Agrihood: HOA with a working farm

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

organic farm


There’s a new trend in sustainable urban development sparked by the Farm-to-Table movement: the Agrihood. It is characterized by a dense clusters of homes surrounding a working organic farm set on 100 – 300 acres. The farm is professionally managed, and homeowners support the farm through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.

According to reports, there are hundreds of these large scale communities surrounding working, professionally managed, organic farms. I’ve included a few links below to give you a general idea of what these new Urban – meets – Agriculture communities are all about.

The second article featuring a proposed new agrihood in Durham, North Carolina, also contains hot links to more examples of agrihoods. (As you explore them, keep in mind, these are all elaborate websites designed to market and sell homes.)

What’s different about these HOAs?

You’ll notice that this new trend of creating rural villages surrounding a farm is, in some ways, different from many of the tract home HOAs that have taken over suburbs across the country. For one thing, you won’t see identical, cookie cutter beige houses. Many of these new subdivisions incorporate trails through wooded forests, commercial districts with restaurants supplied by the farm, horse stables, community pools and/or lakes.

In fact, Agri-hoods are marketed as the alternative to golf course communities. Instead of a Country Club, there’s a community barn with indoor and outdoor dining areas.

And, like the early golf communities, homes in these new working-farm HOAs don’t come cheap. Expect to pay a half million and up. The least expensive new homes I could find were in Harvest, Texas, starting in the mid $300s. So most consumers probably are not aware of this new housing community trend.

I really had to look hard for information regarding an HOA connected with one of these Agri-hoods. Of course they exist, but the details are not disclosed up front.

Here’s some info I was able to find about Serenbe Development, just outside of Atlanta, developed by the Nygren family. (See page 11)

While Serenbe has a Homeowners Associations (HOA), its role has been purposely limited. At this time, the Nygren family as the Developer manages the HOA, but it will transition to a HOA Board after development reaches 90% build out.The Nygrens’believe stronglythatthevaluesoftheSerenbeexperienceandlifestyleare much broader than the normal mission of a HOA which concerns itself with maintaining basic infrastructure services.Therefore, they created the Serenbe Institute which is a 501c3 empowered to basically take over all open space and manage everything other than very limited items that the HOA is responsible for regarding the basic infrastructure services, such as; roads, parks, and ROW maintenance.The Serenbe Institute receives a 1% transaction fee paid by the buyer as a donation on every home transaction, and a 3% fee on any lot sale also paid by the buyer. This gives the Institute a core working budget that allows it to lead the Serenbe experience of place-making which entails a; performing theater group, arts program, Artist-in-Residence Program, Serenbe Fellows Program, and anything else that will support the Serenbe community experience. While this keeps the HOA role narrow, it also keeps the HOA fees relatively low, running around $550-$1000/year based on usage of infrastructure services (water,wastewater,and solid waste). Again, the usage fee structure incentivizes residents to reduce their environmental footprint.


More of the same?

On the other hand, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s still a duck. A mandatory HOA will still require each homeowner to pay their share of assessments, in addition to ongoing CSA fees.

Right now, these are still new subdivisions under developer control, with construction ongoing. And assessments are always low while homes are under construction. I cannot help but wonder what will happen when developers stop subsidizing the operation of these independent farms, or when the novelty wears off, or when the animals and organic gardens become too expensive to manage, will Agri-hoods face the same fate as many of today’s golf communities?

Will abandoned corn fields, chicken coops, and vineyards wither and die, becoming dust bowls? Will barn doors be boarded up much like the doors on the Country Clubhouse?

Of course, developers and first generation buyers always have high hopes for the future of their trendy new subdivision. Perhaps this model of HOA is a bit kinder and gentler, and more conducive to a true sense of community.

But I can’t help thinking that there’s something ironic and a little Orwellian about the fact that exclusive Agri-hoods are replacing family farms.



The country, small town lifestyle does not require a planned community or an HOA

I must confess, this topic is intriguing for me because my spouse and I currently live in a small, rural community in Central Pennsylvania.

Although my street has a suburban feel, the homes are surrounded by farmland. Less than a quarter-mile from my house, my neighbors and I can walk, run, or bike on a 10-mile Rail Trail that connects two small boroughs consisting of historic homes. Here’s a photo from the trail. Above is a grain field just down the street from where I live.


I’m less than two miles from the center of town, which includes a University, a movie theater, locally owned shops, restaurants, and taverns, and a park. There’s a meat market (locally supplied), a hardware store, a bakery, two candy stores, and two coffee shops. All of them are locally owned and operated.

Here are two photos of the busy farmers’ market!




In my township, and the borough, there are several playgrounds, a public pool, sports fields, and riverside parks.

Weather permitting, I can easily walk to two farmer’s markets, the public library, the Township building, and my doctor’s office.

Within a 2-3 mile drive, there are supermarkets, pharmacies, fast food, Wal-Mart, and all of the typical Big Box suburban amenities you would expect.

Driving in the opposite direction, there are several homestyle roadside restaurants and a seasonal ice cream stand. On the way to the next town, I sometimes pass Amish families traveling by horse and buggy.

And the best part: none of this is contrived or planned, and there is no HOA.

Having taken many road trips in the eastern half of the U.S., I can attest to the fact that America has an abundance of rural and small town locations, for anyone that wants to escape the big city lifestyle.


Here are the story links about the growing Agrihood trend.

Home grown: Moving next to the farm (VIDEO)

When it comes to feasting, more and more Americans these days are enjoying food that is “home grown” — or at the very least, food that comes from the farm right next door. Mark Strassmann reports our Cover Story:

All you foodies, take a closer look: this tree-lined, suburban street might lead to heaven on Earth.

“I would say that probably 80% of the food that we eat comes from within a five-mile radius of this house,” said Clay Johnson. “These peppers, yeah, come from 50 feet away!”

Johnson and Rosalyn Lemieux moved their family here from Washington, D.C., two years ago. Their five-bedroom, five-bathroom home sits 40 minutes south of downtown Atlanta.

They bought here for the close-knit neighborhood — and an organic farm right beyond their backyard.



Proposed subdivision in Durham would include working farm

Home sites would surround professionally managed 8.5-acre farm

Food-share fee included in community’s monthly HOA dues

Developer says local food scene will make amenity attractive to buyers

Seven years ago, when Rick Bagel first began writing a business plan for what would become Wetrock Farm, the concept of placing a working organic farm in a residential subdivision was still fairly new.

Read more here:

1 thought on “Agrihood: HOA with a working farm

  1. I like the idea of subsidizing a full-time, experienced farmer working for the communities nourishment but if I am going to invest in an “Agrihood” I would also expect below-market prices on all the farms produce AND a community-run garden open to all or with lightly managed picking plans. It is also possibly the best way for concerned consumers to manage what goes into the food that they eat. However, the idea would be especially alluring if it WERE near an urban center, so homeowners can have the best of both worlds: a tightly-knit community close to museums and other big city attractions!

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