Having worked in the golf industry for ten years without ever playing a hole, I understand the appeal of golf course residential development. Players and non-players alike appreciate the open space that golf courses offer, and the wildlife they bring. If you haven't seen a bluebird or fox lately in your neighborhood, you will find them at local golf courses. Once, a snapping turtle went for a leisurely stroll in front of the clubhouse. (His pond was too crowded; he was relocated - carefully - to another.) However, it's accepted within the industry that golf courses are currently overbuilt. This leaves developers looking for new ways to market homes. With the growth of the local food movement, some developers are choosing to build communities around farms.
"People are willing to pay more for a smaller lot, because the lot comes with a 100-acre farm and 300 acres of forest or green space," Ed McMahon, a senior fellow with the Urban Land Institute in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times. "Agriculture is the new golf," he said.
One model community, Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill., was begun in 1992. This development has many green features, but the farming operation in particular has three facets: A profitable, organic family farm, an incubator farm for new farmers, and a learning farm serving local schoolchildren, as well as residents and the public. Located forty miles north of Chicago, there are two train stations to facilitate the commute.
Another community found outside one of our major cites is Willowsford, a Loudon County, Va, development begun in 2011, near Washington. Like Prairie Crossing, it was originally slated for dense, uniform development, and that idea met with opposition. Also, in common with Prairie Crossing, the preserved space that includes the organic farm is not controlled by the homeowner association, but by separate, non-profit, entity. This community is still building, with 2014 forecast as the peak for new home sales.
An even more innovative community is planned for the west coast, in Berkeley, Calif. Garden Village is a 77-unit, mixed use development, with 18 three to five story buildings planned on 27,000 square feet. On 16 of the 18 roofs, rooftop farms are planned. These farms, the first in the state, will be managed by Spiral Gardens, an organization working to promote food security in Berkeley. A CSA is planned to distribute the produce grown there.
The developers have tackled the transportation question, as well: in fact, the project includes a transportation master plan. Key to the plan is a car-sharing operation, for residents, of four to ten autos. Mass transportation passes may be included in the cost of a unit, and bike sharing facilities are available, also.