How Seasonal Gardening Increases Soil Sustainability

How Seasonal Gardening Increases Soil Sustainability

By Emily Folk

Gardening is a passion that many people enjoy because of how simple and rewarding it is. If you know how to take care of the plant you want to grow, there’s almost nothing stopping you from filling your house or yard with beautiful blooms and foliage. At a certain point, though, gardening can get a bit more complex. There’s things to think about that most beginner gardeners don’t consider because it requires a bit of gardening knowledge.

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Business Leaders: Are You Missing Out on the Benefits Of Sustainable Practices?

Business Leaders: Are You Missing Out on the Benefits Of Sustainable Practices?

We get a mixed bunch of people coming to our workshops here at Better Farm. And it's interesting that we are starting to see many business leaders coming along, from all different sizes of organization. Some are already well attuned to the benefits of sustainability - others less so. But we can tell you this. Everyone leaves thinking about how they can transform their business through more sustainable practice. With this in mind, we thought we would highlight some of the ideas our business visitors have taken a lot of inspiration from - so read on to find out more.

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A Proper High Tea At Better Farm: Vegan Scones And Elderberry Jam

Shay (left) and Rachel show off their scones and elderberry jam.

Shay (left) and Rachel show off their scones and elderberry jam.

It was domestic bliss at Better Farm yesterday as sustainability students Shayna Jennings and Rachel Magathan did some preserving and baking to host a small tea time with Better Farm residents.

Utilizing elderberries picked locally last season (and kept frozen in a standing basement freezer), Rachel set about making the jam while Shay took charge on the scones. Within the hour, several people from the farm were enjoying a proper high tea outside. Here's how the ladies pulled it off.

Vegan Scones


  • 2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. vegan butter substitute
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk


  1. Heat oven to 425°F
  2. Put flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; stir mix well Add vegan butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until the mixture looks like fine granules.
  3. Add sugar; toss to mix.
  4. Add coconut milk and stir with a fork until dough forms.
  5. Form dough into a ball and turn smooth side up.
  6. Pat or roll into a 6-inch circle.
  7. cut each circle into six or eight wedges.
  8. place wedges on an ungreased cookie sheet—slightly apart for crisp sides, touching for soft.
  9. sprinkle desired amount of cinnamon and sugar on each scone.
  10. Bake about 12 minutes, or until medium brown on top.

Elderberry Jam


  • Elderberries, stripped from the stalk, washed and drained thoroughly
  • Juice of one lemon for every 3 oz. of elderberries (adjust accordingly)
  • Equal parts sugar-to-elderberry


  1. Place the elderberries and lemon juice in a large pan and heat over a medium heat until the juices start to run. Bring slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Skim off any scum and stems that rise to the surface.
  2. Add the sugar and stir it in until it’s completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until the jam reaches setting point.

Two things to note here: the jam will bubble up so you do need to use a big pan (a preserving pan, if you have one). To know when the jam has set, put a saucer into the freezer and after 10 minutes, spoon a blob onto a cold saucer. Leave it for 10–15 seconds, then push with your finger. If it has formed a skin and wrinkles when you push, it has reached setting point.

Elderberry jam recipe from Gin and Crumpets.

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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.

Sustainability Students Forage Edible Wilds For A Forest-To-Table Meal

Sustainability Students Forage Edible Wilds For A Forest-To-Table Meal

Better Farm's sustainability students last week foraged wild edible plants on the property for a farm-to-table meal.

Nina, Steph and Levi headed out into the woods, fields, and pond to find cattail, nettles, burdock and thistle for inclusion in Vietnamese pho, a traditional noodle soup.

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Tree-Planting This Saturday, May 7

On May 7, children and adults are invited to join us on our mission to plant 100 trees on the Better Farm property in 2016.

Each year since 2010, Better Farm has committed to planting at least 100 trees on the property. Varietals include fruit trees to evergreens, oaks, maples, and much more.

On Saturday, we'll be planting 50 white spruces throughout the Better Farm property. We will have some shovels here, but you are encouraged to bring your own -- along with sensible shoes or hiking boots. Refreshments will be served!

