Truly “Healthy” Homes: The Rise Of The Agrihood

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woman in community garden kneeling

Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, new housing developments will have you eating your way into a homegrown healthy lifestyle with your own farm.


Something exciting is increasingly happening in new home developments: farms.

There might be a generation of people getting their food from big box stores, but there’s a growing segment who question their sources, demand local, and aren’t willing to settle for a bargain when it comes to what they eat. These people realize food isn’t just a staple of life, it’s an indicator of how well we live and feel.

Developers are wising up. They’re not just providing a place to live, but instead they’re selling a way of life — a healthy way of life.

Let’s face it. Home-grown food tastes good. It changes our appreciation for what’s on our plate and helps us value mealtime a quality of life improvement, not just fuel.

Some might be skeptical of big development getting big into farming as a means of selling homes, but I applaud it. You can’t fake quality food and I suspect many of these developments will be aware that quality will be key in their “agrihood” success.

A simple formula

There may be other incidentals, like a community pool, tennis courts, and other recreational spaces, but the outdoors and the natural life that comes with a real, functioning farm is paramount in the design and lifestyle that comes with the “agrihood” life.

As just one of numerous examples, a Bloomberg article on agrihoods told of a development in Virginia that appeals to me: “At the Willowsford development in Virginia, Susan Mitchell says the outdoor stand selling community farm berries, asparagus, and carrots is a gathering place for neighbors. Mitchell, who bought a four-bedroom Hovnanian Enterprises house with her husband, can walk to the stand with her young sons, stopping along the way to pick flowers, pet goats, and chat with the resident farmer. “It’s having a little more nature in your backyard than the normal community,” she says.”

Redefining how we live and work with nature

It may seem like a tangent, but bear with me. PBS has been airing a terrific series of late, Earth: A New Wild — a documentary on how mankind and nature have to work together to develop a “new wild” for challenges regarding conservation and climate change.

It asserts that where we’ve gone wrong is in thinking that nature and humans have to be separate in order to keep nature successful. We populate cities but then the cities sprawl and natural borders disappear, and next thing you know, we’re imposing city standards on the formerly rural land around us.

How humans mix with nature

Take my town as an example. The big controversy right now is a deer cull because deer are “encroaching” on our homes. (I think the deer would disagree with who’s doing the encroaching.)

How does A New Wild’s host, conservationist Dr. M. Sanjayan, suggest we fix this strategic error? By rethinking how we mix humans and nature, finding a way of coexisting that doesn’t engage the extremes of segregating the two like we do now.

So called “agrihoods,” then, are a perfect example of attaining this. Traditionally, housing development is responsible for gnawing away at agricultural land. Farms of yesterday became subdivisions.

This idea may have taken hold in the ’80s, but now the mainstream has caught up. The age of GMOs and gluten-free and shopping local make this not-so-new idea a profitable one indeed. Building around agricultural areas and incorporating the locals in the running of these farms, using the building homes to protect the existence of agricultural land is just one way we can protect natural spaces and ensuring regional nature thrives in our midst, all while improving our well-being.

Food, energy, land, and you

Those familiar with Eastern philosophy will recognize the concept of “Qi” or “Chi” in Chinese philosophy — the idea that everything around us has a life-force and a weakened Qi makes living a struggle.

They also believe food has “Qi,” and eating food grown where you live will empower your Qi better than food from afar. The idea is essentially the local food gives you the energy required to live in that specific place.

Housing developments like this are a radically logical next step. We’ve failed at life-balance. City / country — the divide is too great. For many of us, we’re neither explicitly urban or country. Instead, we’d like both community and nature, but having that balance seems to require day-trips these days.

Going green while on the grid

These “agrihoods” make me think of the community and camaraderie required by homesteaders and crofters, anyone who’s lived off the land. Community made it doable, but the trouble with those lifestyles is they’re simply too hard for most modern people. A local community living off the grid just an hour outside of the sprawl of Vancouver, Canada, reports that only 40% of those who attempt the life hack it after a year.

In agrihoods, there’ll be no risk of failure, no need to live “off the grid,” no need to suffer the hard life of a farmer. Instead, it’s a community built around an agricultural way of life that ensures the land will be protected, the produce will be profitable thanks to professionals overseeing it, and community will be strong.

The whole life solution

Like most new trends, we haven’t solved the big problems of conservation, urban sprawl, and financial divide, but at least we’re returning to our “roots” and trying to conceive ways we can co-exist with nature.

Remember when we made the big fuss not too long ago about the world population hitting 7 billion? We’re now at 7.299 billion people on this planet. Co-existing with nature has to stop being a romantic notion. If these swanky home developments ensure the proliferation of small farms propped up by a local community, then perhaps that’s a huge step in how we accommodate the balance our exploding global population requires.

And hey, you can pet some goats as you walk to your neighborhood product stand. What’s not to like?

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.