Jun 17, 2021
The Agrihoods Are Coming
Editor’s Note: Hey AGR Community, Director of Business Development, Jeffrey Landau here. Over the next year, I will be on the road traveling America searching for the farms and farmers who feed us. The gap between the producer and consumer has never been wider. I will be checking out farms big and small, commercial and communal, regenerative and hydroponic, along this journey. There’s no one-size-fits-all in agriculture, and each production method and system has a place in the agricultural landscape. I hope to shed some light on our food system by sharing farmers’ stories. Follow me here!
As I’ve started traveling the US searching for farmers’ stories, the conversations continue to gravitate towards how farms have succeeded through the power of community. Farmers know that a direct connection to their neighbors strengthens their business and can build community in ways that haven’t been seen since the industrialization of agriculture; however, the bridge between the producer and the consumer has widened so much that the average American does not know a single farmer.
In the last century, we have removed the production of our food from urban and suburban environments and sequestered it to the rural countryside. Our city and suburban communities teem with amenities from gyms to golf courses, pools, and communal lounge spaces, but a new trend is emerging. This trend stems from the power agriculture can have in our communities and the power agriculture has to create community.
Welcome, the agrihood.
Agrihoods are part of a growing trend of new housing developments that aim to create food-production spaces as a focal amenity for the community. The Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global member driven-organization of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts, defines agrihoods as “single-family, multifamily, or mixed-use communities built with a working farm or community garden as a focus.”
The “agrihood” concept isn't new; rather, it is a facelift of a popular movement that dates back a few generations ago. In WWI and WWII, the United States and other countries at war promoted victory gardens. More fruits, vegetables, and herb gardens in parks and private residences successfully supplemented food rations for families at home and alleviated pressures on the food system during the war. In the early 1900s, kibbutzim started appearing across Israel. The kibbutz, had begun as an established collective community based on agriculture production. Today, over 250 kubbitzim across the country make up for 9% of Israel’s industrial output.
Food production is trending in real estate development. Summarized in Agrihoods: Cultivating Best Practices, a report published by ULI, people feel strongly about having high-quality food but may not want to be personally engaged in agriculture every day. Knowing how and where their food is grown is becoming increasingly important to consumers, and community farmers are in a unique position to inspire, educate, and bring people together to be surrounded by agriculture.
On the outskirts of Wellington, FL, as far west as you can go right before Twentymile Bend, lies Arden, South Florida’s first agrihood. Arden is a 1,200-acre development with the goal of serving 2,000 planned homes through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm model.
When I pulled into Arden, I was greeted by the Farm Directors Tripp Eldridge and Carmen Franz. This powerhouse duo is responsible for the two-acre production field, two U-pick gardens, a children's garden, a butterfly garden, and a barn that triples as a workspace, retail space, and venue, all while raising a newborn baby boy.
As we traversed the farm, Eldridge & Franz gave me a breakdown of the cultivation areas, the fruit trees, perennials, and everything in between. They were ecstatic to share their process, their vision, and even their little wins, like having mango trees planted instead of oaks. As we made our way, they shared with me the fruits of their labor (literally). We snacked on herbs, berries, and even some miracle berries (synsepalum dulcificum). These little red gumdrop-looking berries, when eaten, are known to make sour foods taste sweet.
What compelled Eldridge and Franz to signup for this job is the history of this area. Prior to Arden, the land was used as a dumpsite for the energy and water management plants that were digging reservoirs in the surrounding area. Arden is built upon 12 feet of sand, not a great medium for farming; however, with copious amounts of organic matter trucked in, a small to medium-size farm focused on local production was able to take root and become successful.
Residents at Arden join a CSA as part of their homeowner’s association fee (HOA). This fee provides them with seven shares per season, one every four weeks. The challenge Eldrige and Franz faced when first hired was how to provide a consistent high-quality CSA share to each household as the number of households increased over time. Today, Arden is wrapping up its third season at around 50% production capacity, feeding roughly 130 families. As the community grows, so will the growing capacity.
In the next 2-3 years, Eldrige and Franz plan to open up another 5 acres of field production.
Agrihoods such as Arden bridge the divide between consumer and producer and provide the opportunity to teach children the joys, benefits, and challenges of producing food from a young age.
Arden brought me back to my childhood, where my friends and I would play by the community pool and sneak off to the mulberry trees planted around the pool. We would jump as high as our little legs would take us, plucking mulberries from the tree, staining our hands and mouths as we dug into the little purple treasures. Coming to Arden and rekindling fond memories around agriculture reminded me of what got me started in urban agriculture. It reassured me that our communities are recognizing how important it is to keep farms close to them and their children.
With agrihoods, the average American can know their farmer. These communities can connect humans back to the land, and they can create the opportunity to see and learn firsthand how food is grown and the time and energy it takes to feed a community.
Expect to see more of them.