, and he'll be consulting with some real-deal architects to create legitimate architectural drawings to work off of.

We're going to need to pour a concrete floor or create a stone floor. Luckily, for us, we also found a bounty of original stone used for the old barn that we'll be making our hearth with. Here's the rest of our ideas list:
  • Get a work day together two to pull useable scraps together from the property and ready them for upcycling
  • Secure a source for lime mortar to be used on our walls
  • Get dimensions together for the structure, secure enough tires to build an earthship structure
  • Secure old barn wood for the interior ceiling
  • Utilize a strong roof appropriate for dirt and foliage cover
The completed space will be the start to a wellness center situated outside of the Art Barn; with yoga studio space, a sauna, outdoor shower, and more. What better use for a hobbit home?

If you would like to volunteer on this or any other projects, contact us at (315) 482-2536 or info@betterfarm.org.
1 Comment

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.

Building a Better Farm




































Article originally published in NNY Business Magazine. Article by Ted Booker. To subscribe to NNY Business Magazine, call (315) 782-1012.

Inspiration Station: Intern barracks

While waiting at the vet's office in Watertown to get Kobayashi Maru and Han Solo their annual checkups, I flipped through a recent issue of Country Living and found these amazing photos of a ski dorm. The concept is a perfect solution for how best to accommodate our ever-growing summer stable of interns at Better Farm.

Here are some crucial elements from space pictured above:
  • Four sets of wooden bunk beds that have elements of privacy, thanks to floor-to-ceiling drapes that can be drawn when it's time for lights-out
  • Four of the bunks have individual portal windows with outside views
  • Several trees that came down for construction were reintegrated as sculptural elements
  • Movable upholstered cubes and drop-leaf table can be reconfigured as needed for group activities, reading, or "family" card or board games
Neutral tones and streamlined lines make this simple space dramatic and cozy. The few lighting elements could easily be run off a small solar panel or wind turbine (or could conversely even be small lanterns or wall sconces).

Now check out this dorm-style bathroom, from the same page (could be translated into a structure adjoined or next to the barracks housing; essentially an outhouse on steroids):
Elements I'm attracted to here include:
  • Several shower stalls, each equipped with rainwater shower heads (could be fed by a rainwater catchment system with graywater runoff)
  • Several sink vessels to accommodate multi, simultaneous use
  • Plenty of cubby space for storage
  • Toilet stall
  • Simplistic, industrial lighting
Not sure if this construction project is in the cards for this summer, but it's an inevitability down the road so the interns can have their own private cabin away from home to call their own.

News Item: Better Farm syncs up with the FIC

Better Farm has recently been added to an international database of intentional communities.

The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) hosts a Web site designed to "serve the growing communities' movement, providing resources for starting a community, finding a community home, living in community, and creating more community in your life."

The FIC's site boasts a directory of intentional communities, news items, and events. 
Comment

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.

Chris Makes the News!

Marshalltown native hopes to inspire others

By TAMMY R. LAWSON, TIMES-REPUBLICAN
(article originally published May 23, 2010, in the Times-Republican)

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Sitting outside the Better Farm Education center are, from left, Chris Menne, Clayton Carlson, Nicole Caldwell, Brian Hines, Illana Leizin, and Corinne Weiner.
Growing up in Marshalltown was all well and good.

But Chris Menne was searching.

"I wanted to find something new that would make me happy, and get more in touch with myself," he said. "I felt like something else was out there for me."

So, the 25-year-old packed his belongings and headed toward the 'Big Apple,' eventually finding a place called Better Farm.

Set on 65 acres in Redwood, New York, its principles are founded on the "Better Theory" - a belief that every experience brings with it an opportunity for exponential personal growth.

The education center was started in 1970 as a hippie commune, according to Executive Director Nicole Caldwell, but last year it was transformed into a retreat designed for attracting the curious and creative.
Through artist residencies, internships and year-round workshops, individuals participate and teach a variant of subjects including yoga, green living, organic gardening or rustic furniture building.

And as far as Caldwell is concerned, Menne has turned his life around.

