Friday, May 22, 2009

'Agriculture is the new golf'

The latest career advice, I hear, isn't "plastics." It's "agriburbia."

A developer-land planner-type pulled me aside this week to talk about his newest project: A development, in the general vicinity of Kannapolis-Salisbury, that they're dubbing "agriburbia." It's a residential development but instead of common open space and big lawns, they'll have a civic farm, land leased to a farmer. There will be do-it-yourself options for backyard gardeners. They'll market it, he said, to people affiliated with the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis – the health-and-wellness related research operation.

The term "agriburbia," he said, was coined by a guy in Colorado. Sure enough, here's the Web site. "Agriburbia" is even trademarked. But it's such a great word it may have a life of its own, like "locavore." Its slogan: "Growing Sustainable Communities by the Bushel!" Its goal: "the re-integration of food production directly within the living environment ... by focusing on agriculture as the centerpiece of both new and existing communities."

This dovetails with a talk in Charlotte last fall by New Urbanism godfather Andres Duany, about what he termed "agricultural urbanism." It was Duany who quipped "agriculture is the new golf." By that, he meant an activity and marketing point for developments.

"Only 17 percent of people living in golf course communities play golf more than once a year," Duany said. "Why not grow food? By the way, food is very good-looking." (I wonder if Duany, an urbane Miamian, has ever seen fading tomato plants at the end of a hot, aphid-ridden summer, or squash plants wilting from vine borer assaults. But I digress.)

Duany suggested the $40 billion that Americans spend on lawn care might be better diverted to food production. And this may be the biggest eyebrow-raiser, coming from a devoted urbanist devoted it to agriculture: "The large lot (as in large-lot suburbia) can be justified primarily as the making of food." When Duany is trying to justify large-lot suburbia, you know the world is changing.

Being Andres Duany, he even came up with a "transect" (translation: context-appropriate designs) for agriculture in a range of conditions from rural (your basic farms, with farming village clusters) to center city (container gardens on terraces and rooftops). His transect has specific allowances for how many chickens are allowed – though no cluckers in the most dense urban neighborhoods. If memory serves, you can't have a rooster unless you're in one of the more rural zones in his transect. Whatever.

The local developers said they'll be going public in a few weeks. Theirs isn't "agricultural urbanism," they said, but suburbia with farms instead of big lawns. Stay tuned.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

bunch of hippies !!!!!

I wonder what they'll be growing in these "communes"?

Anonymous said...

Mary, See you at Speedstreet. I know you are a big Clint Black fan. I hope you enjoy the show.

Anonymous said...

FOUR!!!!!!!!!

Michael said...

"Good bye, city life. Green Acres we are there!"

Anonymous said...

It's about time! We should all be striving towards being more self-sufficient. What a wonderful community to live in!

I hope this is just the start!

Anonymous said...

And to those who scoff and scream "hippies!" Try to think about this.

The way agribusiness has made things, if there is a blight on one crop it affects the nation. (ecoli/samonella, etc.) If more people had their own gardens, community farms...just small farms in general spread all over, when blight hits one farm the community can help them out instead of the whole nation suffering.

Anonymous said...

I only wish it was not connected to the biotech industry...if this applies to the foods they grow (GM)

Mary Newsom said...

Dear anon 1:27 PM: I went to Speed Street yesterday. Today I am shackled to my desk writing an op-ed column on the revitalization of downtown Gastonia (read it Saturday at www.charlotteobserver.com/marynewsom. And then I must undertake other in-house newspaper duties on deadline. I wish Speed Street were possible today, but alas ...

Anonymous said...

anon 1:46

When you complain about agribusiness or the american farmer....make sure and don't do it with your mouth full.

US Agriculture - feeding the world.

Great article, we need more food/ag stories in the observer.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if these devlopers have heard about a bill (HR875) making its way through the US Congress, that will efecctively put organic farmers out of business. Or at least any farming not done by the big agribusinesses like Monsanto and ADM. But I wish them luck anyway...

Anonymous said...

There will be a way for goverments, local and federal, to get a tax on this.
If you can keep the political hands off, and thats a big if, its a great idea.
We grow some veggies and herbs in our backyard. Meck Dems...stay away...

Anonymous said...

Actually, agribusiness feeds more livestock than any people. In a large part of the midwest, farmers have to get their food from other states because all they are growing is CORN for ethynol and livestock, etc.

I'm not complaining about farmers - if we really supported our farmers then small farms everywhere would be getting help instead of just the industrial guys.

anon 2:51 knows what I'm talking about.

Do a little research. Small farmers - organic and conventional - are losing everything to agribusiness.

Habersham Farmers Market said...

Agricultural Urbanism is well under way in the new town of Habersham in the lowcountry of South Carolina. This spring, 3 acres of the "development" were tilled up and planted with over 40 different types of fruits and vegetables. The Habersham Community Farm is directly adjacent to the town center so when it eventually begins to provide the local restaurants with their produce, it will come out of the ground and right across the street! Over 30 CSA shares were sold to Habersham residents as well to provide them with a fresh variety of produce each week of the growing season. The new public charter school has also signed on to have the farm eventually provide them with food for the kids lunches. Pictures will be posted soon on the website and a blog will keep everyone in the community up to date with whats being picked! www.habershammarketplace.com

Anonymous said...

PLUS - the agribusiness farmers will eventually lose everything as well as their soil is further depleted by monocrops.

In truth, the American farmer suffers because of agribusiness.

Anonymous said...

Habersham Farmers Market - what a great idea!!

I guarantee there's a tight community there

Anonymous said...

In truth, the American farmer suffers because of agribusiness.

