Industries in Depth

Agrihoods: the urban communities built around their own farms

Agrihoods could replace the country club. Image: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Tanza Loudenback
Writer, Business Insider
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Millennials are saying "so long" to the country club and "hello" to the farm.

Many so-called agrihoods — short for "agricultural neighborhoods" — are cropping up around the US, and they're aimed at farm-to-table-loving millennials.

Loosely defined by the Urban Land Institute as master-planned housing communities with working farms as their focus, agrihoods have ample green space, barns, and outdoor community kitchens. Some boast greenhouses and rows and rows of fruit trees. The homes are typically built to high environmental standards — think solar panels and composting.

Agrihoods are designed to appeal to young, active families who love to eat healthy and spend time outdoors — and they're not off the grid.

In fact, there are about 150 agrihoods across the country, according to the Urban Land Institute, and some are minutes from bustling cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, and Fort Collins, Colorado. That they don't have to trade in the city for sustainable living is most likely a big attractor for millennials, who represent the largest segment of American homebuyers today.

Paul Habibi, a professor of real estate at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, told The Orange County Register that agrihoods represented a "confluence of economic profits, environmental good, and social benefit" — an especially attractive offer to millennials.

"They actually want a benefit to society," Habibi said.

Agrihoods could become the 21st-century version of those tony golf communities baby boomers flocked to in the 1990s. Twenty-five years ago, moving near a golf course was a status symbol; the real estate was highly prized, in large part because of the green space and the views.

But millennials aren't interested in that type of manicured neighborhood. In today's culture, where young people favor farm-to-table fare and wax poetic about "clean living," agrihoods are just what they're searching for.

"Forget about the golf courses — our buyers want to have a real environment," Theresa Frankiewicz, the vice president of community development for Crown Community Development, said at the Urban Land Institute's 2016 Food & Real Estate Forum. Frankiewicz is involved in the development of a 6,800-acre agrihood near Tucson, Arizona.

In some places, communities are doing away with the golf course altogether to make room for sustainable living.

Developers in Palm Springs, California, are transforming an 18-hole golf course into a 70-acre olive-tree grove, The Register reported. It will serve as the epicenter of a new 300-acre agrihood called Miralon, which is scheduled to break ground later this year and eventually include dog parks, exercise stations, fire pits, and over six miles of hiking paths formerly used for golf carts.

The community is expected to include 1,150 single-family homes, townhouses, and condos. And with homes going from the high $300,000s to the $700,000s or more, residents will be paying a premium for access to fresh food and nature.

Rancho Mission Viejo, the development company based in Southern California that trademarked the term "agrihood" in 2014, is using its focus on sustainable living to draw young families — and even active retirees — to its Esencia and Sendero communities.

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All residents have access to communal farms with orchards and workshop space, raised planters, in-ground crops, fruit trees, and a laundry list of seasonal community events. But newly built homes there aren't cheap, ranging from the low $400,000s to more than $1 million.

"We make it easy for residents to participate," Amaya Genaro, the director of community services for Rancho Mission Viejo, told The Register. "We think it is more fun to share the responsibility with neighbors and reap the benefits of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables while forming new friendships."

If agrihoods continue to attract young homebuyers, millennials may be held responsible for killing yet another formerly prized industry.

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