Suburban agriculture: food, not lawns

As someone who lives in an urban setting (and, yeah, I know, my NYC friends are snickering at that), I’m as guilty as anyone of sneering at the suburbs. I always associate the term with cookie-cutter subdivisions in driving distance (but probably not walking distance) of big box stores and chain restaurants. In many cases, that’s fair, but, as The Wall Street Journal noted last week, developers around the US have started to experiment with something different – and potentially more sustainable – in suburban design: the agricultural community.

Yep, the ideas underlying urban agriculture are making their way into the suburbs and exurbs. Developers from California to Wisconsin to Idaho are ditching the lawn-heavy (or golf course-focused) model of suburban development for subdivisions that incorporate edible landscaping (at the individual home and community level), gardening plots and/or working farms. Georgia’s Serenbe development, for instance, includes a 25-acre farm. Virginia’s Bundoran Farm is built on existing farmland, and housing is designed and constructed to conform to the landscape (as well as the continuation of agricultural operations). And Colorado’s Sterling Ranch has partnered with the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield to develop community supported agriculture test sites within in the community.

Nope, local agriculture won’t change the impact of suburban development overnight. Issues such as transportation, access to economic opportunities, building philosophies and energy sources all play into the equation. Most of these communities seem to be taking a holistic approach, though, and incorporating more sustainable approaches to these needs. And given the real estate doldrums still very much a reality, the fact that developers are willing to place their bets on hyperlocal food access is a really promising sign.

Live in one of these communities? Know of one? Worked on the development of one or more? We’d love to get your input.

via @ConnectxNature


Image: An entrance gate at Palmetto, Georgia’s Serenbe Community Credit: nate steiner at Flickr under a Creative Commons license