Following the tree-planting, a group of us will be heading over to Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay for their annual Garden Day celebration, featuring free seeds, gardening magazines, refreshments, a beekeeping demo and much more. All are welcome!

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Cost: FREE. Please pre-register by emailing:

Sustainable and Budget-Wise Living go Hand in Hand

By Helen Young

Many people assume that sustainable living is expensive and a luxury that only the very wealthy can afford. After all, organic vegetables cost more than regular vegetables,  and organic and sustainable living is very popular in the most affluent as well as the most forward-thinking areas of the country. 

This is a huge misconception.

Anyone can choose to live a sustainable lifestyle and pay attention to the environmental impact of the food they eat each day, and this can go hand in hand with budget living. In fact, you may even find that living sustainably is cheaper than living a mainstream lifestyle! Thinking about making the move to sustainable living and eating but have no real idea where to start? Here are a few hints and tips to gently introduce yourself to sustainable living:

Think About Where Your Food Comes From
One of the first and most simple changes to make if you’re working towards sustainable and environmentally friendly living is to think about where your food comes from. Of course surest way to eat sustainably is to grow and produce everything you eat yourself; but whilst some people may relish the idea of starting their own small vegetable patch, very few will have the land available to grow absolutely everything they need. If that’s the case then why not try to source all of your fruit and vegetables from local organic farmers instead? There are many benefits that come from buying direct from your local farm: firstly you’ll know where your food is coming from and can speak to the farmer directly about their growing methods and any chemical processes they may use. In buying locally you’ll also minimize the number of food miles your veggies have to travel before they reach your plate thus lowering the ultimate carbon footprint of their production. Concerned about your budget? It may surprise you to know that buying your veggies directly from where they’re grown is often cheaper than heading to the grocery store, provided the veggies you are looking for are in season and plentiful. Farmers are often pleased to sell on their surplus at a lower price, particularly items that don’t meet the grocery stores stringent aesthetic rules about size and shape but are otherwise tasty and delicious.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
It is the simplest of all sustainable methods and one that most children are taught at elementary school. Reuse, reduce, recycle. Reuse whatever items you can, reduce the amount of waste you send to land fill, and recycle whenever possible. Yet it is mind boggling and amazing how few adults manage to stick to this simple lesson! If your keen to make your home a more sustainable environment then start thinking about the waste you are producing; what could you be recycling, what could you be reusing? Small changes, such as purchasing a reusable shopper bag and using it in lieu of a plastic bag whenever you visit your local store is a very minor change but can have a big impact. Reusing and recycling can also help you to save money; you simply need to readjust your mindset and think creatively about the additional purposes goods you might ordinarily throw away could serve.

Work With The Wider Community                     
One of the most important ways that you can begin your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle is by embracing the sustainable community and working together with your own community leaders. This will prove particularly useful if you are new to the concept of sustainability and would like some guidance and support: there are many local sustainability groups located throughout the country. Here you will be able to swap hints and tips, organic growers will be able to share or swap any surplus of produce and you may even find a volunteer network that you can join with the aim of supporting local projects and simultaneously spreading the sustainable message.

There’s no denying that true sustainable living is hard work and will take a huge amount of dedication. But it is possible to begin taking steps towards sustainable living, and bring an important sustainable message to your family, without making too many significant changes to your existing lifestyle.

Helen Young is a contributing writer to Better Farm's blog. She worked in health for more a decade before becoming a mother made her reassess things. With work being so busy and intense, she wanted to step back, spend more time with her babies while they were still young, and develop her passion for writing. Helen's work covers many topics from physical and mental health topics to food, nutrition
and sports.

Better Farm's Partnership with Airbnb Brings Tourism, Sustainability to Redwood

Better Farm since March has hosted more than 60 reservations through Airbnb, furthering the farm's mission of sustainable living—and travel.

Airbnb recently released its first environmental impact study on the sustainability of home sharing—which is what the company is all about—and found that Airbnb guests in North America use a full 63 percent less energy than hotel guests. That's enough to power 19,000 homes for an entire year.

