Old MacDonald had an organic TND?
“Agriculture is the new golf,” observes Andres Duany.
An organic farm has been created at New Town at St. Charles, Missouri, a large traditional neighborhood development outside St. Louis. Developer Whittaker Builders is conducting a nationwide search for an operator who would live in a new Victorian-style farmhouse, which comes with a detached five-bay garage for farm implements and machinery.
New urbanists have dreamed of integrating farming and urbanism for two decades, but until recently the idea has remained mostly theory. New Town is one of the first to implement a farming program in a new urban community. The site — adjacent to residential neighborhoods on two sides and within a few blocks of the town center — treats farming as another mixed use that adds vitality to the community.
Agriculture “is looming large for new urbanists,” Miami architect Andres Duany told a Civic By Design Forum Nov. 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Agriculture is the new golf,” Duany quipped, alluding to a study in Loudoun County, Virginia, that found that a view of farm land is as valuable as a view of a golf course. “Food is quite good-looking,” he remarked.
Across North America, there is increasing demand for fresh food grown without chemicals and without long-distance trucking. “Developers have been asking us to build on this model for some time,” Duany said, noting plans that his firm has produced for Sky, a rural development proposed in northern Florida, and for Southlands, a proposed 538-acre development near Vancouver, British Columbia.
At New Town at St. Charles, the farmhouse, built over the last three years while the farm was being readied, is powered in part by a 1.8-kilowatt wind turbine. Another windmill — an old-fashioned one like those that dotted Midwest landscapes in the 1930s — pumps water for irrigation. The site includes a restored barn and two new barns — one of them designed specifically for horses. Also completed are three greenhouses and more than 150 raised beds “for farm production and individual lease by residents,” according to developer Greg Whittaker.
The farm is intended to be an amenity for residents but also a food source and a viable business. “Aside from produce, the organic farm will generate additional revenue through the sale of bedding plants, Halloween pumpkins, and Christmas tree sales — all of which will benefit from the demands of an ever growing community,” the developer says.
The pumpkin potential was tested in 2008, when Whittaker had a crew plant seeds. “We thought we would get a few pumpkins — we ended up with 3,000,” he told New Urban News. The sale of the pumpkins generated revenue for town entertainment events.
An amphitheater made of brick pavers and stone has been built on the farm site as a space for retail sales and special events. The farm is expected to be a venue for barn dances, festivals, and other community events. It will be a destination for school trips.
Part of the farm will be allocated for community garden plots, available for lease to residents. The rent for the farm will be based on a percentage of farm revenue, according to Whittaker. Those who are interested in running the farm should contact Sherri Flynn: firstname.lastname@example.org.