Developers including farms in their plans

Friday, November 27, 2015
Developers including farms in their plans
New neighborhoods being developed are giving farm-to-table new meaning.

DAVIS, Calif. -- The farm-to-table trend is defining how people live. Now, housing developers are adding farms to neighborhoods to give people what they want, giving communities old-fashioned roots to grow.

When you pull into The Cannery in Davis, Calif. the big barn tips you off that this isn't your usual suburban housing development.

Kevin Carson is with New Home Co., the developer. "We wanted to have this be, when you come into the community, feel that the farm has been here longer than the homes," Carson said.

Once the site of an industrial cannery, the land is now being converted into a new community called an "agrihood," neighborhoods that incorporate farming into subdivisions.

At The Cannery, nearly 540 homes will be walking distance of a 7.5-acre of farm. "The housing styles range from affordable apartments to million dollar estate homes," Carson said. When completed, The Cannery will be one of California's first farm-to-table communities.

Ed McMahon is a senior fellow at the nonprofit Urban Land Institute, a real estate research group in Washington, D.C. He says agrihoods are hot. "Almost every week I get a call from a different country about a new development," McMahon said. "What people are finding is that it is an amenity that can really actually create some value in a community, unlike for example, golf course developments which were all the rage for many, many years."

Living in one of those communities may have added health benefits too. Serenbe outside of Atlanta, Ga. was built in 2004. "Unanimously, people are talking about improved health benefits," said Serenbe's developer Steve Nygren. "Whether they have children, whether they're retiring seniors, the health benefits are incredible."

Developers say agrihoods reflect a shift in consumer demand.

"The demand for local food has just exploded," said farmer Rocky Tassione with the Harvest agrihood outside of Dallas, Texas.

From Texas to Hawaii, from Virginia to Illinois, agrihoods have taken off.

At Agritopia, outside of Phoenix, residents take pride in growing on their own plots.

People who buy in the Davis development won't work the farm. That will be done by the nonprofit Center for Land-Based Learning.

"Upwards of 60 to 70 kinds of fruits and vegetables can be grown here at any time," said the center's Mary Kimball. Those crops will be sold back to the local community and the center will offer workshops to help locals understand where their food comes from.

"We also plan to have, during the course of the year, different kinds of events that bring people out to the farm and give us the opportunity and them the opportunity to share in what we are doing," Kimball said.

The Cannery opened for sales at the end of August. Five thousand people came through on the first day. "We had 90 people though last week," said Carson. The developer says buyers range from millennials to retirees and empty-nesters.

Samrina and Mylon Marshall bought a home at The Cannery. They hope to move in this spring.

"We wanted to have an energy-efficient home. We wanted to downsize a little bit and the concept of being in the farms, and it just really fit us to a 'T'," Samrina Marshall said.

"I personally do not have a green thumb, so I am kind of looking forward to partaking in the agricultural classes," said Mylon Marshall.

Developers would love to build agrihoods in the Bay Area. They say the seeds have been planted for building more of them.

But developers admit there is a big hurdle, finding enough land in the Bay Area. There's not many places left to build on this scale.

Written and Produced by Ken Miguel.