Forbes VIEW ARTICLE
Sep 12, 2019
Forget the pristine landscaping, five-star golf courses and resort-style amenities that master-planned communities have become known for. Thanks to a handful of developers and their more sustainable approach to planning, a new vision of the American neighborhood has emerged—and it’s called the “agrihood.”
Rather than lap pools and community centers, these neighborhoods boast organic farms, herb gardens and edible nature trails. They have weekend farmer’s markets, cooking classes and employ full-time farm directors and artists-in-residence. Some even have camps and children’s programs to help foster healthy, sustainable living in the next generation.
According to the Urban Land Institute, “Agrihoods offer proven financial, health, and environmental benefits—to the stakeholders involved in their implementation, to surrounding communities and to the planet.”
One of the foremost examples of this trend? That’d be Serenbe. The Georgia agrihood offers residents a 25-acre organic farm, regular farmer’s markets and an annual plant sale. Blueberry bushes are planted along all the community’s crosswalks for “seasonal snacking,” according to the neighborhood’s VP of Marketing Monica Olsen.
The neighborhood also conserves water via landscaping and uses naturally treated wastewater for irrigation.
There’s also Willowsford, a Virginia community boasting a public farm stand and weekly produce subscriptions, and Arden, an agrihood located in Palm Beach County, Fla.
Arden is home to a five-acre farm, run by a pair of full-time farm directors. Residents can take their pick of fruits, vegetables and herbs all grown right in the neighborhood. There’s also a general store and plenty of opportunities to help out around the farm.
Brenda Helman and her husband were the 15th buyers to secure their spot in the Arden community.
“It provides a lifestyle that seems to have been left behind in bygone times,” Helman said. “The homes have front porches, you know your neighbors here, and there are children always playing in the fresh outdoors. This community brings hometown values, fresh-grown vegetables and neighbors knowing neighbors back to us.”
There’s currently an agrihood in at least 27 of the country’s 50 states, but a report from the Urban Land Institute says the trend is growing.
It’s no wonder why, either. The communities don’t just benefit those who live there. According to ULI, there are big benefits for developers, too.
“By including a working farm as a central project feature, developers can unlock special advantages, ranging from reduced amenity costs, increased project marketability and faster sales for residential properties to opportunities for enhanced community social ties and access to land for current and would-be farmers,” ULI reported.
There’s a price premium, too. According to Brad Leibov, homes in the agrihood he helped develop in Grayslake, Illinois, are going for 30% more than homes in comparable neighborhoods.
Throw in that agrihoods are also typically clustered, with homes located on densely concentrated, smaller lots, and developers can often make more with less in these communities. In Serenbe, for example, founder Steven Nygren was able to use clustering to add 20% more residential units than traditional planning would allow.
Still, profitability isn’t the only thing to be gained from this new practice. Developers also have the chance to make a difference—both on the world and those who inhabit it.
As ULI explains, “By building agrihoods, real estate decision-makers—including developers, investors, owners and property managers—can leverage a focus on food production in development to create value, promote equitable economic development, enhance environmental sustainability and improve public health.”