Developer looking to merge homes, farming into agrihoods
April 2, 2024 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Developer looking to merge homes, farming into agrihoods to ease food, housing pressures. Ever wanted to quit the city and run away to start a farm? Welcome to the agrihood, where you can have town living in a rural setting.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (56 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
You mean something like a farming village that predates "get big or get out"?

I grew up in one of those. Strange to see it become the latest amenity.
posted by ocschwar at 5:27 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Farming is a job, and one that doesn’t pay very well usually. Is this just a shared hobby farm for retired folks? Who is doing the work, and when?

Also, what’s the ratio of farm to house? You either need lots of land (and equipment) or you need to farm *very* intensively, either way takes a lot of work. Are folks willing to put in the time?
posted by leotrotsky at 6:03 AM on April 2 [17 favorites]


Farming, a vocation famously more efficient when done in small, individual plots and not at scale.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:04 AM on April 2 [19 favorites]


…I can see this working as a victory/community garden at scale, sort of like a home + allotment. Farm would be kind of a misnomer. You’d either need to parcel out the plots or have some kind of gardening homeowners association (shudder) to keep the chaos reined in.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:11 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]


Looking at the overall palate choices in the white-people-harvesting-vegetables neighborhood or the scale of the weird little cars to the houses in the palm tree development, it seems that Arkadian Developments took all of 15 seconds to slap this concept work together with Ai….and thought, “Yeah, this is fine”.
posted by brachiopod at 6:11 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Others encourage residents to pitch in with the town farm, and food is available through a community market.

I'm all for this, but it's a bit of a hobby of mine to read these types of press-releases and watch developers slowly, ever so carefully, avoid the word 'co-op'.
posted by Think_Long at 6:29 AM on April 2 [39 favorites]


those 1000000% AI generated images (notice the plant person the bottom left and the wheelbarrow man with a single stick leg in the bottom right) for this company town idea is incredibly, as the kids say, sus
posted by paimapi at 6:30 AM on April 2 [16 favorites]


this could be a good idea in the intentional community kind of way but anything developer driven is going to be a shitshow
posted by kokaku at 6:33 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


WHERE in America are these all the rage? I need cites.

Doesn't living next to commercial agriculture entail dealing with pesticides and smells from livestock?

Putting in community gardens doesn't equal agriculture unless you are requiring/ paying people to work them. Because lots won't bother. Even those who agree with your principles. Just ask anyone who's lived on a commune.

Is this some sort of attempt at appealing to preppers, like hey, if shit goes down you've got food? It's really weird.

Anyway it's a nope from me.
posted by emjaybee at 6:48 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Farming and developers, two great tastes that taste great together.

I would love to be optimistic about this, and the fact that there's apparently at least enough of a market of people who think they want to live near a farm for proposals like this to get made is encouraging. But I am skeptical that a lot of people are going to be excited by the noise and smells of even produce-only, low-mechanization farming (how is the processing getting handled in this model?), let alone the nature of the labor required to make something like this work over the long-term as a community project. Smells like poorly thought-out romanticization of farming to me.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:49 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


> Farming, a vocation famously more efficient when done in small, individual plots and not at scale.

Is this sarcasm? I genuinely can't tell!
posted by MiraK at 6:53 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


I'm all for this, but it's a bit of a hobby of mine to read these types of press-releases and watch developers slowly, ever so carefully, avoid the word 'co-op'.

Yeah, I was reading this and thinking, "this is basically the community garden/food co-op model, right?" Never heard the term "agrihood" before, but it does sound like developer marketing-speak.
posted by May Kasahara at 6:55 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]


This sounds idyllic for us older folks who have had it up to here with big city life, but aren't prepared to go full green acres just yet.
posted by Czjewel at 7:14 AM on April 2


Smells like poorly thought-out romanticization of farming to me.