5/22/2009 03:26:00 PM


PLEASE, show me some research. Are you a farmer or in the ag sector?

People can't even change a tire on their cars these days, much less feed themselves. Let the bigger farmers with the know how use technology to feed the world.

I am all for small and large farms. Agribusiness has done great things for our world and country.

One of the greatest things this country has going for it is Agriculture, the car industry and other industries are fading fast....in the end Agriculture will save the USA, and we will owe a lot of it to Agribusiness.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
In truth, the American farmer suffers because of agribusiness.

5/22/2009 03:26:00 PM


PLEASE, show me some research. Are you a farmer or in the ag sector?

People can't even change a tire on their cars these days, much less feed themselves. Let the bigger farmers with the know how use technology to feed the world.

I am all for small and large farms. Agribusiness has done great things for our world and country.

One of the greatest things this country has going for it is Agriculture, the car industry and other industries are fading fast....in the end Agriculture will save the USA, and we will owe a lot of it to Agribusiness.

5/22/2009 03:41:00 PM
=======================

Agribusiness sucks! It bio-engineers frankenfoods devoid of any nurtritional value whatsoever. This manufactured overprocessed foods are producted with seeds that only grow for one growing season and are not reusable. In order to grow more, you must go back to the manufacturer for more seeds. This is ridiculous and useless.

Anonymous said...

To those who think agribusiness is a good thing. check this out...

Anonymous said...

Agribusiness is the best thing going.

thank you,
Charles Monsanto

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
To those who think agribusiness is a good thing. check this out...

5/22/2009 04:32:00 PM



No evidence? Thanks for proving my point.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to post a link concerning GMOs. If it doesn't appear Google GMOs...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies

Anonymous said...

So glad there is someone else out there who is aware of this. Did you know that agribusiness lobbyists have banned the labeling of GM foods so you have no idea when you are buying them? You think that's right?

Research Monsanto to see how this business "supports" farmers. Those guys sell seeds to farmers and the farmers are not allowed to save the seeds - they have to repurchase them every season. Any farmer suspected of saving and replanting the seeds is prosecuted - most of them are put out of business.

And what if you have an organic farm next door to one with monsanto seeds? Those seeds can be picked up by the wind and land in your fields - destroying the organic integrity. WORSE STILL...if Monsanto catches wind of this they send their legal team over there to destroy your livelihood as well.

If US agriculture is to save our economy, it had better change its ways and FAST. And before you go singing the praises of agribusiness, do a little research.

Additionally,

Anonymous said...

Watch this documentary, "The World According to Monsanto."



http://wideeyecinema.com/?p=105

Anonymous said...

If those agriburbians sell the food they raise, they need to be aware that they should attach Schedule F (farm income/expenses) to their Form 1040s.

Steve Mouzon said...

Andrés is right. And think of it this way... we have far too much far-flung suburbia for a future that includes dramatically higher gas prices... unless that suburbia is self-sustaining. If you don't think dramatically higher gas prices will happen, consider the fact that China and India are industrializing right now. There will be roughly a billion cars on the road there in 7-10 years that don't even exist today, all competing with us for gas. Last summer's gas spike was just a preview of coming attractions, and already, there were some people that were put in a hard spot. The day will come that most people will need to make a living where they're living. Turning suburbia into a fabric of little self-sufficient homesteads won't be something the government does to us... it'll be what we choose to do, one at a time, because it'll be the most sensible thing under the conditions.

Anonymous said...

LOWER ALL TAXES. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!

Anonymous said...

To the individual who made the comment that, ". . .if we really supported our farmers then small farmers would be getting help. . .":

Farmers don't NEED help, nor do we particularly want it. Successful farmers are hurt by the various subsidy programs and most of us would like to see them gone. With them, the inefficient producers would go as well, and we would be able to command a natural market price for our products. You'd pay more for food food, of course, but less for government. I'm a 59 year old farmer and I know no one knowledgeable on the field who doesn't see it this way.

As to the comments on agribusiness, there isn't room here to deal with it thoroughly, but it is utterly clear that you folks have no idea what you're talking about. Begin, however with this: all agriculture is a business, and a fairly risky and sophisticated one at that. All farmers interface to some degree with industrial firms that produce supplies and marketing and production companies that package and market foods. IT is largely those that you identify as agribusiness. Massive farming companies are something of a myth. With the exception of a very small number of companies that own their own farms -Campbells Soups comes to mind- the food on your shelves is grown by individual farms. Some of those farms are quite large and some are not, but they are not monolithic entities operated out of Cargill, ADM or Monsanto headquarters.

You reactions are almost entirely to seed production. Whether we farmers BUY that seed product is a simple individual choice. IF we do so it is done, contrary to the comment of one, as a rational business choice related to price, resources or yield.

The comment about agribusiness depleting the soil is ridiculous, and one htat wouldn't be made by a person knowledgeable about agribusiness, (which again basically doesn't farm) or modern farming. Suffice it to say that those of us who own the land and rely on it for a living hardly require the advice of someone who does neither related to the preservation of that resource.

Anonymous said...

Oh the poor farmer. Some of these people have been living off the federal gov't since FDR.

Anonymous said...

Look down at Union County, 40% of all the county land is in the 'Farm Program' where property is taxed at $350 per acre.

If Union adopted agriburbia, then residents would be paying property tax at true value, while the business owner/farmer would of course, would be subsided.

America - land of the protected classes.

Anonymous said...

Our neighborhood has its own garden areas that anyone can buy a portion and grow your own food (River Hills in Lake Wylie, SC).

Many people take advantage of the areas (under the power ROW).

Nothing like fresh vegetables.