Home buyers go back to the farm

May 13, 2013

One of the latest trends in community development is the farm—an integrated space for the production of organic food. I don’t think this is a brand-new idea, but it’s certainly one that has enjoyed renewed popularity ever since the baby boomers starting retiring or, if you will, reinventing themselves. The sustainability movement and the emphasis on organic, locally grown food play right into this trend.

A few years ago I interviewed Randal Jackson, ASLA, principal of The Planning Center’s Orange County headquarters in Santa Ana, Calif. I recall Jackson saying that “agriculture is the new golf.” The same phrase popped up in a press release about PCBC 2013. One of the featured speakers at the conference this year is Darren Joffe, better known as Farmer D, an organic farmer who counsels developers about establishing farms and edible gardens. Joffe says the integration of such spaces increases the value of the land and enhances the quality of life for residents. Upscale communities offer such amenities as world-class golf courses, sports facilities, and spas; why not farms?

I can give you two examples: Serenbe Farms near Atlanta and Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill. The Serenbe farm produces organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The food grown there is consumed by residents and also sold to the public at farmer’s markets. Serenbe homeowners can get their hands dirty through volunteer work or apprenticeships on the farm. Prairie Crossing also has an organic farm and a community garden where residents can grow their own healthy stuff.

Recently I spoke to Nanette Overly at Epcon Communities, a developer of active-adult housing. Overly mentioned how boomers are eager to live out their dreams once their children leave the nest. Not all of them want to downsize; some want a few acres to accommodate, say, a small apple orchard. If you’ll pardon the pun, it looks like this generation is buying the farm. 

Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas