There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Stephanie Simon discussing a new trend of some surburban developments incorporating edible landscapes into the developments - "An Apple Tree Grows in Suburbia: The hot trend in the suburbs is to mix homes and agriculture."
Instead of incorporating golf courses or recreational centers into developments, these developers are adding organic farms and neighborhood vegetable gardens.
It is interesting to see edible landscaping incorporated in a broader community sense.
You should be able to read the article here: An Apple Tree Grows in Suburbia.
Here are some excerpts:
Used to be, developers built high-end suburban communities around golf greens. The hot amenity now? Salad greens.
In a movement propelled by environmental concern, nostalgia for a simpler life and a dollop of marketing savvy, developers are increasingly laying out their cul-de-sacs around organic farms, cattle ranches, vineyards and other agricultural ventures. They're betting that buyers will pay a premium for views of heirloom tomatoes—and that the farms can provide a steady stream of revenue, while cutting the cost of landscaping upkeep.
Forget multimillion-dollar recreation centers—"our amenities are watching the cows graze and the leaves change," says Joe Barnes, development principal for Bundoran Farm, a 2,300-acre development set amid apple orchards and cattle pastures outside Charlottesville, Va.
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"Agriculture is the new golf," says Ed McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group focused on land-use planning.
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There are three basic models for incorporating agriculture into suburbia. The most straightforward is to set aside land for a farm, orchard or vineyard within the community. Such ventures may be run by an independent contractor who leases the land, or by salaried farmers who work for the developer. A second model creates community gardens—tilled, irrigated and ready for planting—throughout the development. Residents can claim a plot and get their hands dirty. Or new-home buyers might be might be offered a choice of irrigation systems and planter boxes that would allow them to turn their own yards into mini-farms. A final model involves creating edible landscaping throughout common spaces—fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, cabbage and lettuce—and allowing residents to pick whatever they can use. Many of the new developments incorporate more than one of these visions.
The trend has its roots in the growing distaste for prototypical suburban sprawl: mile after mile of look-alike homes broken up by the occasional park. The sustainability movement, with its emphasis on conservation, preservation and local food production, has helped, too. Then there's the fact that the U.S. already has thousands of golf-course communities, so developers looking to set their subdivisions apart need a new marketing hook.
"We're not trying to be suburbia," says Harold Smethills, a principal of Sterling Ranch, a planned development southwest of Denver that will feature a 4-H livestock ranch and hundreds of acres of community gardens.
Mr. Smethills has banned traditional lawns in Sterling Ranch, calling them a waste of water and land. Instead, residents will be able to pick from among several landscape options, most of which emphasize agricultural production. Homeowners might turn their backyard into a "salsa garden," for instance, growing jalapeños, tomatoes and cilantro in redwood planters. Or they might grow herbs or potatoes, honeydew melon or artichokes.
That lifestyle appeals immensely to Elsa Fluss, a mother of two who hopes to buy in Sterling Ranch. "I know my kids will know computers, technology—all those things they're growing up with," Ms. Fluss says. "I also want them to know working with their hands."
Suburban Edens, however, aren't always easy to build. Zoning regulations often don't allow for homes side by side with working farms, so such developments may require additional hearings before planning boards. "It's critical to anticipate and plan in great detail," says Joe Runco, managing principal of SWA Group, a global planning and landscape-architecture firm that is working on farm-based communities, including Bishops Bay in Middleton, Wis., and the Preserve in Stockton, Calif. City officials may ask questions like, "If you've got trees full of apples and they're next to the high school, do those apples get eaten—or do they get thrown?" Mr. Runco says.
Once a project wins approval, the developers may have to subsidize the farm for several years before it becomes profitable.
And even true believers acknowledge that some potential buyers may be put off by a landscape more squash than sod. "There's a visual component to an edible landscape that hasn't been embraced fully by the public," says David Nelson, senior vice president of A.G. Spanos Cos., developer of the Preserve, the 1,800-acre farm-centered community in northern California. He says that the land will lie barren for parts of the year and that fields in full bloom can look unkempt, which can discomfit suburbanites used to manicured bluegrass. Other developers warn that smells and dust from farming can spark complaints from homeowners.
The complaints can come from the farmers, too: Paige Witherington, who grows vegetables on five acres inside a suburban Atlanta development, says she has had to chase away residents and tourists who saw nothing wrong with walking their dogs through her lettuce fields. "We had to put up a sign saying only farmers allowed beyond this point," she says.
The model for many of these developments is Prairie Crossing, a community built around a 100-acre organic farm in Grayslake, Ill., north of Chicago. When it was launched in 1992, the concept was so novel that Prairie Crossing didn't need a marketing budget; it coasted on free publicity generated by reporters who came to see this strange new suburb. In recent years, Prairie Crossing has morphed from oddity to inspiration. Its developers have fielded so many queries from firms considering similar projects that they organized a two-day seminar last fall.
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But some sustainability advocates say the new farm communities don't go far enough. Quint Redmond, a land planner in Golden, Colo., promotes a vision of what he calls "agriburbia," where suburbs aren't just built around a farm; they support food production at every turn.
Why not line streets with almond and avocado trees, he asks, or replace shrubbery with cabbage and currants? Golf courses could plant their roughs with kale and corn. Lawns—where they must exist—could be edged with chives and herbs.
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Serenbe, in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., has adopted some of the "agriburbia" vision. In addition to an organic farm at the heart of the development, nearly 70% of the public landscaping in the latest Serenbe village also consists of edible species. "We walk down the street and grab blueberries off bushes," says homeowner Tom Reed. The challenge, he says, is "remembering to leave some for other people."