Suburban Sprawl Meets the Farm

I got my first taste of subdivision living in the 1982 film Poltergeist. Needless to say, things didn’t work out too well for the residents of the Simi Valley, California, community where the film took place.

Haunted Indian burial grounds obviously haven’t halted the building of planned communities since Poltergeist entered the collective cultural consciousness. Perhaps somewhat novel in the early '80s, modern tract subdivisions, or “communities,” are now everywhere. If you haven’t lived in or are currently living in one, you probably know someone who does. At the very least, you’ve driven through or by one.

Serenbe, Georgia Often centered around corporate campuses that lie beyond what are considered the inner ‘burbs, amenities of planned subdivisions include golf courses, rec centers, freeway access, good schools, nearby shopping (a mall or two), and if the community is really fancy, a gated entrance. What’s the newest thing to attract potential buyers to subdivision living? According to the New York Times, it’s organic farming.

Surprising, I know. The NYT article (it also starts out with a film reference ... not Poltergeist or Edward Scissorhands but Field of Dreams) explores this unlikely housing trend by visiting several subdivisions across America that center themselves around organic farms.

Long ago, suburban sprawl began to encroach on rural areas and these sometimes ticky-tacky developments generally shut the farm out. Agricultural land was paved over, developed, turned into a Sam’s Club. But according to Ed McMahon (not that Ed McMahon) a senior fellow with the Urban Land Institute, there are currently over 200 subdivision housing projects that “include agriculture as a key component.”

Bundoran Farm, Virginia.

Bundoran Farm, Virginia

The subdivisions mentioned include Serenbe outside of Atlanta, Bundoran Farm outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, and South Village outside of Burlington, Vermont. After perusing each community homepage, it’s obvious that while they’re all unique, they all aggressively market an air of bucolic laid back-ness in an attempt to distance themselves from typical tract subdivisions.

Essentially, these are agrarian themed communities. They’re not quite the real thing — it seems that residential real estate trumps agriculture, or as one developer puts it: “agriculture can be the caboose on the train and housing can be the engine.” Still, these communities are close enough so that residents may wake to a rooster’s crow and the stench of manure.

What’s your take? Would you rather live somewhere that’s truly rural or somewhere that’s rural but also planned? I like the idea of living around a farm and not having to deal with all the dirty work but I wonder if it’s even worth it I’d be dealing with housing associations, traffic, and neighbors that aren’t miles and miles away.

Via [NYT]

Photos: edition of one (Serenbe), cvilletomorrow (Bundoran Farm)