Airbnb was founded in 2008 and allows people to search for alternative lodging to cookie-cutter hotel rooms. The company has more than 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries, largely comprised of room-shares or entire homes available for a night, week, or longer. Hammocks, private castles or islands, or more run-of-the-mill city apartments and bungalows are all listed on the site. Users must register and create a personal online profile before making a booking. Each property is associated with a host whose profile includes recommendations by other users, reviews by previous guests, as well as a response rating and private messaging system.

Here are some more highlights from the study:
  • In one year alone, Airbnb guests in North America saved the equivalent of 270 Olympic-sized pools of water while avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 33,000 cars on North American roads.
  • Airbnb hosts also tend to engage in sustainable practices. Nearly 83% of Airbnb hosts in North America report owning at least one energy efficient appliance at their property.
  • In North America, 95% of Airbnb hosts say they recycle at least one item type at their property; 94% of guests report that they recycle when possible.
  • When staying at an Airbnb, guests are 10-15% more likely to use public transportation, walk or bicycle as their primary mode of transportation than if they had stayed at a hotel.

Check out our listing on Airbnb 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.

Energy Globe Awards Seek Sustainability Projects

Previous Energy Globe Award winner, Water Category, K2 Eco Tank by FMD Design Studio. This shower-sink collects and filters graywater after use and pumps said water into the toilet tank to be used for flushing.
The Annual Energy Globe Awards, an international competition that rewards innovative projects related to sustainability, is seeking entries before the Oct. 8 deadline.

The objective of the ENERGY GLOBE Award is to present successful sustainable projects to a global audience and to demonstrate that for many environmental problems feasible solutions already exist. Projects submitted from over 160 countries take part each year in the awards.

Click here to see last year's winners!

For 2015 innovative projects and smart technologies from around the world are invited to take part again. Participation is open to projects with focus on resource conservation, improving air and water quality, energy efficiency and renewable energies. But also projects that focus on the creation of awareness in these areas will be eligible to participate.

Every individual, private or public institution, companies, NGOs, etc. can submit a project. The submission is free. The deadline has been extended from September to Oct. 8, 2014.

Why participate?
The best projects will be honored as part of a ceremony that will be broadcast worldwide as well as featured by the international media. International winning projects for the 5 award categories of Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Youth will also each receive a 10,000 euro cash award.
In each country the best project is awarded the National Energy Globe Award and presented at the global online platform of Energy Globe.

Are you eligible for participation?
Eligible for participation are projects with a focus on saving resources, improving air, soil, or water quality, increasing energy efficiency, using renewables, as well as anyone making a contribution towards the fight against climate change. No project is too small and none is too big!
Projects can be entered by individuals as well as companies, organizations, and public authorities. Several projects may be entered by a single competitor. Entry is free of charge.

How do I submit my project?
  1. Please prepare your project submission by using the checklist as well as the Word document provided by us (DOC, 100 kB).
  2. This is where the online submission of your project can be completed:
    Please click here to submit your project
Click here for more information about the Energy Globe Awards.

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.

Beyond the Garden Gate: Wild Plant Classification Part I

It was a day as fine as any to bushwhack through the Better Farm wilds in order to classify some native plants! Putting aside their pesky tendency to pop up in the garden rows, wild plants have value that make them well worth knowing. Here is the first installment of the plants I discovered on my romp.

Wild Plant Identification:

Staghorn Sumac
Sumac is native to the Mediterranean, but now grows in abundance throughout the Northern United States. Sumac flowers contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, citric acid and antioxidants; while the bark is useful medicinally as an astringent tea for anti-diarrhea purposes. Staghorn sumac is also antibacterial. Middle Eastern chefs dry the berries, and then grind them up into a spice powder that lasts all year without refrigeration. The spice can be sprinkled on rice, hummus, or kebabs. Sumac tastes slightly sour, tart and citrus-like, very similar to a lemon. Sumac fruit can also be turned into lemonade: Simply put the berries in cold water, rub them to release the juice, and then leave them for several hours to soak and infuse into the water. Strain and drink it. The liquid can also be frozen in ice cube trays and used year-round like lemon juice. (Information from

Red-Panicled or Grey Dogwood
Historically, American dogwood has been used to treat malaria instead of the drug quinine. American dogwood is still used today as medicine for headaches, fatigue, fever, and ongoing diarrhea. It is also used to increase strength, stimulate appetite, and as a tonic. Some people apply American dogwood directly to the skin for boils and wounds.

