“Agriculture is the new golf”

From the WSJ:

An Apple Tree Grows in Suburbia

Used to be, developers built high-end suburban communities around golf greens.

The hot amenity now? Salad greens.

In a movement propelled by environmental concern, nostalgia for a simpler life and a dollop of marketing savvy, developers are increasingly laying out their cul-de-sacs around organic farms, cattle ranches, vineyards and other agricultural ventures. They’re betting that buyers will pay a premium for views of heirloom tomatoes—and that the farms can provide a steady stream of revenue, while cutting the cost of landscaping upkeep.

Forget multimillion-dollar recreation centers—”our amenities are watching the cows graze and the leaves change,” says Joe Barnes, development principal for Bundoran Farm, a 2,300-acre development set amid apple orchards and cattle pastures outside Charlottesville, Va.

To be sure, the shaky economy has taken a toll on some of these developments, including Bundoran Farms, where the developers are moving ahead with new financial backers after a co-owner of the acreage went into foreclosure. Still, Bundoran’s developers say they have sold 19 lots, which run from about $250,000 to more than $1 million, in the past 10 months. And new communities centered on agricultural development are in various stages of planning and construction in cities from coast to coast, including South Burlington, Vt., Hayes, Va., Boise, Idaho, and Stockton, Calif.

“Agriculture is the new golf,” says Ed McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group focused on land-use planning.

There are three basic models for incorporating agriculture into suburbia. The most straightforward is to set aside land for a farm, orchard or vineyard within the community. Such ventures may be run by an independent contractor who leases the land, or by salaried farmers who work for the developer. A second model creates community gardens—tilled, irrigated and ready for planting—throughout the development. Residents can claim a plot and get their hands dirty. Or new-home buyers might be might be offered a choice of irrigation systems and planter boxes that would allow them to turn their own yards into mini-farms. A final model involves creating edible landscaping throughout common spaces—fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, cabbage and lettuce—and allowing residents to pick whatever they can use. Many of the new developments incorporate more than one of these visions.

The trend has its roots in the growing distaste for prototypical suburban sprawl: mile after mile of look-alike homes broken up by the occasional park. The sustainability movement, with its emphasis on conservation, preservation and local food production, has helped, too. Then there’s the fact that the U.S. already has thousands of golf-course communities, so developers looking to set their subdivisions apart need a new marketing hook.

“We’re not trying to be suburbia,” says Harold Smethills, a principal of Sterling Ranch, a planned development southwest of Denver that will feature a 4-H livestock ranch and hundreds of acres of community gardens.

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18 Responses to “Agriculture is the new golf”

  1. grim says:

    Nom – They beat you to it

    I’ve got to ask though, isn’t this basically all of agricultural America? Is this really something that needed to be “developed”. Don’t thousands of these communities exist already, with real farming going on?

  2. grim says:

    T-10 days until move in! The house is still a complete mess. Did not anticipate the renovations would take 5 months. Not to mention the fact that I’ve got about 100 more projects on the calendar. It’ll never be done. Argh!

  3. NJCoast says:

    Come on Grim didn’t you know all renovations takes twice as long and cost twice as much as planned?

    Welcome to home ownership.

  4. NJCoast says:

    September is the best month here at the shore. Last night night we donned our hoodies and steamed 40 lobsters on the beach, served them with fresh coleslaw, martinis and beer. Doesn’t get any better.

  5. 3b says:

    # NJ Spent yesterday in Sea Girt, a little over cast and chilly, but beautiful.

  6. jamil says:

    Nice article about peak oil and the idiots who have been claiming Peak Oil for the last few hundred years. The article does not mention “Peak Coal” fanatics who started their claims in the 1800s, but the same applies for them.
    Unicorn (or Solyndra) based energy will not save us.

    “There Will Be Oil
    For decades, advocates of ‘peak oil’ have been predicting a crisis in energy supplies. They’ve been wrong at every turn”


  7. xroads says:

    #3 njcoast

    I thought projects were completed in 1/2 and 1 hour increments with commercial breaks.

    “Come on Grim didn’t you know all renovations takes twice as long and cost twice as much as planned?”

  8. Al Mossberg says:

    No doubt this is the trend of the future. The only element missing is the inevitable doubling of food prices –> price controls –> shortages.

    A fantastic idea.

  9. 3b says:

    So people will pay a premium to smell manure???

  10. Juice Box says:

    Just saw the Armando Montelongo Flipper informercial.

    You can be a successful forclosure flipper too!

    He dozen’t hold a candle to Tom Wu or Carlton Sheets, and looks like a fat loser now.


  11. Barbara says:

    12. the real politic would be putting those bikini clad wimmens to work with some contractor bags and shovels.

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  13. cobbler says:

    Alan Tonelson for President:


    Buy American and Fairer Trade Can Solve Job Woes: Alan Tonelson

  14. Margaret says:

    Much appreciated for the information and share!

  15. As a victim of a flood in the early 90’s, I really sympothize with those who lost their homes and belongings. My mom lost almost all of our pictures in the flood we were involved in because of the sheer padamonium that day. – oh and also because that was back when everyone took their pics to get developed old school style.

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