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Earth Science

Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US 116

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kate Murphy reports at the NYT about a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enlisting thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food. 'I hear from developers all the time about this,' says Ed McMahon. 'They've figured out that unlike a golf course, which costs millions to build and millions to maintain, they can provide green space that actually earns a profit.'

Agritopia, outside Phoenix, has sixteen acres of certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community's 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand. The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership in the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program.

'Wednesday is the highlight of my week,' says Ben Wyffels. 'To be able to walk down the street with my kids and get fresh, healthy food is amazing.' Because the Agritopia farm is self-sustaining, no fees are charged to support it, other than the cost of buying produce at the farm stand or joining the CSA. Agritopia was among the first agrihoods — like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga.; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill.; South Village in South Burlington, Vt.; and Hidden Springs in Boise, Idaho. 'The interest is so great, we're kind of terrified trying to catch up with all the calls,' says Quint Redmond adding that in addition to developers, he hears from homeowners' associations and golf course operators who want to transform their costly-to-maintain green spaces into revenue-generating farms. Driving the demand, Redmond says, are the local-food movement and the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers. 'Everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days.'"
The city of Detroit is planning a 26.9-acre urban farm project on one of its vacant high school properties. Produce from the project will be included in meals for students in the district and later to the larger community.
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Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US

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  • Re:454 / 16 (Score:5, Informative)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @08:37PM (#46479053)

    Those 454 homes are no different from any other suburban home in Gilbert AZ.

    There's just a pair of plots where a strip mall full of dentists and swimming pool supply stores could have been full of fruit and grass.

    Every person in there just goes to the grocery store like everyone else, minus a bag of oranges once in a while that they probably let rot.

  • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @08:41PM (#46479081)

    "About 16" is "About 12."

    Within Agritopia are approximately 12 acres of permanent urban farming. Farming first began here in 1927 when barren desert was cleared. The availability of irrigation water made farming in the desert possible. Initially, alfalfa hay was the principal crop (Gilbert was known as the hay capitol of the world).

    When the Johnston family bought the farm in 1960, cotton was the most important crop. Cotton was grown in rotation with wheat, sorghum, corn, and barley. For a time, sugar beets were grown to supply the Spreckles Sugar plant in Chandler. In the 90’s, cotton became less profitable and the family grew mainly feed crops for dairy cattle, such as corn and alfalfa.

    With the creation of Agritopia, preservation of agriculture was an underlying principle. In 2000, we began to carve out and convert the parcels that would be the permanent urban farming plots. Some of the earliest plots planted were the Medjool date and olive groves as well as the New Orchard (citrus, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, and blackberries).

    The plots closest to the restaurant are for field crops. Seasonally, these plots produce a broad range of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We are particularly proud of our leaf crops (lettuce, endive, asian greens, etc.) and our tomato crop (heirlooms, yellow, red, plum, etc.). The production of the farm is utilized by Joe’s Farm Grill, The Coffee Shop, and is available for purchase at the Agritopia Produce Stand.

    Also, as should be obvious, nobody actually uses this land except Joe's Farm Grill.

    At least they're a tasty place to eat.

  • Re:454 / 16 (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:44AM (#46480215)

    ... assuming he's growing corn

    Bad assumption. They are not growing feed corn. They are growing high value vegetables: endive, arugula, tomatoes, artichokes. Just outside Phoenix, you can grow year round, harvesting continuously.

    I live in San Jose, CA. We also have a long growing season. With a 1/4 acre garden, small orchard, beehive, and a half dozen laying hens, I produce about 80% of my families food by value, and about 50% by calories. We mostly buy bulk cheap stuff like rice, soybeans, flour, and soybean oil, and get everything else from the backyard.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"