Imagine driving down the paved street of a suburban community. Children are riding their bikes toward a neighborhood playground. Couples are walking on the sidewalk with tennis gear headed toward the local tennis courts. Parents are hauling grocery bags filled with snacks that their children will trade away at the lunch table. Now, imagine that those same children are riding their bikes toward a local farm. The couples are walking empty-handed toward the community’s farm-to-table restaurant, and the parents are carrying reusable bags of produce from their neighborhood garden. Some developers are building this type of “community of tomorrow” – a community that centers around a working farm. Dubbed “agrihoods,” these neighborhoods are the latest development in the “farm-to-table” trend that is spreading across America.
At least a dozen agrihoods already exist in the United States. In these communities, the interactions between the residents center around a working farm, rather than a clubhouse or similar recreational facility. The New York Times recently featured a suburb outside of Phoenix called Agritopia. In this community, a grapevine-and-blackberry-bush supporting fence separate a 160-acre farm from 452 single family homes. On Wednesday evenings, the residents go to the “square,” where they load up on boxes of fresh produce, eggs and honey. On the way back, they may stop at the neighborhood’s farm-to-table restaurant or coffee shop. During the week, the residents can continue to stock up on fresh produce from the farm stand (that, by the way, operates on the honor system).
Consumers who take advantage of local and organic food-related trends tend to spend more money on food than those who do not. However, aside from a monthly membership fee that functions much like a homeowner’s association fee (at Agritopia, the fee is $100 per month), living in an agrihood typically costs no more than living in a neighborhood centered on other amenities. For this reason, it is no surprise that these communities are popping up in all areas of the country – Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, GA; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, IL; South Village in South Burlington, VT; and Hidden Springs in Boise, ID.
Not surprisingly, this concept is spreading outside of residential subdivisions and into public downtown areas. For example, Flagler Village, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, has dedicated an 18,000 square foot parcel of property to the “Flagler Village Farm.” Produce farmed on this site will be distributed within a one mile radius, and local residents will have the option of obtaining a “membership” to receive a fresh bag of produce from the farm each week.
Whether a project is developed in the suburbs or a more urban setting, centering the focal point of the project on a farm reflects America’s increased interest in reconnecting with nature and healthy living. As such, Agrihood growth is certainly a trend to watch.