What Is an Agrihood?
Tucked along the French Broad River near Asheville, North Carolina, lies the neighborhood of our dreams: From the lush open spaces to the picturesque homes to the working farm, Olivette Riverside Community and Farm is full of local food, charm, and community. "The farm is the heart of Olivette," says Allison Smith, one of the founding partners of Olivette. The 346-acre neighborhood, or agrihood, is one of a growing number of planned developments centered around agriculture, sustainability, and community.
Never heard of an agrihood? They're a relatively new concept. The first one was built in Arizona about 20 years ago, according to Anna DeSimone, the author of Welcome to the Agrihood ($14.99, amazon.com).
What Is an Agrihood?
Since the opening of that first agrihood, the planned communities have won award after award for "best places to live." In 2018, for instance, the North Carolina Home Builders Association named Olivette as both North Carolina Community of the Year and North Carolina Best Sustainable Community. There are more than 100 completed agrihoods in the U.S., plus many under development, and while each offers slightly different setups and amenities, all are centered around a working farm.
"In addition to the professionally managed farm, the majority of agrihoods also have 'community farms' where residents can plant their own produce," says DeSimone. "Most agrihoods have an organic store on site, and in addition to offering the food grown on the farm, the store partners with local artisans, fisheries, ranchers, and poultry farmers to bring fresh, locally-grown food that is sustainably sourced by local farmers."
It's basically like living at your favorite farmers' market. At Olivette, the four-season organic farm is designed to connect people with their food, their neighbors and the nature around them. It grows everything from salad greens to root vegetables, to berries and more. "It provides fresh, local produce, and sustainably while minimizing the supply chain," says Smith.
Olivette is a relatively new agrihood. The first single-family residences went on sale in 2017 and several homes are currently under construction. While many agrihoods consist of single-family homes in pooch-friendly, pedestrian neighborhoods, there are other types of agrihoods. "There are a number of unique agrihoods, including 'over-55 communities,' condominiums, townhomes, and even 'urban agrihoods' where the working farm is located on the rooftop of the building," says DeSimone. Some agrihoods also include senior living options, rental apartments, and affordable housing.
Fostering a Sense of Community
Many agrihoods have amenities geared towards creating active communities such as pools, clubhouses, event or gathering spaces, and restaurants, and recreational activities such as walking and biking trails, golfing, boating, and horseback riding. "Designing a shared space with community amenities like a park and trail systems helps create a tight-knit community," says Smith. Some agrihoods even have on-site K-12 schools.
When Do We Move In?
You'll find agrihoods throughout the country. Some agrihoods are even built on heritage farms, and DeSimone said it's not unusual to have the original farm family members serve as consultants in the community's planning or hired to manage the working farm. Many agrihoods tend to be in suburban areas near schools, airports, and major cities. Depending on the development status of the agrihood, there are options to build a custom home or buy an existing one.