It's a Beautiful Day in the Agrihood

Document created by Gary E Moore on Oct 15, 2020Last modified by Gary E Moore on Oct 15, 2020
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Typically, the Friday Footnote postings focus on the past. This one focuses on the present and future. While researching the “Subsistence Homesteads” for the Sept. 11, 2020 Footnote (Urban Agriculture, 1930s Style) , I ran across a new concept. At least it was new to me, and that was “Agrihoods.”

Subsistence Homesteads vs. Agrihoods

If you remember back a month ago, we explored subsistence homesteads. Subsistence homesteads were modern but inexpensive houses and outbuildings, located on a plot of land upon which a family could produce a considerable portion of the food required for home consumption. Communities comprised of subsistence homesteads were built on the fringes of cities. The idea was that the homesteaders would be employed in the city, but live close enough to the city to commute to jobs there. The urban homesteaders would be able to have a garden and raise chickens or livestock on their homesteads. Typically, the homesteaders were currently living in sub-standard housing in the city and had depressed incomes. This was one of the New Deal programs during the Great Depression.

An Agrihood is somewhat like a subsistence homestead in several respects but differs in two major aspects. 1). The homes in the Agrihoods are typically very upscale and 2.) private developers, not the government are creating the Agrihoods.

Figure 1. A home in the Olivette Agrihood near Asheville, North Carolina.

An article from the Business Insider website (Loudenback, 2017) titled “Rich millennials are ditching the golf communities of their parents for a new kind of neighborhood” starts with three bulleted points:

  • A new type of housing community known as an “agrihood” is popping up around the US.
  • Agrihoods are built around working farms and are replacing the golf communities once favored by baby boomers.
  • There are about 150 agrihoods in the US and more in development.

Loudenback (2017) goes on to flesh out these bulleted points:

Millennials are saying “so long” to the country club and “hello” to the farm.

Many so-called agrihoods — short for “agricultural neighborhoods” — are cropping up around the US, and they’re aimed at farm-to-table-loving millennials.

Loosely defined by the Urban Land Institute as master-planned housing communities with working farms as their focus, agrihoods have ample green space, barns, and outdoor community kitchens. Some boast greenhouses and rows and rows of fruit trees. The homes are typically built to high environmental standards — think solar panels and composting.

Agrihoods are designed to appeal to young, active families who love to eat healthy and spend time outdoors — and they’re not off the grid.

Figure 2. The Arden Agrihood Gardens and Barn in Florida.

Figure 3. Inside the Arden “barn”

Agrihoods are a boon to developers. It costs substantial money to build a golf course community. The design and construction of a golf course involves money and takes up a considerable amount of land. It is much more economical to set aside a few acres to be farmed and then build houses around that acreage.

A couple of the notable Agrihoods are (Buczynski, nd):

Agritopia (Arizona) – Located well inside the Phoenix metro area, Agritopia features 450 residential lots along with commercial, agricultural, and open space tracts. All are specifically designed to reduce physical, social and economic barriers to relationships between neighbors. The central feature is a working farm complete with lambs, chickens, a citrus grove and rows of heirloom vegetables. “By encouraging sharing, making homes more maintenance-free, having easy pedestrian access to most of a resident’s needs, and making an adaptable community, our lives can be simplified giving us more time to enjoy friends and family,” explain the residents.

Figure 4. A scene at Agritopia.

Serenbe (Georgia) – Serenbe is a 1,000 acre community located under 30 minutes from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The develpment’s four omega-shaped hamlets are carefully fitted into the natural landscape forming an interface between green, wetland and watershed areas of the site and the surrounding sloping hills. Central to all is Serenbe Farms, a 25-acre working, organic farm and CSA which provides organic produce for Serenbe’s three on-site restaurants as well as other businesses throughout Atlanta and The Chattahoochee Hill Country. The name Serenbe is a play on the words Be Serene.

Figure 5. A Serenbe farming scene.

Most Agrihoods have a hired farm manager/educator to manage the farming operations, coordinate volunteers, teach classes about agriculture, and operate the onsite Farmers Market.

Figure 6. What the farm managers at Arden in Florida do on a Wednesday.

Benefits of Agrihoods to Farmers

The National Center for Appropriate Technology has published a brochure about Agrihoods (Birkby, 2016). They tell how Agrihoods could benefit farmers:

Since most agrihoods are based around a working farm, they can also provide steady jobs to the farm managers. Given the low income typically earned by many farmers (especially beginning farmers), the benefits of working at an agrihood can be significant. USDA’s most recent agricultural census estimates that 57 percent of America’s farms gross less than $10,000 a year (USDA, 2014). That means more than half of all farmers in America have to rely on second, and sometimes third, jobs of the farm to cover living expenses.

