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Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the if-you-plant-it-they-will-eat dept.

Earth 116

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kate Murphy reports at the NYT about a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enlisting thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food. 'I hear from developers all the time about this,' says Ed McMahon. 'They've figured out that unlike a golf course, which costs millions to build and millions to maintain, they can provide green space that actually earns a profit.'

Agritopia, outside Phoenix, has sixteen acres of certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community's 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand. The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership in the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program.

'Wednesday is the highlight of my week,' says Ben Wyffels. 'To be able to walk down the street with my kids and get fresh, healthy food is amazing.' Because the Agritopia farm is self-sustaining, no fees are charged to support it, other than the cost of buying produce at the farm stand or joining the CSA. Agritopia was among the first agrihoods — like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga.; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill.; South Village in South Burlington, Vt.; and Hidden Springs in Boise, Idaho. 'The interest is so great, we're kind of terrified trying to catch up with all the calls,' says Quint Redmond adding that in addition to developers, he hears from homeowners' associations and golf course operators who want to transform their costly-to-maintain green spaces into revenue-generating farms. Driving the demand, Redmond says, are the local-food movement and the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers. 'Everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days.'"
The city of Detroit is planning a 26.9-acre urban farm project on one of its vacant high school properties. Produce from the project will be included in meals for students in the district and later to the larger community.

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454 / 16 (0)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 9 months ago | (#46478961)

16 acres is going to supply 454 families?

Not even close.

Likely off by a factor of 50-100 or so.

Re:454 / 16 (3, Interesting)

thesupraman (179040) | about 9 months ago | (#46479009)

This sounds like the fake plastic plants approach to agriculture, all fashion and no substance.

I myself live in the middle of 20 acres of my own farmland, and thats barely enough to anything even close to useful in the way of actual farming, we call it a 'lifestyle block'.
'The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership'
Yeah, right.. the boxes wont be bulging from the produce of 20 acres.. not if they have any livestock area as they claim, not for 452 families..
Mind you, $45,200/month is not a bad scam for the people running it.. I suspect it buys a lot of outside produce ;)

Not that bad (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479057)

You can't FEED that many from that small a block, but all the small luxury veges yes, you can do that.

Herbs, tomatoes, lettuce. They aren't talking bulk rice/wheat/potatoes, just the extras which make that carb loaded crap edible ;)

BIG cost savings if you eat a lot of veges, because the luxury stuff costs much more than the staples that provide most of the calories.

 

Re:Not that bad (5, Interesting)

Allasard (565291) | about 9 months ago | (#46480101)

Agreed.
I'm a member of a CSA in the wonderful state of Pennsylvania.
I pay around that much. (although in one annual payment for May-Nov)
My farmer has 2 acres of land and about 30-40 members if I recall. So that's the same order of magnitude.
We get more veggies than we can eat. The fridge is always stuffed full of whatever's in season. Lettuces; cukes; peppers; tomatoes; kohlrabi; squash; potatoes; parsnips; etc; etc.
I still sadly need to throw stuff away since we can't eat it all in time. But it's just the fresh stuff and storage veggies. We don't get grains. Corn has a horrible yield density.

They aren't making a killing. I actually had a pair of farmers for the first few years of the CSA, but they decided it wasn't possible to both live off of it, so she went off to do something else.
I did the math a few years ago. It's probably somewhat less than it costs at the grocery store, but it much fresher. You can't compare the taste of tomatoes from a store and something you just picked. (You can pick some of your own stuff also. I'm pretty damn sure he isn't trucking anything in.)
I get to be on a first name basis with my farmer, and I'm helping someone with a local business. He would get pennies on the dollar selling to a store, so it's win-win. And my kids get to see where their food comes from. Anything he has leftover gets sent to a Food Bank.

It would be awesome if I didn't have to drive to pick up the veggies, like these planned towns. Cool idea.

Re:Not that bad (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 9 months ago | (#46484935)

Just imagine: all the benefits of a commune without getting your hands dirty. Courtesy of capitalism.

Don't bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46480689)

When arguing with cynical nay-sayers, don't.

It's like arguing the merits of 16th century catholicism to a reddit atheist: it can't work. He believes himself to be enlightened and smarter than everyone else so there is no need to do the math or make an effort. He is right. He will always be right. There is nothing new under the sun for people like him.