I think it's kind of sad. A lot of people are longing for more connection to the earth, to literally get their hands dirty and produce something tangible, but they've had so little opportunity that they don't really know what it entails. So a developer can share a shitty AI-generated image of a tiny little community garden lot surrounded by multiple houses and claim it will "ease food pressures" without just being laughed out of the room.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:14 AM on April 2 [10 favorites]


The weird AI rendering actually reminded me of some neighborhoods in Detroit, lol. Of course there, the developers hate it, since they weren't allowed to make bank on it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:16 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


From the article: "There is no agreed definition of an agrihood, but the research not-for-profit Urban Land Institute (ULI) describes them as mixed-use communities built with a working farm or community garden as a focus." (Emphasis mine).

Makes me think of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models where consumers subscribe to food from a farm. But in this case without as much transportation.

If it actually happens. ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯
posted by moonmoth at 7:26 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Doesn't living next to commercial agriculture entail dealing with pesticides and smells from livestock?

Next door? I live in wine country, which has plenty of less-picturesque, less Windows XP-looking agriculture other than grapes—We gots cows! We gots strawberries! We gots alfalfa for export! Orchards! So many chickens! Chickens like you wouldn't believe! When someone a couple miles away decides it's Manure Time for some crop or other, I know it. Oh, do I know it. I know it for a few days, with windows closed.

Yeah, don't live anywhere near a farm unless you really, really know what you're getting into or have anosmia.
posted by majick at 7:32 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


Hi, I'm a plant ecologist with some knowledge of agro-ecology.

I agree with the notion that this being developer-driven is concerning, but otherwise I'm not so sure why I'm seeing all the hate above. There's no reason on the face of it why people can't have some benefits of density while being surrounded by agriculture, and lots of places have done this throughout human history.

The idea that agriculture has to be massive scale row-crops in monoculture to be useful is of course an idiotic lie. But I know why ignorant people think that: it's what has proven the most successful under exploitation- and extraction-based capitalism, to the point that many of you have never really seen or even heard of other ways.

Anyway, there aren't many details here to critique, but taking wild (seemingly uniformed) swings at the rough concept doesn't seem like a good use of metafilter either.

If you'd like to read some expert writing on this kind of thing, check out Will Bonsall's work. He's got a nice Essential Guide to Radical Self-Reliant gardening, but for a more fun overview of how these principles can work in a community context, check out his cozy post-apocalyptic utopian novel, Through the Eyes of a Stranger.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:37 AM on April 2 [37 favorites]


100 years ago the city of Bellaire Texas offered large lots, so that homes could have kitchen gardens and livestock. Most of those lots have long since been subdivided into regular urban sized lots, and $Million homes have sprouted.

The homes plus agriculture concept seems to depend on location, and on the area not getting too popular in the future.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 7:48 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


conceptually I'm not against the idea. Some of these places even look nice. But it seems like a way to greenwash having a million+ dollar home in a gated community. The "farms" do not appear to be worked by the homeowners, which hey, many of these are 55+ communities, so not expecting our senior citizens to break their backs in the hot sun, but that just means migrant labor is holding up a boutique "farm to table" luxury experience. Like the AI generated images in the Australian version, this all seems a bit like a simulacrum of country life, a kind of theme-park for the well-heeled who want to "get away from it all" but have all the leisure and amenities they're accustomed to.
posted by dis_integration at 8:03 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


There's no reason on the face of it why people can't have some benefits of density while being surrounded by agriculture, and lots of places have done this throughout human history.

Absolutely this. The primary inputs for small scale agriculture are land, time, and labor. This proposition covers the land part. The other bits are the real hurdle for working families that the cooperative model helps resolve.
posted by Think_Long at 8:04 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


We call them Schrebergartens in German, Jardins familiaux in French, and Allotment in British English. Yes, they work extrmely well, but they're a hobby for people who like to garden. It's possible co-op structures work, but way easier to just find or convince people they like to garden more than to travel, etc.

