Agrihood Life: Connect Agriculture to Neighborhoods

Agrihoods Are a Relatively New & Rising U.S. Trend Connecting Neighbors, Land & Agriculture

by Carol Mowdy Bond
PHOTO: The Kiawah River Agrihood near Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy Peter Frank Edwards

Agrihood life is becoming more popular across the U.S. as planned, community food-focused living communities take hold. What is an agrihood? It’s a residential neighborhood that supports itself through community farming. Simply put, everyone has a stake in the growing of food and shares in the bounty. An Urban Land Institute report says there are currently more than 200 agrihoods in at least 28 states.

What is an Agrihood?

Agrihoods aren’t communes based on shared political or religious beliefs rather they are focused on farming and agriculture. Participation in the farming duties varies per agrihood, with some allowing residents full access to farming and ranching experiences. But regardless of participation, residents have access to reliable and healthy food.

Some agrihoods are marketed toward an affluent demographic. However, the agrihood model may be applied to urban areas and lower-income housing areas. Several agrihoods offer affordable housing, including locations in California and Colorado.

The Kiawah River Agrihood near Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy Peter Frank Edwards

Examples of Agrihoods

Residents live in tiny homes in Tiny Timbers, near St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. As a result, most residents own their homes debt-free. With only 16 homes, Tiny Timbers residents share responsibilities for gardening and caring for chickens, honey bees and orchards.

The creators of Kiawah River Agrihood, near Charleston, South Carolina, built an agrihood community around preexisting, established farms. Kiawah River partners with multigeneration, existing farms and others. Residents may work or volunteer on the farm or participate in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and may visit the Kiawah River farmers market.

“Kiawah River is the region’s only agrihood,” says Caroline Rogers, account executive for the Lou Hammond Group in Charleston. “With 20 miles of shoreline, 2,000 acres of picturesque property, including a 100-acre working farm, a goat dairy and a CSA program, Kiawah River is a maritime oasis of residential, future retail and hospitality offerings with custom and semi-custom homes featuring high-quality coastal architecture. It’s a place where life is centered on outdoor pursuits and traditional low country pastimes.”

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The Kiawah River Agrihood near Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy Peter Frank Edwards.

Kiawah River Broker-in-Charge Chris Drury says, “Kiawah River  offers the rare opportunity to live in a waterfront community. The community seamlessly complements wellness by offering a sustainable lifestyle with farm-to-table amenities, outdoor educational activities and much more.”

Resident Dana Berg says that being able to walk among the animals and have fresh eggs every day is a special experience. “The community share program is awesome,” she says. “The fresh vegetables, fresh honey and goat cheeses and more are delicious and are delivered right to your front door.”

“The daily beauty of everything we have access to never gets old,” says resident Lindsay Cobb. “The eggs are simply amazing and the access to fresh vegetables is so unique.”

Kiawah River Chief Environmental Officer Jeff Snyder has witnessed Kiawah River transform from a pure farmland and private hunting ground to a sea islands agrihood. “It has been a pleasure working in the community, teaching others how to harvest their own vegetables, plant seeds, and support the local farms,” he says. “I feel so honored  to contribute to the preservation of the land while supporting the future of Kiawah River and its residents.”

A 10-acre farm near Richmond, Virginia, the Chickahominy Falls agrihood offers housing for residents who are ages 55 and over. Texas has numerous agrihoods including Harvest Community, which is a 1200-acre, 3,200-home project near Dallas.

Agrihood Benefits

A 2018 ULI report applauds agrihoods because they are inspired by a “growing understanding that development centered on food-production spaces can produce multiple benefits for individuals and communities while enhancing real estate performance.”

Agrihoods may be advantageous for developers because they typically require less land and maintenance than golf courses or swimming pools. As for economic impact, agrihoods attract tourists from cities and area restaurants.

The Kiawah River Agrihood near Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy Peter Frank Edwards

Besides giving residents reliable access to food, agrihoods may save family farms and can keep farmland in production. They may also be more appealing than starting one’s own farm. And food shipping costs are eliminated.

On the downside, agrihoods require capital and water, are management-intense, risky and involve experimentation. Sustainable agriculture is challenging and difficult work. Weather, pests, predators, poor soil and insufficient staff are all part of the mix. Some agrihoods struggle with residents who randomly pick crops and some who don’t carry their workload share. To remedy this issue, certain agrihoods have hired full-time farmers to oversee the process.

Agrihood development benefits include promotion of health, social interaction, a good environment benefits, employment and a strong local economy. Factors involved in the model include land, food, financing, programming, communication, housing and design and people.

Harkening backing to colonial-era practices, agrihoods offer a modern dynamic with food-production spaces that vary. They may involve community farms, demonstration farms, small-scale/accessible-scale farms, edible landscaping, vineyards, orchards/olive groves, community gardens, rooftop farms, senior centers, retreat centers, and farms or gardens at churches, schools, public lands, and corporate campuses. As well, controlled-environment agriculture, such as greenhouses, warehouses, and shipping containers may be involved, along with other areas or venues.

The Kiawah River Agrihood near Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy Keen Eye Marketing

This story about the growing popularity of agrihood living was written for Hobby Farms magazine online. Click here to subscribe.