I have 5 acres of farmable land on which I keep bees and a wide assortment of vegetables and some fruits. I supply myself and my street for free with fresh veggies and some honey when possible. I keep the bees more for pollination than honey so I try not to take too much from them because sugar water substitute is not a substitute. To do this, I had to get a bit creative with some hydroponics and aquaponics and it is fairly labor intensive but I also have a new hobby. Creativity and some technical know-how will make possible what know-it-all blowhards automatically dismiss or assume is a scam.

Re:Don't bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46481583)

The notion of true Sustainability without massive acreage is timeless. A relevant book about the subject has been out a little under eighty years, "Five Acres and Independence" by prolific author M. G. Kains. It still gets reprinted from time to time, available at the usual online megaliths. http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Kains%2C%20M.%20G.%20(Maurice%20Grenville)%2C%201868-1946

Re:Don't bother (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 9 months ago | (#46481773)

The notion of true Sustainability without massive acreage is timeless.

Yeah, it's also bullshit. Real farming is HARD FUCKING WORK. Believe me, I know. True sustenance farming is even harder. Sure, it's easy enough to grow a vegetable garden for fun. But when you're growing to survive it takes a lot of acreage per person, especially if you're growing on marginal land or weak soil. Even the most experienced of sustenance farmers usually have to supplement their diet with hunting/fishing and food bought from side work. A lot of sustenance farmers have starved to death on the frontier because of a single crop failure or drought (yes kids, people used to starve to death right here in the good old USA).

It also doesn't help that a lot of the hippies who dream of this stuff these days would balk at the idea of using GMO crops, pesticides, raising livestock for milk and slaughter, or hunting/fishing. Real sustenance living doesn't give a fuck about your ideals. Get milk and meat or starve.

Re:Don't bother (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 9 months ago | (#46481635)

It's like arguing the merits of 16th century catholicism to a reddit atheist: it can't work

A reddit atheist would probably ask if these farming communities are hell-bent on converting all the other farmers under the threat of burning them at stake. I mean, every religion "works", for certain values of "works", but that's a fairly limited view of the problem. Just as limited as the scope of your "analogy" is. These farms also "work" but they're apparently not for everyone. Even if urbanization is nice for some things, we've screwed up agriculture badly in this respect. (I'd love to have a greenhouse, though.)

Re:Not that bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46482317)

You can't FEED that many from that small a block
Bullshit. Yes you can. You just need to do labor-intensive high-density no-till farming, something like square-foot gardening but on a larger scale. You can't just sit on your tractor and plow rows and drink beers. Split your 20 acres into four 5-acre rotation blocks, so you really only have 15 acres of growing space since 1 acre is resting at any given time. Any one of those 5-acre blocks should yield (ideally) upwards of 40,000 plants. Yes it depends on rainfall and other conditions, and yes, it will be a full-time job for several people to sow, harvest and maintain, but please don't give anyone the idea that it can't be done.

Re:454 / 16 (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#46479407)

Hmm, 452 families, $100 each per month. So they're taking in better than $540K a year for the produce from 20 acres?

A professional farmer might make $17K on the same land (assuming he's growing corn, at average production levels and prices).

Sounds like quite a scam to me. Where can I get in on it?

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479463)

Grow vegetables instead of corn of course. It will be a lot more expensive and you'll lose all those government subsidies and price supports. That extra money coming in might make up for it, probably not.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 9 months ago | (#46479511)

To be fair, the average farmer would also spend probably 1/10th (or less) the time on that 20 acres growing corn: planting, spraying, irrigation, harvesting is all handled with heavy equipment in corn production. You can't do that with tomatoes. Well, the irrigation is probably automated, but if it's organic, you've gotta hand-examine plants for bugs and weeds. Not sure how they're raising sheep and everything else, you need probably 1/4-1/2 an acre per sheep (unless you grain feed them), which doesn't give you a lot of room for produce. I'm guessing the sheep are just for show.

Re:454 / 16 (2)

pepty (1976012) | about 9 months ago | (#46480087)

Then there's the idea of calling a farm a "conservation community" after placing it in a desert that has already depleted its groundwater, will be getting a shrinking share of the Colorado, and is in the middle of the worst drought in over 100 years. I'd believe the "conservation community" label if they xeriscaped Agritopia as opposed to farming it.