If you want larger progress, then we need lawns to become either wild or diverse gardens. As an easy step, it should be a fellony to enforce contracts that de facto reduce biodiversity against and owners wishes, so then you jail homeowner association executives who enforce their lawn rules, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:07 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


I have been been raising chickens for eggs and meat for 8 years now, and gardening and studying ecology, botany and permaculture for two decades now. There are many people who would love to visit or volunteer to work and learn at a small farm close to or in their community, it would be a place where like minded people could meet and organize. I recently found a perfect piece of land next to my home town to start a small farm/arboretum/ecological restoration demonstration. My family has the money to invest in my dream but they would rather spend money on extravagant vacations for themselves then to help me have a better life where i can grow healthy food for people (and myself) and educate people and provide for and be part of my community.
/currently living alone in a moldy old house 15 miles from the nearest town and i am disabled and can't drive, the soil around my home is polluted and surrounded by industrial ag and i can't safely grow produce here. i am getting more sick, bitter, angry, hopeless, and resentful each year.
posted by GiantSlug at 8:08 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


I'm not so sure why I'm seeing all the hate above.
You must not read comments here very often...
posted by Billy Rubin at 8:10 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


I know a lot of people in Britain who have garden allotments that they have to cycle or drive to to grow their fruit and veges - having your garden allotment within walking distance seems a lot more efficient.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 8:10 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]


I have not seen any "agrihoods" that are just about having community gardens worked by homeowners. They're typically more like this: Olivette, NC. A small scale commercial farm surrounded by expensive houses. As far as I can tell it's essentially a way of marketing real estate in rural areas the way you might invent a new neighborhood in manhattan to sell condos. These are the Hudson Yards of rural america.
posted by dis_integration at 8:14 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


This is basically Davis, California.
posted by Toddles at 8:21 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


This has been actualized in the part of rural Ontario where my family lives as: somebody builds their dream home with a giant lot on the highway, somebody else builds one adjacent, repeat 5x, put up silhouettes of children at play and petition the township to lower the speed limit through your “village” to 50km. It's just a different flavour of suburban sprawl.
posted by brachiopod at 8:24 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


The idea that agriculture has to be massive scale row-crops in monoculture to be useful is of course an idiotic lie. But I know why ignorant people think that: it's what has proven the most successful under exploitation- and extraction-based capitalism, to the point that many of you have never really seen or even heard of other ways.

Agriculture at scale - which is by definition industrialized - is one of the primary factors allowing humanity to flourish. It's fine to have small farms if one likes, but it isn't solving any issues around food scarcity, especially not when, in cases like this, the people buying housing with the adjacent farmland are likely very well-off to begin with. These are vanity plots for the suburban sprawl set.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:46 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the "hate" on this thread isn't hate so much as practical questions about how demanding small subsistence farming would be as a way of life in our capitalist society where we all must also hold down jobs to pay for our livelihood. The internet doesn't grow in a victory garden, nor does a car. Not even all our food needs can be met in our little personal patches of farmland.

I think it speaks to the limits of the American (or western) imagination that our utopias are all rugged individualism and "self-reliance", instead of large-scale cooperatives or unionized labor. Self-reliance as a practice is both inequitable and doomed. Scale isn't necessarily the problem in our current farming practices, capitalism is.
posted by MiraK at 9:05 AM on April 2 [15 favorites]


This company I found when I googled, which has a number of communities in the US, looks to be pretty close to what dis_integration said. From the FAQs: "Most Agrihoods have a farm manager that tends to the farm. Some offer residents to volunteer their time in exchange for the food the farm produces." The specific community I looked at mentions home prices "starting in the mid $300s." It kind of sounds nice and it also kind of sounds like Luxury Fake Farm Life.
posted by JanetLand at 9:26 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Thoughts on models like this as resiliency enhancers against e.g. temporary supply-chain interruptions, anyone?

(Genuine question to which I do not know any answers.)
posted by humbug at 9:46 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Agriculture at scale - which is by definition industrialized - is one of the primary factors allowing humanity to flourish.


See, this quote is a great example of the kind of ignorance I was talking about. I'm not saying you can't have large farms, and I'm not against mechanization. It's the rest that is important. I'll grant that extraction-based industrial farming makes some damn cheap food. But it's all a short-term ruse, and that cheap food comes at a terrifying cost that is totally ignored by this kind of vacuous commentary that has almost no content but somehow aims to completely dismiss and demean entire sectors of agricultural history and practice.