Elderberry Tree
Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995, and has historically been widely used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health, and as a remedy for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections, and tonsillitis.  Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not. Elderberries contain organic pigments, tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid, vitaman A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic. Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. According to test tube studies2 these flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage. In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system.

Butter-and-Eggs serve as a diuretic, purgative and astringent. Leaf tea can be used as a laxative, strong diuretic for dropsy, jaundice, enteritis with drowsiness, skin diseases, piles, liver and bladder problems. Ointment made from the flowers is used externally for piles, skin eruptions, sores, and ulcers. A “tea” made with the plant's milk may also be used as an insecticide. (From MedicinalHerbInfo.)

Toadflax, Common Toadflax, Yellow Toadflax, Butter-and-Eggs, Wild Snapdragon -

Spotted Touch-Me-Not
Jewelweeld has been used as a treatment for eczema, insect bites, rashes, and spring tonics. It is also an effective cure for poison ivy. Flowers can be rubbed on skin as a natural insect repellent.
Burdock Root contains a number of medicinal properties that have been used for hundreds of years. Most traditionally, herbalists use it as a blood purifier. The root also overs relief from abscesses, acne, carbuncles, psoriasis and eczema. The herb increases circulation to the skin by helping to detoxify epidermal tissues. Burdock Root has additionally been reported to destroy bacteria and fungus cultures. It is a popular detoxifying agent that produces a diuretic effect on the body which aids the filtering of impurities from the bloodstream. By promoting perspiration, Burdock Root eliminates toxins through the skin. Burdock Root contains inulin, a carbohydrate that strengthens the liver. The high concentration of inulin and mucilage aids in the soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. The high concentration of inulin is helpful for individuals afflicted with diabetes and hypoglycemia as it provides helpful sugar that does not provoke rapid insulin production. Inulin is aromatic, stimulant, expectorant, tonic, stomachic, and antiseptic. Burdock Root can also be used as a mild laxative that aids in the elimination of uric acid or gout.  

Burdock root helps the kidneys to filter out impurities from the blood very quickly. It clears congestion in respiratory, lymphatic, urinary and circulatory systems. Burdock  releases water retention, stimulates digestion, aids kidney, liver and gallbladder function.  It also functions as an aperient, depurative, and antiscorbutic. Decoctions of Burdock have also been historically used for soothing the kidneys, relieving the lymphatic system, rheumatism, gout, GI tract disorders, stomach ailments, constipation, catarrh, fever, infection, fluid retention and skin problems. An article in Chemotherapy identified the chemical arctigenin contained in Burdock as an “inhibitor of experimental tumor growth.” European and Chinese herbalists have long considered burdock root's "lightly warming, moistening effect an excellent tonic for the lungs and liver.  It reportedly stimulates toxic waste through the skin and urine, improving digestion and is good for arthritis and rheumatism.
A recent study showed that Burdock blocked dangerous chemicals from causing damage to cells, suggesting to the possibility that burdock may help decrease the risk of developing cancer from toxic chemicals. And finally, despite Burdock’s reputation as a noxious weed, it is the source of several very palatable foods. Edible components of the Burdock plant are its roots, seeds, and its young stems. Young stalks are boiled to be eaten like asparagus, raw stems and young leaves are eaten in salads. Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies, but most recipes call for the root which has a sweetish and mucilaginous taste. Fresh burdock root also has a distinct aroma. It has been used, after chopping and roasting, as a coffee substitute. Originally cultivated in China for medicinal purposes, this unique root has become a sought-after specialty in Japan. Flavorful and crunchy, burdock is an excellent source of fiber, along with the vitamins and minerals. Its nutty taste is delicious sautéed in combination with carrots or just some soy sauce and a bit of sugar, or it can be deep-fried in a tempura batter. Avoid rinsing this brown-skinned vegetable until you're ready to use it.  In markets, it's sold with the dirt still lingering on the roots because it is quick to wilt when washed. The white flesh immediately discolors once peeled. You'll want to soak it in a mild vinegar solution until you're ready to cook it to maintain the color. Its hearty flavor is a little like that of potatoes, although it’s related to artichokes. Mashed roots can also be formed into patties and fried.  The white pith can be added to salads or simmered in syrup to make candy or soaked in vinegar  to make pickles. (Information from Herbal Legacy.)

