Are Agrihoods a Growth Opportunity?
BY STACEY FREED | DECEMBER 11, 2023
This article first appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Pro Builder.
The most successful agrihoods, however, seem to be those where community goals determine the farm’s location; in those cases, the placement is intentional instead of being an afterthought to use leftover land.
At Rancho Mission Viejo, a 23,000-acre master plan in Orange County, Calif., the first village in the development, Sendero, located its farm on the edge of the community. But several years later, a second-phase village, Esencia, sited its farm in the middle of the parcel in response to residents’ high level of interest in the farm’s community-building potential. “It sits at the top of an oak canyon we preserved, and there’s a daycare across the street and some higher-density housing,” says architect Andrew Watkins, principal at JZMK Partners, in Costa Mesa, Calif., which has worked on several phases of the master plan. “They all work together as a core for that development. It’s a central part of the community’s identity and is a way to attract new residents.”
Agrihoods Are Business as Usual (Sort of)
Compared with other more common amenities, a farm usually requires a lower capital investment, but it has an operational aspect that’s more intensive. “A farm is a year-round operation,” Woliver points out. It can be a place for events, harvest days, and educational programs beyond growing and harvesting food. But when the growing season is over, the farm still needs planning and maintenance. “That’s when you spend time building out your project,” Snodgrass says. “If you want a new chicken coop, you don’t do it in peak growing season, you do it in the wintertime.”
Operational costs can be a challenge. “In making the business case for an agrihood amenity, the No. 1 thing I tell anyone who’s entertaining this is, ‘Find somebody who knows what they’re doing,’” Woliver says. (Aside from Agmenity, there are other companies, such as Farmscape and Farmer D, that do consultancy work to help developers and communities in the ag amenity space.)