The problem with massive-scale row crops in monoculture that it only works to make cheap food by externalizing the true costs, and leaving a massive wake of destruction. The way ~95% of large farms in the US are run is determined solely by profit motive, which leads to monoculture, which only works with heavy use of pesticides, heavy use of fossil fuels, unnecessary habitat destruction, soil degradation, eutrophication, species endangerment, and lots of other things that are destroying our environment and their own future prospects of food production.

(and Mirak, btw, the book I recommended is all about large-scale cooperative structures)
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:55 AM on April 2 [20 favorites]


Live in The Shire? Don't threaten me with a good time!

(Sucks that the article is illustrated with crap AI imagery)
posted by mattgriffin at 10:01 AM on April 2


this quote is a great example of the kind of ignorance I was talking about

cheap food comes at a terrifying cost that is totally ignored by this kind of vacuous commentary that has almost no content but somehow aims to completely dismiss and demean entire sectors of agricultural history and practice

Cool cool.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:19 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting chariot!
This can be a good solution (eg urban encroachment - as it effectively stops that, and gives the farmer a capital injection*), although the article image is a ten on the twee-utopian scale.

I have designed for a 500 Hectare (Ha) subdivision with 15 scattered houses, and the rest is a hay cutting operation (climate and site is ideal for this) with occasional fertiliser additions - partly via sheep grazing), so when you buy into one of these you sign a no-complaints clause for a slew of farming activity (but ops like haying are very low on synthetic chemicals), while you get to live a more rural life and have a garden.

I have a project similar to above with ten houses, each on a small parcel with farm surrounding, which I see as preserving a certain environment under development pressure to do dense housing in a very unsuitable place.

* Many family farms (inc. multi-generation) are barely viable in the face of Capitalism; real returns are very low (often well below the bank rate) - yet the same farmers are essential to retain long-term land knowledge. Corporates dispense with knowledge and land history in their chase for the single simplest crop that makes the most money fastest (partly as they've promised 'investors a return well above what the land is sustainably capable of).
posted by unearthed at 10:47 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


Sorry that you find my comments ignorant and vacuous, I guess I'm too busy working jobs and raising kids to read the exact books you have been reading. I'll try to cope with my disappointment.
posted by MiraK at 10:50 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Thoughts on models like this as resiliency enhancers against e.g. temporary supply-chain interruptions, anyone?

This is my chance to plug RED Gardens, the youtube channel of a community gardening project embedded in a rural Irish eco-village. Bruce talks explicitly about resilience, both as one of their values and as a difficult standard to reach. He makes the point that resilience is not solely food production; it includes skill dissemination.

Always nice to see efforts to support farming and weave it into modern life.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:21 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


“Thoughts on models like this as resiliency enhancers against e.g. temporary supply-chain interruptions, anyone?”

I’m not an expert, but I do know some ag people at various levels. My thought is that since pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are as subject to supply chain disruptions as anything, I doubt these agrihoods would contribute much food supply resiliency unless they were deliberately growing the kind of stuff that grows there anyway, seasonally and geographically and soil type-ly.

It helps to have a whole articulating population of complimentary beings to keep the whole system in balance. Chickens to eat bugs and good bugs to eat bad bugs, goats to eat invasives, etc etc. My uncle rotates his cows really intensively by the way he spreads hay and adjusts his fences, and that keeps his pastures from getting grazed out and eroded. It’s a lot to manage.

People usually grow what they like, which tends to be a mix of tender and exotic things that need some fussing to come out ok.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:23 AM on April 2


Ohai! Crone chiming in with my real-world experience of rural & small town living in WV not so many decades ago. My mom was a determined keeper of small gardens in small (rented) yards. Lawns were expensive consumers of her limited time, but everywhere she moved we’d have a patch, similar to the victory garden concept. These were not big yards. The zero-lot-line houses in my south Florida neighborhood could easily accommodate something similar.

Could we have fed our whole family from this garden alone? No. I’d argue that it did improve resiliency, esp the times we lived greater than walking distance away from a town. We lived in financial poverty much of the time, but still ate pretty well. Our garden enhanced our diets tremendously, providing fresh vegetables, greens, potatoes, and beans, which we ate voraciously throughout the growing season. Canning and drying preserved foods for use over the winter. We also harvested wild berries and the local cherry, pear, apple, and pawpaw trees, and gathered nuts. These permaculture favorites could be included in a long term garden plan.