Chicory as a homeopathic remedy is used for sluggish digestion that may lead to headaches. Herbally, chicory is a bitter used to increase appetite and promote digestion. As a culinary herb, young chicory leaves are used in salads. Chicory root is best known as a coffee substitute. (From Holistic Health Careers)


Milkweeds secrete latex containing cardiac glycosides that are medicinally valuable in the treatment of heart disease. This same latex is an old home remedy for warts. These compounds are also part of a chemical defense that the butterflies deploy against birds who would prey on them, explaining in part their fascination with these plants. Milkweed serves as a major nectar source for butterflies and bees; both of which have been in rapid decline in large part because of herbicides like Roundup, which kills virtually all plants except crops genetically modified to survive it. As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, and another found 90 percent was gone. The agricultural landscape has been sterilized. You can help! Become an active participant now. Make a difference today. It all starts with one seed...and you to plant it. (From Annie's Remedy)

To read Part II of this study, click here.

In Retrospect: Sustainability Student Xuan Du

What an amazing two months it has been. When I pulled up to Better Farm’s driveway for the first time, I expected an immersive crash-course in sustainability initiatives. What I didn’t expect was how close I would become with the people and area around Redwood.

Better Farm is a testament to how easily anyone can implement green practices. From indoor aquaponics and hydroponics to rainwater catchment systems, it doesn’t take much to reduce your carbon footprint. Better Farm’s initiatives may be on a small scale, but its impact spreads. Community members and visitors who wouldn’t otherwise care about sustainability are exposed to all of our various initiatives, whether through conversation, workshops, or tours of the grounds. I’ve heard so many guests marvel at the uniqueness of this place and what a lovely respite it is from city life. After staying on the property, it’s hard not to share what you’ve learned with your own friends, family, and community.

I’ve never felt more connected to the land than during my time at the farm. Working in the garden gave me a whole new relationship with my food, and I derived so much satisfaction from harvesting the vegetables. Even though I picked snap peas nearly every day, I was always excited to see a new pea tucked under the stalks and leaves. It was really quite something to witness the growth of a crop every step of the way.

A passage from What We Leave Behind by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay, one of my assigned readings (and now favorite books), stuck with me: “Any working definition of sustainability must emerge from and conform to a particular landbase – to what that landbase can freely give forever – and not be an abstract set of principles, or rationalizations, imposed upon the landbase. The landbase is primary, and what we do to it (or far more appropriately, with and for it) must always follow the landbase’s lead.” The land comes first. Whatever industrialized society we have permitted can only go so far as what the land allows. At Better Farm, we work in tandem with the landbase. Pesticides and fertilizers are never used, and we do everything with the understanding that everything goes back to the land. The food scraps from the kitchen go to the chickens, whose soiled bedding is used to mulch the garden, which provides us with our meals. “You feed me, I feed the soil, the soil feeds everyone, the soil feeds me, I feed you, you feed the soil, and so on” (Jensen and McBay).

Everything about Better Farm seems to come full circle, which is at the root of sustainability. “For an action to be sustainable you must be able to perform it indefinitely” (Jensen and McBay). Better Farm’s goals are fully aligned with this idea. During my internship, I have been hyper aware of the life cycle of everything we use, be it old wood planks repurposed into the exterior of a sauna or the compost used in the garden. Modern society has been trained to throw things out and never think about them again, but life begins with death, decomposition, and decay.

Every day at Better Farm was a new adventure, and I’ll miss every person and animal associated with this place (even Kiwi, the obnoxious rooster). I’ll never forget how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful environment. Every evening when I closed the farm stand, I took my time carrying the unsold produce back to the house, because the splendor of the property at sunset never failed to mesmerize me. No cars were on the road, the chickens roamed freely in the yard, and everything basked in a warm glow. This is what life should be like, and I’m so glad I got to experience it.