Often an agrihood will hire a farm manager and pay a much higher salary than the farmer could make managing his own land. And agrihoods can provide a great first job to beginning farmers who can’t afford their own land but are willing to work on the agrihood in exchange for a steady salary and great experience. Besides the salary, the farmer and his or her family are often provided with free housing on the farm, which is a major benefit. And farmers living on-site are better able to handle farm chores and deal with farm management issues than someone living further away from the farm.

Farmers in nearby areas can also benefit from an agrihood, since agrihoods often serve as an agricultural educational center. Farmers in surrounding areas are invited to participate in workshops and field days at the agrihood, with topics ranging from beginning farmer issues to marketing organic produce. The local agricultural community may also interact with agrihood residents during these workshops. Agrihoods often serve as a nexus for weekend farmers markets, which may attract surrounding farmers who sell their local produce to agrihood residents.

Figure 7. Dan Fillius, the farm manager at Middlebrooks Farm Agrihood outside of Des Moines, Iowa.

Benefits of Agrihoods for Young People and Agricultural Educators

If you are near an Agrihood, there are several opportunities for you and your students. Field trips (when we return to some semblance of normalcy after the pandemic) to an Agrihood would be educational. Since a number of Agrihoods practice sustainability and organic farming your students could see these practices in operation.

There would also be the opportunity for internships and Supervised Agricultural Experience programs. This could be for current students or recent graduates. The Red Barn Agrihood near Bentonville, Arkansas has a structured internship program for young people. The Go Agrihood in Davie, Florida is actively recruiting volunteers/interns. I am guessing most Agrihoods would welcome volunteers.

Since teaching Agrihood residents about farming and gardening is an important element of Agrihoods, perhaps some of your students could make presentations and conduct demonstrations at the Agrihood. This would develop the skills and abilities of your students and could contribute to the Agricultural Communications or Agricultural Education FFA proficiency awards.

Concluding Remarks

Agrihoods may not exactly be the utopias they claim to be. Three years after launching the Cannery Urban Farm, part of the Cannery, a 547-home development in Davis, California, the farm is facing a $100,000 yearly deficit, says Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, the nonprofit organization operating the farm. The farm has encountered myriad unexpected issues, from poor soil and staff shortages to homeowners indiscriminately picking crops (Brass, 2019). The Center for Land-Based Learning chose to relinquish its lease on the Cannery effective this past August and will no longer manage the farm.

An article in the Orlando (FL) Sentinel (Kassab, 2015) titled “Agrihood is Clever Marketing for East Orange” calls Agrihoods “genius marketing” and that it is still urban sprawl “sprinkled with some salt and pepper to make it taste better.”

However, the growth of Agrihoods during the past few years indicate they are here to stay. Agricultural educators might want to learn more about the Agrihoods and explore establishing partnerships with them. Since many Agrihoods operate Farmer Markets, this could be an avenue for your students and your program to market produce or greenhouse crops.

If you would like to learn more about Agrihoods you might want to visit https://agrihoodliving.com/. A couple and their young son spent over seven months traveling over 7,000 miles, visiting over twenty Agrihoods in ten different states including OR, ID, CO, IL, OH, VA, NC, GA, FL and TX. On this website they share what they learned and have videos of the Agrihoods they visited. Or a simple search for Agrihoods on Google will yield numerous listings of Agrihoods.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Have your students write a short report about Agrihoods and then provide their opinion about them. Or they could select one specific Agrihood to write about and the report to the class what they learned about that specific Agrihood.
  2. Pick four Agrihoods and have your students engage in a “judging contest” where they rank the four Agrihoods. First, you might want to establish the criteria on which the Agrihoods should be evaluated. You might want to include theVillage Farmin Austin, Texas in your group because this Agrihood has “tiny homes” which is just the opposite of most Agrihood homes.

 

Figure 8. Tiny Houses in the Village Farm Agrihood.

References

Birkby, Jeff (June, 2016). Agrihoods: Development Supported Agriculture. National Center for Appropriate Technology. https://www.extension.iastate.edu/ffed/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Agrihood-Handout.pdf

Brass, Kevin (October, 2019). What Does the Farmer Say About Agrihoods? Urbanland. https://urbanland.uli.org/planning-design/what-does-the-farmer-say-about-agrihoods/

Buczynski, Beth. 12 Agrihoods Taking Farm-to-Table Living Mainstream. Charter for Compassion. https://charterforcompassion.org/shareable-community-ideas/12-agrihoods-taking-farm-to-table-living-mainstream

Kassab, Beth (April, 2015). Agrihood is Clever Marketing for East Orange. Orlando Sentinel. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-lake-pickett-agrihood-beth-kassab-20150420-column.html.

Loudenback, Tanza (Oct. 30, 2017). Rich millennials are ditching the golf communities of their parents for a new kind of neighborhood. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/agrihoods-golf-communities-millennial-homebuyers-2017-10.

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