We already know that vegetable gardens are replacing lawns in cities across America. So maybe it makes sense for farms to replace golf courses in suburban development.
That's the idea behind Wetrock Farm, a proposed 141 home, 230-acre development 20 minutes outside Durham, NC that will include a working organic farm, a community garden, as well as over 100 acres of preserved open space, forest land, jogging and hiking trails and picnic areas.
The project already has planning approval, and letters of intent from builders for 74 homesites, and developer Rick Bagel is working on securing financial equity and debt partners. He describes the project as a unique hybrid model between often ideologically focused intentional communities, and a more traditional suburban housing development:
"There are co-housing communities out there that feature organic farming as an integral part of their model. And there are conventional housing developments that include a farm as part of their masterplan. As far as I know, though, we are one of the first conventional housing development that will include a weekly delivery of fresh, organic fruits and veggies grown on-site payed for through your HOA fees."
In this sense, says Bagel, the community provides a model for balancing suburban housing demand with pressure on farmland, as well as providing career opportunities and access to markets that can be hard for first generation farmers to access. Much like the idea of combining a retirement community with a young farmer incubator, connecting young farmers to home owners with a yearning for the rural life can be an effective way to meet everyone's needs:
"This is a great opportunity for an experienced organic farmer who may not have a farm in the family, or access to capital to buy their own land. We will maintain ownership, while the farmer starts out on a salary—before eventually moving to a profit sharing arrangement. It's a new model for a career farmer to pursue."
Of course suburban development comes with its own ecological costs. But if we're going to build developments in the countryside, why not use them as an opportunity to preserve farmland and open space, and include amenities (like access to farm-fresh veggies) on-site so folks travel a little less.
Bagel also confirmed that green building standards will be required for all construction, although the exact details of what those standards will be are yet to be confirmed.