"Chris has become integral to the goings on at Better Farm," she said, "from its mission of community outreach to day-to-day operations on the property."

In addition to organizing events such as an Earth Day cleanup, Menne has thus far played a huge role in on-site green projects - rewiring lights, performing minor renovations and assisting in the construction of a greenhouse made from recycled materials.

Plus, he has lost 20 pounds.

"I'm not eating fast food like I used to," he said. "That alone has been a good thing."
Menne hopes to become a full-time employee of the facility, teaching children how to be green while encouraging adults to rely on themselves and become healthy.

"I've learned a lot in the past year," he said. "I plan to take that knowledge and help other people."

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Contact Tammy R. Lawson at 641-753-6611 or tlawson@timesrepublican.com

Preview: Better Farm photo shoot

Click on the photo to be redirected to a sneak peek of our photo shoot from last week! More pics coming soon!



All photography by ErinCovey
1 Comment

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.

North Country Arts Council Promotes Better Farm


North Country Arts Council (NCAC), a nonprofit dedicated to the development and promotion of the arts in northern New York,  has listed Better Farm on its Resources page! This synergy should expand Better Farm's presence and "findability" for those artists looking for a place to practice their passions.

Membership to the NCAC helps further this cause. All membership costs are tax-deductible and come with a slew of member benefits such as discounts with local businesses and venues. Click here for more information.
Comment

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.

Rough Cut: Better Farm documentary

Four of us in 2006 began documenting the people of Better Farm and the space itself. In all the miscellaneous files, recorded interviews with former and current Better Farm inhabitants, hundreds of archived images, and our own feelings about the place, a stunning story began to emerge that we found kind of gorgeous.

We've recently been gathering our notes, logging footage (thank you Eric!), holding roundtables regarding our vision, and planning for full documentation at this year's 40th Reunion to be held at Better Farm in May. In the mix of all the files and sound bites I came across this rough trailer. A bit of a "perspective piece" (not all information discussed in the audio is 100-percent accurate), it sets some of the mood. Thought I'd include it here just for art's sake:



We're looking for burgeoning documentary filmmakers and audiophiles to help out with filming and generally recording the goings-on at this year's May 30 reunion in Redwood—as well as any old footage or photography belonging to you former residents at the Farm! Please contact us at info@betterfarm.org if you'd like to get on board. Armed with that footage and interviews with the next wave of Better-Farmers, we expect to get most of the film completed by the end of summer.

Work on this emerging documentary was done by Eric Drasin, Nicole Caldwell, Tyler Howe, and Ed Krayewski. Special thanks and gratitude go out to our late, great founder Stephen F. Caldwell; without whom none of this would have existed.

Intentional Communities: "Living Labs"


The old saying goes, starting an intentional community is like starting a business and getting married all rolled into one. Living in such close contact with others, 24/7, can really test your comfort levels and bring triggers out into the open you never knew you had. So how do you create a life together with a base stable enough to withstand "Big Brother" style meltdowns?

The most important factors to forming a successful community is to create intimacy/trust within a group through common goals/ideas/worldviews, and to always follow a productive path that is adaptable to change. All the small systems (the people) need to operate smoothly within the larger system (the community) or else everything falls apart. This is not the time for dictatorship, but for "empowered leadership" where each person is acknowledged, encouraged, and included in major decision making meetings.

It may sound like coddling, but after taking a step back and seeing what each persons' taproot (strength) is, specific responsibilities can then be doled out in areas that will make those talents shine, thereby making the entire system run better. Not to mention the load this "leading from behind" will take off your back when you've got a million other things to do by end of day!

So not only do we want involved, happy little campers within the walls of the Better Farmhouse, but forming solid relationships with the outer sphere of Redwood, NY, will also be key, as their full support will be imperative in the success of our ecological adventure. With this strong base of common goals and evenly distributed responsibilities, a long-term commitment to be a more "nature working" community as a whole should run like a well-oiled machine.


The above info is a brief recap from a Permaculture class with Ariane Burgess, an expert in regenerative culture, intentional communities and transition towns.

Image from Center for Community Alternatives.