I’ll be back, Better Farm.

Solar Radiation Mapping at Better Farm

Solar radiation map of Better Farm by Elyna Grapstein.

Elyna Grapstein studied sustainability at Better Farm in September of 2012 before going on to study at SUNY-ESF's ranger school in Wanakena, N.Y. While there, her projects have included land-cover mapping (as we showcased in December on our blog), and more recently, solar radiation mapping of Better Farm's property. Below are her findings.

Elyna Grapstein's completed solar radiation map and guide.
Solar Radiation on Better Farm Property
by Elyna Grapstein
Better Farm, a sustainability education center and artist colony, exists as a place where visitors and residents have the opportunity to experiment in a way which will "[enhance] the local and regional community by offering each individual the opportunity to expand, grow, and flourish sustainably." I feel that one productive way in which Better Farm may choose to experiment is with renewable sources of energy—specifically solar power. These maps were made with the intention of displaying where solar radiation is strongest and weakest on Better Farm's property in the case of wanting to install solar panels in the future, and where those panels would be be placed based on solar radiation strength and current land conditions.
Better Farm is located in the Indian River Lakes region of Jefferson County, New York, in the hamlet of Redwood. It is set in the center of several lakes: east of Butterfield Lake, west of Lake of the Woods, northeast of Millsite Lake, and southwest of Grass Lake. Set west of the Adirondack Region, Redwood's topography consists of hills and wetland.

First, I set up ArcMap 10 through ArcGIS so that I could use the basemap feature, World Imagery. I then navigated to the Jefferson County website and located the Better Farm property parcel number and boundaries through interpreting Jefferson County's tax parcel. Once the property was located, I took a screen shot and saved the image as a .jpeg. Doing so allowed me to crop and edit the screen shot so only the necessary image components were present. I added tax parcel data, adjusted its transparency so I could see the parcel's outline and base layer for georeferencing. Once that was done, I was able to heads-up digitize a polygon shapefile of Better Farm's property.

The other piece of downloaded data was a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of Redwood. This was necessary to map solar radiation. I was also able to access this data from the Jefferson County website.

After the polygon of the property was made, I began to cut the polygon using the "cut polygons" tool to distinguish different land uses. This was done through interpretation of orthoimages and my own knowledge of the property. Once this was done, I added the necessary features to make it a complete map (Fig. 1). Figure 2 is designed to portray the amount of solar radiation that comes in contact with the property. This map was created by turning on the spatial analyst extension property and then extracting the mask so only the DEM raster cells that are within the property parcel would be exercised. My downloaded DEM file was the "input raster" and the polygon of the Better Farm property that I had digitized was the feature mask data.

From here, deriving solar radiation was straight forward. After selecting "Area Solar Radiation" under "Spatial Analyst Tools", inputting the extracted Better Farm DEM and selecting the time configuration for the year 2013, I was able to create a map of solar radiation.

To create Figure 3, figures 1 and 2 were overlapped, the solar radiation map was made transparent use the "Effects" toolbar, and the spaces that had the highest solar radiation were marked using a "points" shapefile.

Fig. 3
Based on these map overviews, it seems the spaces that experience the highest amounts of solar radiation are located on the forested portions of the property.  This is not unexpected, as approximately 73 percent of the property is forested (Fig. 1, Table 3). However, the areas experiencing the strongest amount of solar impact also happen to be located on edges; so if solar is ever to be installed at these locations, getting to these spots and clearing forested spaces would not be nearly as involved relative to other locations on the property.

The areas with the second-greatest amounts of solar radiation are generally located in more remote zones and are more difficult to access; however there is one location on the southern end of the property's lawn that would make a good location to set up solar panels. No land clearing would be necessary, as the space is vacant and there is little slope to interfere with the installation (Fig. 3).

Though solar power may not be in Better Farm's immediate future, these three maps may be used as references for numerous other projects involving property management and planning—be it for organizing crop locations for Better Farm's garden, building trails through the forest, or even as an educational tool for visiting students and guests.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.