Priorities Switch. Suburban “amenities” morph from golf courses to farms. YES!

Love this! And of course, the giant suburban lawns are also ripe for permaculture, and how about clusters of tiny houses in between or in back of the existing giant McMansions, with young people in them who crave to get their hands in the soil . . . And of course, turn those wasteful, lonely McMansions into vibrant community centers, with little businesses in each of the giant bedrooms . . .

So much to do, so little time, and so damn much fun doing it! As the giant raven squawked to me back in 1989, while grasping my shoulders from behind with her claws, startling me awake from a nighttime dream, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT’S TIME! IT’S TIME!”

Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms

December 17, 2013


December 17, 2013 3:15 AM

Listen to the Story

Morning Edition, npr. Via Keith and Sura.

3 min 52 sec
Paige Witherington is the farmer at Serenbe Farms, a 30-acre certified organic and biodynamic farm adjacent to a housing development outside Atlanta. It's one of more than 200 or so subdivisions with an agricultural twist nationwide.

Paige Witherington is the farmer at Serenbe Farms, a 30-acre certified organic and biodynamic farm adjacent to a housing development outside Atlanta. It’s one of more than 200 or so subdivisions with an agricultural twist nationwide.

Courtesy of Serenbe

When you picture a housing development in the suburbs, you might imagine golf courses, swimming pools, rows of identical houses.

But now, there’s a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.

It’s called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture — a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production — a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park — that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.

“These projects are becoming more and more mainstream,” says Ed McMahon, a fellow with the Urban Land Institute. He estimates that more than 200 developments with an agricultural twist already exist nationwide.

“Golf courses cost millions to build and maintain, and we’re kind of overbuilt on golf courses already,” he says. “If you put in a farm where we can grow things and make money from the farm, it becomes an even better deal.”

In Fort Collins, Colo., developers are currently constructing one of the country’s newest development-supported farms. At first blush, the Bucking Horse development looks like your average halfway-constructed subdivision. But look a bit closer and you’ll see a historic rustic red farm house and a big white barn enclosed by the plastic orange construction fencing.

The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

“When we show it, people are either like, ‘You guys are crazy. I don’t see the vision here at all,’ or they come and they’re like, ‘This is going to be amazing,’ ” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, who works for Bellisimo Inc., the developer that purchased the 240-acre plot of land.

When finished, Bucking Horse will support more than 1,000 households. Agriculture and food production are the big draws, Kirkpatrick says. Land has been set aside for vegetables. There will be goats and chickens, too, subsidized by homeowners. Soon they’ll be hiring a farmer for a 3.6-acre CSA farm. There’s also a plaza designed for a farmers market, and an educational center where homeowners can take canning classes.

In short, the neighborhood plan is infused with the quaint, pastoral, even romantic view of farming.

“Our public restrooms are in an old chicken coop, and it’ll be half public restroom and half chicken coop,” Kirkpatrick says.

After World War II, Americans escaping crowded cities flocked to the suburbs. Most suburbanites didn’t want to be right next to a farm, and so restrictive zoning pushed livestock and tractors out of new residential areas. Now, says Lindsay Ex, an environmental planner with the city of Fort Collins, municipalities are being forced to change their codes.

“We used to have residential separated from agriculture, and now we’re seeing those uses combined,” says Ex.

And that can be a great deal for small-time farmers, says Quint Redmond, who runs a company called Agriburbia, which operates farms within suburban developments across the country. In development-supported agriculture projects, he says, the developer, or homeowners association, ends up making the big farm purchases — not the farmer.

“The best possible thing for a farmer is to have the infrastructure ready,” he says. “That is where most farming goes upside down or goes broke.”

Not to mention that the neighborhood is filled with people who already have an interest in local food, so “there’s a real market for that farmer,” Redmond says.

The marketing of these new neighborhoods appears to be working — at least at Bucking Horse, where the developer says 200 single-family lots were snatched up within days of going on the market. Values of existing homes have jumped 25 percent since construction began on the agricultural amenities.

“Once we saw this and the plans they had for it, we were really sold on the lifestyle,” says Lindley Greene, who moved to Bucking Horse in March with her husband and two young sons.

