Developers bet the organic farm
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Forget the golf course. The hot new "amenity" being offered to residents of new subdivisions is a working farm. You don't have to weed it (unless you want to), but you can have access to food that could not be more local and participate in a slice of vanishing farm life. Ironically, the housing developers that are so often the culprits in farmland extinction are starting to save some of it.
There is a difference, of course, between the old farming community where everyone farmed and a planned community with a farm included, but something of the old sense of rural village life can be retained by clustering homes and having them anchored by a farm, as part of set-aside open space. Often a farm market is set up, or a community-supported agriculture program through which residents can buy food shares. Farm-centered festivals and activities bring residents together.
Several hundred projects like this are underway or in the planning stages throughout the country, but there is no one formula for setting one up. Two well-established residential-farm developments: Bundoran Farm (http:/
By contrast, Prairie Crossing (http:/
Most of these projects start with a matchup between a fine old farm to save and a smart developer with a vision, but in the case of Potomac Vegetable Farms (http:/
Another uncommon example is the South Village Community (http:/
It remains to be seen whether development-based farms will progress from enticements to resources that can feed an entire planned community. Encouragingly, a project called Brewster Point in Rockport, Maine, will have a farm that is scaled to provide a significant amount of produce to all the homeowners.
But any progress is good, since farm soil, once lost, is nearly impossible to recover. As Julia Freedgood, head of American Farmland Trust's Growing Local Campaign puts it: "It's fantastic to see the increasing trend recognizing local food as a key element in creating sustainable communities. Ultimately, it's helping keep farms in agriculture."
Damrosch is a freelance writer and the author of "The Garden Primer."