Mod parent up! (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 9 months ago | (#46481353)

I've been scanning the comments looking for anybody asking about water usage. If they're really trying to tout their "conservation community" in freaking ARIZONA, they ought to be putting the water issue front and center.

Re:Mod parent up! (1)

dave562 (969951) | about 9 months ago | (#46482123)

Agreed. Same thought here. Farming community. Arizona desert. Ummmm......???

For the future of how THAT is going to work out, look no further than the Central Valley in California right now.

Re:Mod parent up! (1)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | about 9 months ago | (#46483475)

No doubt, if they persist with the status quo.

Is Tucson much different than Phoenix? Check this out: http://www.american-oasis.com/... [american-oasis.com]

Brad Lancaster has been showing how water harvesting techniques can not only make it work in Arizona, but on a larger scale actually recharge aquifers and restore waterscapes to reverse desertification in arid climates.

Re:Mod parent up! (1)

dave562 (969951) | about 9 months ago | (#46484611)

That's a great article. Thanks for sharing.

Re:454 / 16 (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 9 months ago | (#46480597)

harvesting is all handled with heavy equipment in corn production. You can't do that with tomatoes

I picked tomatoes and various other commercial vegetable crops in the early 80's (Australia), even back then they had mechanical harvesters. Hand picked tomatoes were the "cream of the crop", you pick them for about 2-4 weeks when the crop starts ripening, they are early to market and good quality so the farmer gets top dollar. However once the contract date* comes up for the entire crop to be harvested they were
mechanically harvested and ended up in cans and/or sauce bottles. Same with peas, a 1980's era pea harvester could pick the peas, pod them, wash, snap freeze, and bag them. Again "shop peas" were picked by hand and sold with their pods intact before the crop was at the optimum point for mechanical harvesting.

* - Large commercial vegetable crops are often sold on contract before they are even planted. The thing about tomatoes (other than copper coloured hands from the chemicals on them), is that a heavy summer downpour will cause a ripe tomato to swell to the point it's skin bursts. When such a scenario occurs all the mechanical harvesters are in full demand since everyone wants their tomato crop picked before it turns into tomato sauce and simply drips onto the ground. The farmer doesn't wait days/weeks for a harvester turns up. While it is raining he will be recruiting as many pickers as he can at a higher dollar rate per bin. From my experience the extra dollars did not make up for the futility of trying to fill a half ton wooden vegetable bin with tomato jelly.

As to TFA, unless they set up the whole plot as a hydroponic farm there's no way it's going to significantly reduce the food bill for ~1500 people. However I think that's the wrong way to look at the project, TFA compares the farm to a public park, pool or golf course in conventional towns, it's nice if such amenities can pay for their own upkeep but profit (in dollar terms) is not the goal. If nothing else the people in the community who use it will gain a much greater appreciation of where their food comes from and just how much planning, hard work and patience is involved in growing something edible and eating it before some other critter does.

Re:454 / 16 (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#46480215)

... assuming he's growing corn

Bad assumption. They are not growing feed corn. They are growing high value vegetables: endive, arugula, tomatoes, artichokes. Just outside Phoenix, you can grow year round, harvesting continuously.

I live in San Jose, CA. We also have a long growing season. With a 1/4 acre garden, small orchard, beehive, and a half dozen laying hens, I produce about 80% of my families food by value, and about 50% by calories. We mostly buy bulk cheap stuff like rice, soybeans, flour, and soybean oil, and get everything else from the backyard.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46480567)

What is the average time commitment on your garden? I've always wanted to do something similar, but I've never believed I had the time for it.

Re:454 / 16 (4, Funny)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#46483807)

What is the average time commitment on your garden? I've always wanted to do something similar, but I've never believed I had the time for it.

It requires a quite a bit of time in the spring, while preparing the ground and planting, but not much during the rest of the year. But all this work does not have to be your labor. There is an exemption to the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery and indentured servitude: You can still coerce unpaid labor from other people, provided they are your direct descendents, and under the age of 18. You can even use extremely cruel and unusual methods to extract this labor, including turning off the TV, and even unplugging the router, until the tomatoes are picked, sliced, and in the mason jars.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#46481267)

Bad assumption. They are not growing feed corn. They are growing high value vegetables: endive, arugula, tomatoes, artichokes. Just outside Phoenix, you can grow year round, harvesting continuously.