Once the neighborhood farm is up and running, Greene says, she’ll be volunteering to get her hands dirty.

“We love the idea of it,” she says. “To have it right here — not have it in our backyard, but still in our backyard — is awesome.”

This story comes to us via Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting collaboration that focuses on agriculture and food production.

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0 Responses to Priorities Switch. Suburban “amenities” morph from golf courses to farms. YES!

  1. And use them for solar panel energy collectives also. If you look at your own community you will likely find similar patterns of marginally operated, subsidized, golf courses in the array of golf courses in your planning area.

    You’re probably like my community. We have one economically marginal community owned golf courses of the several courses in and near Livermore. In my community for example the city owns two courses. One of which has been a long term financial loss subsidized by the residents and maintained out of the General Fund as needed. We have two additional, for profit, open to the public golf courses plus a nearby gated community golf course for a total of 5 courses in and adjacent to my city of under 100,000 population. My town of Livermore California is on the eastern edge of Silicon Valley. A lot of our workers commute back to work over the hill into Silicon Valley.

    Looking at just one example… Springtown. Discussion of golf courses alternative uses has been elevated on par with discussion of sacred cows, but here we go….

    Here’s the current ticket price to play on our most problematic course:
    Golf Livermore – Rates at Springtown Golf Course for 9 holes
    Regular Rates Weekdays Weekend
    Green Fees $16 $18
    Cart Rental (per person, per 9 holes) $ 6 $ 6
    Unlimited Monthly Play Passes
    Adult Individual – $100
    Adult Couple – $140
    Senior – $95
    Senior Couple – $125
    Junior (16 and under) – $65
    We also offer reduced rates for Seniors, Juniors and 18 hole play

    Other Golf Course in and around my Community:

    We also have: (a) MUNICIPAL FACILITY: The Las Positas Golf Course (at our airport), (b) PRIVATE FACILITY: The Poppy Ridge Golf Course, (c) (PRIVATE FACILITY) We are forbidden to mention our Gated Community, “Ruby Hills Golf Course” as belonging to Livermore, even though we are granted the high honor and prestige of processing their sanitary sewer so they can exist. Their mailing address is Pleasanton not Livermore — sniff, please. (d) PRIVATE FACILITY: our 125+ year old winery family (The Wente’s), high quality “The Course & Grill – Wente Vineyards” (I love Wente’s Grill; they have 5-star restaurant chiefs serving eggs and bacon with homemade breads and great coffee to those of us who wander in from the nature walk off the East Bay Region Park, chiefs that they borrow from their classy Wente Restaurant over at the entry. It’s a well kept secret that only us locals know about.)


    Rather than kicking Grandpa and Grandma off the Springtown course, we certainly could entertain creative alternatives through calls for alternative management proposals that included partial participation by the public in nooks and crannies around the course, with water provided by the municipal service water agencies for agricultural uses and focus on some areas set aside for solar collectives also serving our community. You may be able to serve all three interests compatibly: Golf, Agriculture-Farming, Energy Production…. just like rice patties and fish farming. Find what works and tweak it again and again. Our local airport open spaces have considerable open areas the residents would be “delighted” to see utilized as solar collectives and/or agricultural uses. They would come out in vast numbers to support such uses. The problem is the agencies fear public interest in the management of these sacred cows. Vested interests do not want you near their domains. So creative activism is probably required.

    PUC is The State Bottleneck for Competitive Energy Production

    Our Public Utility Commission (PUC) in California seems to serve mostly as a rubber stamp voice for our power companies that enjoy monopolies in California, public relations projections to the contrary notwithstanding. PG&E in the North state and Southern California Edison in the South state. Our PUC does not allow real collective competition with these utilities. Although I believe it is legal for communities to elect to go into power distribution, more rules would be needed for real competition.

    If you look at your own community you will likely find similar patterns of marginally operated, subsidized, golf courses in the array of courses in your planning area. There is likely all sort of public interest in seeing creative uses integrated into the area but it will probably take an act of God to break through the vested interests.

  2. Reposted with a link sent to each of my city council members.

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