- A new type of housing community known as an “agrihood” is popping up around the US.
- Agrihoods combine the amenities of a rural farming community with the convenience of a modern, metropolitan neighbourhood.
- Millennials and active retirees alike are flocking to the agrihood at Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, California.
Farm life isn’t what it used to be.
Agrihood developers aim to bring the amenities of a rural farming community, like fresh produce and ample outdoor space, to modern, metropolitan neighbourhoods. The homes are typically built to high environmental standards, too — think solar panels and composting.
“With the shifts in how people connect, developers and planners are seeking creative alternatives to create vibrant, engaging ways to create community,” said Paul Johnson, senior vice president of community development for Rancho Mission Viejo, a 23,000-acre master-planned community in Orange County, California.
“Where in the past it might have been a retail plaza or community center, now developers are looking at what kinds of places meet the changing needs of how people live,” he said.
The Ranch at Rancho Mission Viejo is building its neighbourhoods around communal farms. Its agrihoods attract millennials, who represent the largest segment of American homebuyers today, and active retirees alike.
We explored the agrihood on a recent visit to The Ranch — take a look:
The Ranch at Rancho Mission Viejo is California's largest new master-planned community. Upon completion, there will be 6,000 acres of homes and nearly 17,000 acres of habitat reserve. To date, The Ranch construction is about 25% complete.
The first two villages, Esencia and Sendero, have a combined 3,411 residences, including townhouses, single-family homes, and apartments.
Newly-built homes range from the low $400,000s to more than $1 million. Both villages also offer homes available exclusively to folks 55 and older to promote intergenerational living.
Because the land was used for cattle ranching for over a century, the developers coined the term 'agrihood,' short for agricultural neighbourhood, and placed community farms at the center of each village to preserve the area's history.
In addition to three community farms, The Ranch also has public swimming pools, hiking trails, parks, club houses, and even a coffee shop.
Marissa Alverson, a twenty-something who lives with her mum in the Sendero village, was working in software sales when she moved to the agrihood. She found the farm was a 'huge stress reliever' for her, she told Business Insider. She soon started volunteering and now visits the farm regularly.
One of the best perks of having a farm virtually in your backyard, Alverson said, is being able to pick out fresh and delicious produce at any time.
The farm locations in each village are carefully plotted to ensure easy access for residents, said Johnson. Most importantly, 'they cannot be an afterthought,' he said.
About 65 families are currently part of the farm program at Esencia, which requires a $100 fee every six months and a total of four volunteer hours a month per household. In exchange, residents can pick flowers and herbs during open farm hours and gather weekly baskets of crops.
There's also a workshop area, pictured here, which offers seasonal farm-to-table cooking classes and demonstrations for members.
The Esencia farm has raised planter beds, 26 fruit trees and nine avocado, mulberry, walnut, and bay trees, plus a harvest and prep barn, greenhouse, tool shed, composting system, and chicken coop.
'The age range at the farm is generally a wide variety, anywhere from newer families to retired seniors,' Alverson said of the Sendero farm, adding that it's a great community builder, especially for the kids who visit. 'The farm really brings it back to the roots of, 'It takes a village.''
'Agrihood creates a sense of connection to both the environment and to others in the community,' said Amaya Genaro, director of community services for Rancho Mission Viejo.
'Although the agrihood program resonates differently with each person, it continues the legacy and 'culture of care' of this historic ranch,' Johnson said. ''Take care of the land and the land will take care of you,' was the decree of Rancho Mission Viejo matriarch, Marguerite 'Daisy' O'Neill.'
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