Edible Backyards

Posted: March 13th, 2014 by Brad

Subdivisions may conjure up thoughts of strip malls, sprawl and snarled traffic. Now, think edible backyards.

Developers around the country are luring buyers with amenities centered on concepts known as “development-supported agriculture,” (DSA), “conservation communities,” or “agriburbia®”. As founders of the latter term are fond of explaining, “Home is where the farm is.”

Instead strip malls, these ag-oriented developments are appealing to buyers with promises of sustainability, self-sufficiency, and farm-to-table products. Landscapes are edible, with community gardens, orchards and livestock among the common elements in the package.

DSAs are akin to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, but have more ambitious goals. CSAs strive to forge business relationships between consumers and farmers. DSAs focus on establishing sustainable models of land use with an urban-rural interface that preserves farming cultures, agricultural land, and community-based food security. DSAs also try to cultivate new generations of farmers through farm incubator programs.
 
An executive with the Urban Land Institute estimates more than 200 developments with an agricultural twist currently exist around the U.S. Among pioneers of the movement are Matthew “Quint” Redmond and his wife, Jenny. They coined the term “agriburbia” in 2006.

Agriburbia® is an innovative and growing design movement that integrates aspects of agrarianism with land development. Its founders say the concept incorporates characteristics of New Urbanism, modernism and historic preservation, and other environmentally sustainable principles of real estate development.

Moreover, proponents of agriburbia and other development-supported agriculture believe such projects return both social and economic benefits. Setting aside plots for agriculture uses is not just the right thing to do, Redmond suggests. “It’s profitable.” He predicts homeowners and developers will realize that food-production revenue never declines, unlike traditional development models where revenue stops flowing once all the homes are sold.

Six policies and principles are promoted as part of Agriburbia:

  • Agricultural Production: No loss of agricultural value or revenue (“Green Fields” development), or production of dietary requirements of the project or equivalent cash from sales crops, or combination thereof.
  • Locally Grown Food: Production of a significant portion (30 to 50%) of dietary requirements grown within or in the immediate surrounding area of the community
  • Conserves and Promotes Natural Resources: Appropriate and efficient use of natural resources to provide housing, transportation, recreation and fresh food through creative, harmonious land planning and landscape architecture for the community. This includes use of alternative energy sources as well as land and water.
  • Self Sufficiency: Provide a commercially viable opportunity for enhanced self- sufficiency for community residents, tenants, and guests.
  • Sustainable Energy Practices: Integrate solar and geothermal technology to provide sustainable energy sources for the community.
  • Financing: Incorporate established entities (Metropolitan Districts, HOAs) to finance both traditional infrastructure (streets, water, sewer) and environmentally friendly agricultural infrastructure (drip irrigation).

Ed McMahon, a senior resident fellow with the Urban Land Institute and author of a ULI book titled Conservation Communities: Creating Value with Nature,
Open Space, and Agriculture, believes “For as long as people have lived in cities, many have dreamed of returning to the land.” No matter what form a conservation community takes – whether forests, farms, ranch land or other – McMahon says “Conservation communities prove that developers can focus on nature and still make a profit.”

Posted In: Blog, Community, Food, Going Green

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