Farming in Suburbia

Apparently building a neighborhood around a farm is a new housing fad. At least, it is according to this article from Smithsonian Magazine, which profiled a few Development Supported Agriculture (DSA) neighborhoods around the U.S. The concept is much like a regular HOA-driven development with the exception of a working farm that neighbors help to support through money or time. It’s a way to preserve space and help people reconnect with their food source.

The neighborhood farm stand. (Photo from Willowsford Farm)

The neighborhood farm stand. (Photo from Willowsford Farm)

The idea is definitely innovative. Most people don’t know where their food comes from, aside from the local supermarket, and there is a growing number of people who wish to remedy the situation. Having a farm in the neighborhood allows people to know where their food comes from. The neighborhood farm sells produce to neighbors as well as people within the larger community. People can join the farm’s CSA and receive first dibs on tasty, locally grown produce.

The neighborhoods are more than farming communities. From the images, the houses are large, McMansions (which I don’t mean in a judgmental way—I just can’t think of a better term for them. They are what they are), and the communities have many of the amenities that are the cornerstone of many planned suburban communities—an HOA, recreational opportunities and parks, community events, etc. The neighborhoods seem to focus on creating a sense of community, much like other sustainable communities in Portland and Davis.

Well that’s a clever idea…
One of the DSA neighborhoods featured has implemented a culinary education program, where they provide information about how to cook what’s grown on the farm. It seems so simple, but in an age where many of us are either too tired to cook or just don’t know how to do so properly, a lesson in the kitchen is what we need.

So that’s how carrots grow.
In many of the DSA neighborhoods, neighbors can get hands-on experience in the garden. While they may not be paid for their labor, they do get to feel good helping out at the farm and get to experience the workings of a farm. Additionally, tours are given to keep others in the community in the loop about what’s going on.

Wait, so it costs more?
What I see as limiting is cost: one of these DSA neighborhoods has a CSA that neighbors can buy into, but it’s more expensive than the organic produce purchased in a store. Now, one could bring up that the CSA takes into account the true cost of food, etc.; however, eating well shouldn’t be reserved for those with fat wallets. Maybe cost isn’t an issue—maybe everyone in the neighborhood makes buckets of money and loves the feel-good factor of supporting their local farm. However, what about the families who are struggling to make ends meet or who are just getting by? It’s important to support local growers, but I wonder how the costs of the neighborhood CSAs compare to the costs of other CSAs in the region.

Waiting for fallout.
As with anything that seems remotely commie/hippie, I’m waiting for the fallout on this. I’m sure some tea bagging, anti-Agenda 21 moron is frothing at the mouth at the prospect of an entire community centered on a neighborhood farm. Oh, the humanity!

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