If high value veggies can produce ~30x the output of a corn crop, the people paying the $100 a month might be getting their money's worth.

I live in San Jose, CA. We also have a long growing season. With a 1/4 acre garden, small orchard, beehive, and a half dozen laying hens, I produce about 80% of my families food by value, and about 50% by calories. We mostly buy bulk cheap stuff like rice, soybeans, flour, and soybean oil, and get everything else from the backyard.

450-odd families on 20 acres isn't a 1/4 acre garden for each family - it's a 0.01 acre garden for each family. Again, if they can make ~30x as much value as a corn crop, it might be worth the price.

Otherwise, it's just HOA dues paid to give them a warm fuzzy.

Note that my parents were from farm families, and we had truck gardens in the backyard growing up, so I've a bit more of a clue than these people seem to have - we grew most of our own vegetables most of the time. But not in a 20x20 foot garden. Nor did we manage to raise free-range chickens in that same area, while also growing our veggies.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 9 months ago | (#46483403)

I produce about 80% of my families food by value, and about 50% by calories.

Based on what I have read that's not possible. The "usual" figure is that 1 person requires 1 acre, under optimal conditions. (Or 1 person requires 0.5 hectares).

If "family" = 3 people, and you are providing 50% of their calories, then you are feeding 1.5 people on that 1/4 acre. That would be 6 times more efficient than the "optimal" farm. Also, if it is possible to do this, it would require outside sources of water and fertilizer.

We mostly buy bulk cheap stuff like rice, soybeans, flour, and soybean oil, and get everything else from the backyard.

Then that is where you are getting most of your calories.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#46483599)

The "usual" figure is that 1 person requires 1 acre, under optimal conditions.

Nope. There are plenty of places where productivity is much higher than that. Bangladesh has 150 million people, but no where near 150 million acres of farmland. Yet they feed themselves. They accomplish this by growing year round, using intensive farming, and eating little meat. One acre per person may be typical for America, but that is based on plenty of corn fed beef.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46483691)

You are correct. I live in actual eastern farming country with perfect rainfall and temperature conditions for most American crops. Your figure is flawlessly correct. Not to mention an 'optimal' farm as you put it would not touch vegetables. Their yield is quite poor compared to grains, thus why there are so many grain farmers. Further up someone even claims the opposite, that corn has poor yield. Generally the two hectares per family, or 1 acre per person, figure includes a diet of no meat, no fruit, and limited vegetables. You can live that way, most of our ancestors did, bit it would not be pleasant by any first world standard, let alone someone from San Jose.

The bottom line is this is a tech website. It would be foolish to believe anyone here knows what they are talking about in this subject matter.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | about 9 months ago | (#46482351)

You can't compare industrial farming economics to a local community polyculture farm. It's a completely different game. I would argue the local CSA model is far more sustainable than industrial ag, and this is a clear example.

Industrial Ag requires thousands of acres of subsidized monocrop, big machinery, expensive seed (thanks to Monsanto), expensive fertilizer, transportation, and low-wage farmers and crop pickers to make a profit. It's an industry supported by big ag corporations and (thanks to their lobby efforts) government to maximize profit for the few at the top of the chain. The farmers and crop pickers are the last in line, as far as the revenue stream.

A CSA puts money in the farmers and crop workers first, works within and supports the local community. That's why it works, that's why it's sustainable, and expect to see more of them because the local food movement has legs, not because it's a fad, but because it is rooted in a sustainable design model.

Re:454 / 16 (3, Insightful)

hax4bux (209237) | about 9 months ago | (#46479451)

Same here (but 10 acres, mostly oat hay). This is more like performance art than farming.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479479)

Hmm, short of bulk foods like wheat and rice I have been able to feed my family just fine from a 1/2 acre city lot.. Maybe you'r doing something wrong?

Re:454 / 16 (2)

kaiser423 (828989) | about 9 months ago | (#46479829)

In a couple hundred square feet in my back yard I get more tomatoes, more cucumbers, more yellow squash, more watermelons, more eggs, more pomegranates, more jalapenos, more green chiles, more strawberries and more herbs than I can eat in a growing season and can freeze enough to last a good chunk of the rest of the year and I'm a fairly lame farmer that just tossed together a couple of raised beds in the corner of a yard.