I’m so grateful for my knowledge of our historic foodways, and wish my mom had lived longer and been able to impart more of her knowledge to me & my sisters. Such a garden could still help during a transportation crisis, depression, or other emergency situation by providing interim or supplemental food. Also provides physical exercise, vitamin D, and social opportunities. I don’t know how this would work in a larger community, but I’d argue that any town with houses with lawns probably has everything that’s needed to create individual gardens. I think our society is more vulnerable having lost so much of the understanding of how we stay alive on this planet. These projects as planned may be imperfect, but I’d be interested in seeing more in this vein.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 12:04 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]


IMO, there is so much wasted land space in the US you could build this exact same thing in basically any city in the US short of Manhattan where single-family homes currently exist.

My neighborhood actually has rear garages, so everyone's entire front yard could look like this, and be far more useful.

Though suburbia (and the vast majority of single family homes in general, even in cities) exists to be a simulacrum of 'rural', without the unpleasant work, sounds, and smells of agriculture, so IMO the number of people who would even want something like this is very small.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:28 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


Sure, if you're going to convert existing homes, dig up the yards and start running a tractor across all the former lawns.

But for new developments, if people want to play farmer but have the advantages of living close together, they should build majestic, proud, towering* multi-home dwellings, not squat, sprawling, sordid* lone-family constructions. The "agrihood" could be your apartment building, 20 stories tall, completely surrounded by nothing but the fields you didn't build and pave over, fields everyone in the building owns a share of.

* heh
** heh
posted by pracowity at 12:34 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


GiantSlug, so so sorry to hear about your sucky situation. What a waste of your skills, among other things. Sending you virtual hugs from Sweden, if you want 'em.

I would love something like this. There are various so-called Eco Villages throughout Sweden and they all seem to have a communal garden area that hold plots for individual households. Allotments for gardening is common here but also common is a long waiting time if you live in a city. In any case, thanks for the post chariot pulled by cassowaries!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:51 PM on April 2


Perhaps consideration should be given to the date? April 1st......
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 1:02 PM on April 2


I volunteer at an awesome community garden out in the suburbs, on a former 69-acre farm which our New England town now owns.

No chemical stinks from us: we use organic methods & tools, and only the annual Truckload O' Animal Shite smells bad.

Many of our abutters are cheerful volunteers: they like living next to the open space and walking their dogs there, but they also come to help grow the veggies (which we donate to local food banks -- 20 tons per year on about 1.5 acres).

At the same time, none of the neighbors have asked how they can quit their day jobs and farm full-time. Farming is hard at any scale: risky, labor-intensive, prey to insect and thieves... It kind of sucks as a living, but it's great fun as a hobby!
posted by wenestvedt at 1:04 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]


so yeah I've posted on the blue before about my sister marrying a farmer & both of them having a real shit garbage time trying to make "grow vegetables; feed people" into something that would pay the bills under capitalism

well after they lost their rent-to-own deal in their landlord's divorce, my brother-in-law got hired to manage a community farm in Madison (basically they wanted him to do everything he'd been doing for his own farm, except for them) and he & my sister bought a small condo and moved into what I am pretty sure is an agrihood?

I haven't like intensely interviewed her about it but this is what I know from visits and googling etc.

- it's not a huge development, just like 30 condos

- it's been going for ~15 years

- the condos are nice but not fancy or large, my sister's is a 2-bedroom about the size of a standard 2-bedroom apartment, except with a basement

- it's a cohousing community subsidized by a trust, 2/3 of the condos are reserved for low-to-mid income families; allegedly they're energy-efficient and "built green" but I dunno anything about that

- there's a community garden for the community to garden if they want but that's separate from the farm which up to this year had been operating on a CSA model* with regular employees & volunteers, I think some of whom live in the agrihood? but not everyone in the agrihood works on the farm

- my sister is kinda like this anyway but it's a tighter community than anywhere I've ever lived, she's got her neighbors she plays board games with, her neighbor she watches Marvel movies with, her tween-to-teen neighbor who has a flyer advertising his rates for yard services & has at least once told her how she should be parenting her dog differently & I have never forgotten this

as slightly more of an introvert than she is I'm not sure I could entirely hack this lifestyle -- like sometimes the neighbors' kids will just be in her house -- but I do think it's nice

