How Agrihoods are Making Farm-To-Table Living Hip
March 5, 2015 | Home and Family
If you’ve ever tasted an heirloom tomato still warm from the vine or an omelet made from just-laid eggs, then you know just how good fresh can be. Now imagine living in a neighborhood where access to farm-raised produce is just steps away from your front door.
Who says you can’t have your organic rutabaga and eat it, too?
Across the country, developers are building a new type of residential neighborhood called an “agrihood.” Rather than having houses clustered around a golf course or country club, these environmentally conscious communities center around a shared working farm. According to Ed McMahon, a senior fellow of sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute who was quoted in UrbanLand magazine, there are 200 agrihoods across the country today, with many more on the way.
Driving the demand for these residential developments is an increased interest in healthy living and the aspiration of many home buyers who want a simpler lifestyle and a stronger sense of community. This type of community can be found in places like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois; South Village in South Burlington, Vermont; and Agritopia in greater Phoenix and one of the first agrihoods in the country.
Some agrihoods have small common gardens; others have multi-acre farms that are home to fruit trees, vineyards and even livestock. Either way, the goal is to provide residents with an ongoing source of locally grown food items.
Depending on the type of working farm and its size, residents can pick their own crops, stock up on fresh produce at their community farm stand, or subscribe to a weekly Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that provides members a box of fruit, veggies, eggs and other items in exchange for a small monthly charge that operates much like a homeowners’ association fee.
The commitment to food doesn’t end at the farm stand, however. Often, many of these developments boast a farm-to-table restaurant, a demonstration kitchen with cooking classes and educational events and other meeting spaces that foster an even deeper sense of community. And some, like Agritopia, even include assisted care and independent living options that encourage multiple generations of families to live within walking distance of each other.
Even with these amenities, you typically can purchase a home in one of these communities for the same price as a similar house in a traditional neighborhood in the area. And often the commitment to sustainability extends beyond farming practices. For example, South Village has a one-acre solar array that produces carbon-free electricity for not only the community but also for the city of South Burlington.
The appeal of agrihoods to residents is obvious: Few communities combine the potential for a healthier lifestyle with the convenience of a suburban neighborhood. But what’s in it for farmers and developers?
Agrihoods typically pay their farm managers an attractive salary—anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000—according to a July 2014 article by food journalist Hannah Wallace. Some even offer profit sharing as an incentive to grow the farm’s sustainability. This is in sharp contrast to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reported in May 2014 that 57 percent of American farmers gross less than $10,000 a year.
Another potential draw is that agrihoods provide a viable entre into the world of farming. Today, the high cost of land, equipment and feed put owning a farm out of reach for most young farmers trying to get a start. Working on an agrihood farm enables them to follow their passion and build their farming skills until such time as they have the financial ability to buy something on their own.
For developers, agrihoods also offer a way to serve an important new market, expand their portfolio of housing projects and turn a profit in the process. In a March 2014 article, Welcome to the Agrihood, Duncan Hurd reported that while many of the first agrihoods were being built just as the real estate market collapsed in 2008, most nonetheless have emerged intact and with strong home values and low turnover.
The agrihood trend is sending the message that sustainability and farm-to-table eating are more than just buzzwords—they’re becoming a lifestyle choice with the power to shape the suburbs of the future. Welcome to the agrihood, indeed!