“Agrihoods” restoring healthy rural atmosphere to new developments
Fortunately visionary people and community leaders still exist who embrace change. These people and places are finding better ways to accommodate the nations’ growing population demands, while also meeting the needs of the marketplace. Our needs and wants change as we age. Many of us (this author included) used to live on acreage with horses, dogs and cats and many wild things lurking at night (not to mention those late afternoon rattlesnakes), and I, for one, never thought I’d want to live in town, let alone in a subdivision or planned development. But as I’ve aged I now see my close neighbors as good friends, rather than as people imposing on my lifestyle or solitude.
Americans have been attracted to the schools, parks, yards and square footage of suburbia for decades now. They enjoy the added perks some housing developments offer, including community pools, fitness centers, playgrounds and tennis courts, to name a few. But the biggest draw in the future might be a communal farm.
A new fad in the housing world is a concept called Development Supported Agriculture (DSA), or more broadly, “agrihoods.” DSA is the child of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in which consumers pledge money or resources to support a farm operation, and in turn, receive a share of what it produces: but take the concept one step further and integrate the farm within residential developments. Instead of paying for access to a golf course or tennis courts, residents pay to be a part of a working farm—helping with the growing process and reaping the crops it produces.
The CSA movement, which began on two properties in the US during the 1980s, boasts thousands of farms today, but DSA is just beginning to grow in popularity, with about 200 neighborhoods buying in to the concept. One of the first developments to create a working farm was Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois, about one hour north of Chicago. Today, Prairie Crossing has about 359 single-family homes. One of the newest projects is Willowsford, in Ashburn, Virginia, which is aiming much higher and hoping to fill 2,200 homes.
About 40 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., Willowsford is at the edge of Virginia’s horse and farm country, where the booming housing market surrounding the nation’s capital is gobbling up open spaces. Developers conserved some 2,000 acres, 300 of which are farmland. Eventually, the community will be divided into four villages, each with a designated farm. A rather idyllic setting, Willowsford is thoughtfully planned to include homes in the southern style typical of Virginia’s Loudoun County, all with easy access to pick-your-own strawberries and a quaint farm stand, chock full of cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, cartons of okra and string beans, and baked goods.
It’s not difficult to imagine this kind of development in El Dorado County. Such projects should never be voted down simply due to a General Plan regulation: Rather the GP is a living document that will be adjusted to meet the future needs of the county as the county population continues to grow and evolve new ways of living together. Of benefit to a visionary way of thinking, is the fact that locally one of the issues recently addressed is removal of regulatory constraints on owners of Rural Lands, by encouraging Ranch Marketing and enhancing protected Agricultural Lands, all part of EDC’s current General Plan Amendment and Zoning Ordinance Update process.