(also the Wisconsin state sport is being up in people's shit, so it's not that weird I guess)

- the area is friggin gorgeous, the farm itself is beautiful & it's near a lake & a prairie restoration with a bunch of wildflowers, all that good shit

- I think it smells fine? I mean I worked at an organic grocery store on the premises of a dairy farm for a couple years and I don't remember that not smelling fine so maybe I am not the one to ask here

* this year they paused/stopped the CSA program because they didn't get enough members to make it affordable, no idea what they're gonna do now, I haven't talked to my brother-in-law lately : |
posted by taquito sunrise at 1:54 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Perhaps consideration should be given to the date? April 1st......
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 4:02 PM on April 2 [+] [⚑]


From the article:

ABC Rural / Fiona Broom
Thu 21 Mar 2024 at 3:28pm
posted by cooker girl at 2:01 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


We have an early-adopter agrihood in the Atlanta exurbs: Serenbe. I think it's pretty weird (mostly because they pretend like it's urbanism, but it's in the middle of fucking nowhere, 30 minutes drive from anything), but lots of folks love it. Their farm is in the middle of the residential area/conference center and supports a CSA and farmer's market.

Much better in actual Atlanta, urban community agriculture that feeds the neighborhood is absolutely a thing. A few of my favorite farms (not associated with developments) here in Atlanta:
Truly Living Well (located in the middle of an old neighborhood in historically Black SW Atlanta)
Global Growers Network (supports and feeds several large communities of recent immigrants)
Jolly Avenue Garden (related to Global Growers, but really has become the center of community in Clarkston, GA)
posted by hydropsyche at 3:11 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


There's always the problem with relatively small lots breaking up ecosystems, but if the density of this development is low enough that you still have to use a car for any portion of your trips, congratulations, you've just reinvented the suburbs.

I think the lack of sidewalks in the renderings is extremely telling. Yeah, this is just rich white people cosplaying what they think "sustainable" looks like.
posted by straw at 4:40 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


To me this seems like a way to get around land protection schemes where farmland can't be converted to residential uses. Now you can build a subdivision but each house has a little farm so its OK.

That being said I can't think of a reason that small-scale farming can't be more common in places like Australia, the USA, or Canada. In Japan I've seen that you don't need to go too far from a city centre before you start seeing small plots given over to farming, maybe not in Tokyo but in the other big cities for sure.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:18 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I too am finding the criticisms in this thread...dramatic. I live in a small house on a small plot of land in a big city. My partner and I grow a lot of food on our small bit of land. Are we solving world hunger? Nope. Are we looking to topple big agriculture? Nope. Are we self-sufficient? Nope.

But the garden is a huge source of joy, and as older folk, our little garden is a great way to keep active. And it contributes to our quality of life, and saves us...maybe, a bit of money at the grocery store, as we plant stuff that is expensive to buy, hard to source, or doesn't travel well (Artichokes, Mulberries, Avocados, Passion Fruit, Figs, Pomegranates). We get our manure from a local zoo.

Would it be good to have a community of like-minded folk around? I dunno. Probably? It would allow us a greater selection of things to plant (fruit trees that need opposite sex trees to fertilize), would be a bigger hub for pollinators. Folks to trade clippings for grafting. Even at micro-scale, scaling up can be useful.

Would I move into one of these developments? Maybe if I could could convince some of my gardener friends to move in too? But in all likelihood, this is the house I die in. Hopefully with some passion fruit curd in one hand, and some mullberries in the other.
posted by chromecow at 6:40 PM on April 2 [12 favorites]


I like the concept of this a lot, although I'm sufficiently jaded to believe developers are never going to voluntarily build such 'communities' in any way consistent with the concept. To do so (always remembering the most important thing of all when designing a community is profit for the developer) would result in the density of homes precluding any sort of 'real' farming, although people could certainly grow crops at a hobby scale and it could well be a lovely place to live.

