The Hot New Trend in Suburbia Is Subdivisions With Their Own Farms

Illustration for article titled The Hot New Trend in Suburbia Is Subdivisions With Their Own Farms

You might own a CSA or keep your own chickens in the backyard of your brownstone, but the suburbs are way ahead of you: Communities planned around agriculture are the hot new thing in real estate development, and roughly 200 of them already exist.

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Nebraska NPR affiliate Nebraska Net reports on Bucking Horse, a 1,000-home suburban development in Fort Collins, Colorado, that is planned around Jessup Farm, "the first Artisan Food Village in Northern Colorado." The 129-year-old abandoned property is being rehabbed into a modern working farm—including a 3.6 acre CSA farm, a space for a farmer's market, gardens, chicken coops, and livestock pens.

Illustration for article titled The Hot New Trend in Suburbia Is Subdivisions With Their Own Farms
Illustration for article titled The Hot New Trend in Suburbia Is Subdivisions With Their Own Farms

Images by Jessup Farm.

Then, of course, there are the amenities, lest we forget the implicit privilege of the future residents of such a development: a coffee roaster and yoga studio, for example, and a farm-to-table restaurant. Developments like Jessup—along with hundreds of similar projects—speak the romanticization of a the past. At the same time, this is basically the same old suburban value system—except in this case, provenance and scarcity are transposed on ostentatious displays of wealth and excess. It's farms in the place of golf courses.

Still, the developers interviewed in the piece make a solid point: This is an interesting way to approach development from a small farmer's perspective. Because the developers pay for farming infrastructure and machinery, it takes the financial burden off of the farmer—traditionally, a source of huge strain for independent farms.

One company, called Agriburbia, has 3,000 acres under development at the moment. On their website, the founders speak of a more dire basis for their model: "Because transportation is becoming ever more expensive and wasteful, there is a real need to grow food close to the population base." Other developments put the tilling in the hands of their residents, assigning plot gardens to each home.

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Illustration for article titled The Hot New Trend in Suburbia Is Subdivisions With Their Own Farms

Image: Curator Magazine.

I grew up in a subdivision named after the farm it subsumed: You could still find evidence of its agricultural past in the backyards, where 19th century farming tools would sometimes be discovered. If only the developers of the 1980s could have foreseen today's market—maybe it would've survived. [Net Nebraska; Grist]

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DISCUSSION

Because the developers pay for farming infrastructure and machinery, it takes the financial burden off of the farmer—traditionally, a source of huge strain for independent farms.

I don't think I've ever known a farmer to have an issue with infrastructure and machinery. I grew up in a very rural town surrounded by farms and they all bought the latest and greatest in machinery in order to appear broke a shit on paper so that they'd get the best benefits the government could offer. I had classmates who's farming parents were realistically well off but appeared on paper to be poor as dirt, so they'd get all sorts of need based scholarships when they graduated while anyone living in town would get passed over despite having far less actual income.

That's not to say the farmers weren't also getting dicked over. They probably wouldn't have had to count on government subsidies if the archaic milk pricing scheme wasn't still around at the time (arbitrarily deciding the price of milk based on distance from Eau Claire, WI? What?).

EDIT: I guess I can see this being a boon to new farmers. Getting started is probably not the easiest thing to do, monetarily. But really, how many new farmers are there?