These Nature Oases Blend Urban Farming with City Life
Welcome to the best Agrihoods in the country.
I grew up thinking someone was not just rich, but like “rich rich” if they lived in a gated community with a 5-star golf course, tennis complex, community pool, and perfectly manicured lawns that had not even one weed on them. Personally, I never felt these grounds were as comforting as my own romantic wildflower field at home (basically a yard with overgrown dandelions everywhere, but oh the wishes I could make!), but those kinds of neighborhoods were luxurious, for some. And those outside of the gates did not feel welcome.
But it seems like millennials are ditching the golf courses for something altogether different. I’m not necessarily talking about the backwoods, off-grid farms where owners wield hatches and flannel everything. Some are finding a sense of old-fashioned community, connection to nature, and fresh foods while still living in a diverse, cultural society or cities, even. The answer for many is an agrihood.
As the name suggests, an agrihood is a type of planned community that integrates agriculture into a residential neighborhood. According to the Urban Land Institute, there are now over 150 of them spread around the country. Agrihoods are meant to facilitate food production as well as offer up green space, recreation, aesthetics, and value for a community. Paul Habibi, a professor of real estate at UCLA, suggests that agrihoods bring together a “confluence of economic profits, environmental good, and social benefit.”
Imagine a neighborhood that revolves around goats grazing, a wild garden for medicinal plants, where the blueberries are grown in such abundance that there is a pie bakeoff every July. Instead of heading to the country club for dinner, families meet at the farm-to-table restaurant in the hood, proud that all of the food used was grown in their own backyards. There may be an “artisan food village,” complete with a winery, cheeserie, and bakery. Dads meet up at the yoga studio instead of the golf course. Homes are solar-paneled, composting is a given, and there are electric car charging stations.
These communities are not always just for the rich families in the suburbs anymore. Yeah, San Francisco has a farm-to-table agrihood sustained mostly by tech giants. Phoenix and Atlanta have some communities where homes can go for a million dollars or more. But urban Detroit broke the mold in a place where the median home value is under $25,000, addressing and supporting a community that has known food insecurity all too long—and it is absolutely thriving.
Here are a few of the agrihoods around the states that are setting the standard.
Celebrate diverse foods at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative
In a city that has for many years been labeled “the most dangerous” or “the most violent in the country,” gardens can be a signal of safety for some residents. While the city is no stranger to community gardens (boasting nearly 1,400 of them), this nonprofit in the North End neighborhood is making waves as America’s first sustainable urban agrihood.
In this part of town—just north of the recently gentrified Midtown area—where poverty is all too common, food scarcity is a real issue. The initiative has created a three-acre farm that focuses on growing the foods often used in the diverse cultures here; organic hot peppers and collard greens are a hit. At Michigan Urban Farming Initiative produce is free to all and the farm is open to harvesting on Saturday mornings.
The Detroit model plans to provide a Community Resource Center with educational programs and a meeting space, a cafe, and two commercial kitchens aimed at creating an economic opportunity for residents to be able to sell hot sauces made from their fresh peppers. MUFI, as it’s commonly called, is also very active in community cleanups of abandoned properties.
Have social get-togethers and farm-fueled dinners in Agritopia
This one is an extrovert’s dream. Agritopia is well inside the Phoenix metro area, but focuses on reducing barriers to socialization. There are 452 residential lots that hug narrow streets and houses have been designed to have low back fences and front porches, making it rather difficult to ignore your neighbors. Inside are a farm with lambs and chickens, a citrus grove, and community gardens.
There are two famous restaurants here: Joe’s Farm Grill which was featured on television by Guy Fieri, and The Coffee Shop that won the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The newest addition to the community is a set of buildings called Barnone, where there is a florist, a winemaker, and shops where craftsmen sell their handcrafted goods.
Redefine industrial chic at The Cannery
Previously home to a Hunt-Wesson tomato canning facility, the 100-acre project of The Cannery is the first agrihood to take root on former industrial land. All of its 547 energy-efficient homes are solar-power ready for those who want to install panels, with tankless hot water heaters and electric car charging capability. Home buyers can also choose to increase the energy features to achieve net-zero-energy status (for example, solar panels can be installed that would power electric fireplaces throughout the home and Cool Roof Certified-roofing materials are an option during hot, sunny months).
The community’s 7.4-acre farm is managed by the Center for Land-Based Learning, a nonprofit group that plans to run agricultural educational programs for students and aspiring farmers. Keep in mind this is California real estate—and that’s hardly ever inexpensive. Homes here can range from the mid-$400,000s to just over a cool million.
Say goodbye to golf courses at Miralon
Palm Springs, California
Miralon stood out from the crowd by transforming an 18-hole water-intensive golf course into a drought-resistant 70-acre olive grove that serves as the epicenter of a 300-acre agrihood (there are other common garden areas for different fruits and veggies as well). Many homes have been purchased since 2020, and the plan is to sell all 1,150 single-family homes, townhouses, and condos, all with solar panels installed as standard features.
The paths that were originally meant for golf carts have found new use as 6.5 miles of hiking trails. There are also dog parks, exercise stations, fire pits, and an outdoor demonstration kitchen for cooking classes. The Temuca Olive Oil Company has been contracted to harvest the olives and press them on site, and the oil will be made available to community members.
Let someone else’s hands get dirty at Willowsford
Loudoun County, Virginia
Want access to farm-fresh organic produce without ever having to get dirt under your nails? Want your kids to learn how to cook, but don’t actually feel like teaching them yourself? If you have enough cash to throw down around a million bucks for a home here at the 4,000-acre Willowsford, you get access to the harvest of an on-site 300-acre professional farm through a neighborhood farmer’s market and educational events like cooking classes for kids at the community house. A one-time National Association of Homebuilders Suburban Community of the Year award winner, this place comes with a certain sense of status built in.
Do pretty much what you’d expect from Vermont in South Village
Champlain Valley, Vermont
The residents of liberal Vermont are known for appreciating open spaces and village living, so when South Village became the state’s first conservation community and agrihood, it wasn’t a hard sell.
There are townhouses, luxury condos, and single-family homes, plus plenty of paths for cycling and cross-country skiing, community gardens, and a four-acre organic farm that functions as a cooperative CSA. With benefits that spread out past the community, South Village has a one-acre, 528-panel photovoltaic solar array that produces carbon-free electricity not just for the South Village community, but also for the city of South Burlington.
Live out your retirement dreams in Prairie Commons
While most agrihoods are marketed to millennials, Prairie Commons is a pedestrian-friendly development specifically designed with senior citizens in mind. And really its draws are attractive for those of any age. There will be many opportunities for social gatherings, such as a farmer’s market, cooking school, restaurants, and a 15-acre lake perfect for birdwatching.
Residents can come together to work at the series of community gardens. What used to be a single-crop tract of land is being transformed into a certified organic farm that produces a variety of fruits, veggies, and small-scale livestock.
Commute to Chicago from bucolic Prairie Crossing
Established over a decade ago, Prairie Crossing is in the Chicago region and was designed to combine preservation of open land with easy commuting to the big city by rail. It not only has a massive 100-acre working organic farm that is helping launch the next generation of young farmers, it also has a charter school that focuses on environmental education and responsible global citizenship. Horse lovers appreciate the fact that it has stables; even for people who don’t ride, horses do make for picturesque neighbors.