Given the story is about a proposed development in Far North Queensland, though, I had to laugh at the idea of people settling down to live out their latter years while doing a bit of casual farming in the tropical heat and humidity (4-5 months of 90% or higher humidity and 30c+ temps). At least there's plenty of rain, most of which doesn't fall during cyclones. I also chuckled about the style of houses the AI drew for them - absolutely and totally unsuitable for a tropical climate in any way and the size of houses and obvious lack of foot/cycle paths makes it clear the target is well-off retirees or remote workers.

I can't think of a reason that small-scale farming can't be more common in places like Australia, the USA, or Canada
I can't answer for other countries, but most of Australia has little or no water. Of course, most of why small-scale farming isn't more common is because corporations have bought and amalgamated them. Farming as a business is risky if you don't have financial reserves so, while you might make a profit some years, there are often many years in a row where small farms make a loss.
posted by dg at 7:47 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


I'm not so sure why I'm seeing all the hate above.

You must not read comments here very often...


To be fair, MeFi remains one of the most intelligent discussion forums, but it was once a more hopeful and constructive place.
posted by fairmettle at 9:02 PM on April 2 [8 favorites]


Anyway, there aren't many details here to critique, but taking wild (seemingly uniformed) swings at the rough concept doesn't seem like a good use of metafilter either.


Wild and uninformed swings is the lifeblood of metafilter. Seems like virtually every other post gets some incoherent ranting something about capitalism that makes little sense.

The idea that agriculture has to be massive scale row-crops in monoculture to be useful is of course an idiotic lie. But I know why ignorant people think that: it's what has proven the most successful under exploitation- and extraction-based capitalism, to the point that many of you have never really seen or even heard of other ways.

hmmm...
posted by 2N2222 at 9:24 PM on April 2


Looking more into potential regulations around such properties led me to the concept of Right to Farm laws, which I thought was an interesting debate.
posted by lock robster at 10:54 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


So the notion of farming "at scale" makes me laugh a little, because you know what still doesn't scale? The harvest.

If you don't have mechanizable harvesting, then you rely on migrant labor. Not necessarily foreign but still migrant. These people slowly move up and down the farm belt in tune with the seasons, get paid shit, and their way of life has been a glaring injustice from the time Upton Sinclair wrote about them in The Jungle (middle of the book - Jurgus has left Chicago on foot to flee the law and joined a migrant caravan).

And if it is all mechanized, then thanks to 100 years of "get big or get out" you have $4M in diesel-powered physical capital that you have to guard 24/7, maintain, insure, and use on huge open fields that leave you and your family isolate, with the crop insurance and bank dictating how and when you do everything.

Homestead farming, however, actually has a lot going for it: if you divide your fields into small plots and diversify, the harvest season is stretched from spring all the way to the end of the autumn, so your workers can just be local residents (if you don't object to having working class neighbors and their kids going to school with yours..) Each planted plot is a pest-barrier for the neighboring one if you diversify. And on a small plot, the labor is actually pleasant. Weeding and tilling is a relaxing way to spend a mid day if (IF!!) you're a short walk from some shade.

What makes homestead farming unsustainable in this country is that our Dept of Agriculture has been hostile to it for 100 years, and the hostility is driven in no small part from the leftist radicalism (YES!) that the environment I described can engender in a farming village.

Other notes: donkeys are dogs with hooves. Their scent is weaker than a horse's. Their braying is something you can get used to when you realize they bray to ask for a petting. They're gentle, affectionate, cheaper to feed than dogs (though they do need stabling) and if you're kind to them they carry heavy things for you. (And their labor is quieter than a diesel engine). In most of the US, pastureland grows grass fast enough that free ranging a donkey puts them at risk of obesity.

Hobby farming is a perfectly respectable hobby in my view. You can sink as much money as you want into it. And there are far worse ways for people with money to blow it. A properly operating agrihood is a more pleasant way to live than a suburb with mowers and leaf blowers every damned Saturday. If it's enough of a hobby that you won't go crazy with chemicals and the like, you'll be a better neighbor than most lawn-farm McMansion residents. So I'm surprised this is becoming a thing, but pleased.
posted by ocschwar at 8:09 AM on April 3 [8 favorites]


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