In a basic sense, you could get a lot of stuff from 20 acres. Definitely nowhere near enough for 452 families, and at $100/mo they are just getting ripped off, but acting like you need 20 acres or more to get into "Actual farming" may be true, but given what a family might need a couple hundred sq feet is enough to get a ton of veggies.

If this wasn't yuppie rip-off town, it might be interested. Some areas locally have put raised planter beds in abandoned or trashed lots that residents can claim if they just maintain them and it's really a good use of otherwise bad space. Same could be said about this versus having a golf course, if done right and not just a yuppy rip-off scam.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46480449)

$100/month, or approx $25/week for a box full of fresh veggies? That's not a ripoff where I come from. It might sound strange, but I would rather pay higher prices and know that I'm getting my stuff fresh, rather than the surplus of last season's crop, kept in cold storage and eked out over the remainder of the year. My sister complains about the poor quality of potatoes from her nearest chain supermarket - she doesn't connect the cheap 2kg plastic bag of potatoes with the probability that the supermarket takes unsold, over-age product and bags it for sale at a bargain price. She can't comprehend that bargain-basement prices mean low quality.

CHEAP != QUALITY and it never will.

Western consumers have become used to price-cutting by the chain stores, and expect to still get quality. The only reason groceries in large chain stores are so cheap is because of basic economics - higher volumes of product means many of the input costs can be spread thinner over the whole operation, and that means "lower prices for you!". Only trouble is, that also means a compromise in quality, and sometimes an economic loss for the producer as the price that the big chains are prepared to pay falls below the cost of production (for smaller producers, anyway).

Why are tomatoes hard and flavourless? Because they're picked WAY before ripeness to minimise damage and waste on the way to the retailer. Ditto bananas and many other items. Why do rocket and coriander and lettuce have clean roots? It's grown hydroponically. That's not really a problem nutritionally speaking, but it's a symptom of the need to produce large amounts of product at the most economic rate.

I'd rather pay $25/week for a box of fresh veggies that I've been able to see while they grow, than $15/week for the same volume from a chain supermarket.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 9 months ago | (#46480551)

It's not bulk corn, it's all the expensive, low volume stuff that they're growing there. In addition, it seems to be organic, which adds even more to the cost.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

riT-k0MA (1653217) | about 9 months ago | (#46480601)

Several studies in South Africa found that one can provide year round vegetables for a family of four on a plot the size of a door. Of course, in South Africa, one has a year-long growing season.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46480681)

This sounds like quite an absurd statement. My family supplies most of its food from 1500 sq. m. (0.37 acres) of land which includes a house, 2 garages and a workshop. They grow mostly fruit trees, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, raspberries, some alfalfa for the animals, some chickens and some rabbits. With 20 acres you can feed a village.

Re:454 / 16 (2)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 9 months ago | (#46481177)

Like most utopias it's probably got a downside.

The fees will go up and those who can't afford them will be converted into serfs or indentured labourers. Finally the CSA (Confederate States of America) will arise again with the newly recruited serfs growing cotton on those 20 acres.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46482887)

CSA's aren't new, and I know many people who both subscribe to them, and work them, so I get both sides of this story.

For the subscriber, the $100 gets you a good amount of fresh produce every week. Like 15-20lbs of fresh produce a week. Yes, A WEEK! CSA's in your area may differ, but where I am, it's actually quite steallar! And I dare say it's 'Organic', because that's an FDA label and what the people in my area are recieving is non-chemical and non-pesticide produce. Whether that's 'Organic' to you, is your call. Whether they use 'modern fertilizer' varies between CSA's, but many have that good of soil, and don't need additives. Where you live makes a difference, as well as how the operation is being managed.

With that said, If you were to compare that weeks worth of 15-20lbs of produce, to an equivalent purchase at a local grocer, you might come out ahead at the local grocer. However, odds are good you won't know where that produce EXACTLY came from, and under what farming conditions. As well as the possibility of frozen produce for transport and other methods for travel. And that right there, is the difference. Knowledge of the product your consuming and under what conditions.

Call it hipster, call it a fad, but it's hard to claim it's a scam when you're purchasing small farm produce under good to excellent growing conditions and laboring practices, and you're almost always getting more produce than you can likely eat in a weekly sitting. For small families, CSA's are a no brainer from a health and money standpoint. Being single, I don't cook enough or eat enough vegetables to warrant investing.

Scam? Maybe for the lone single subscriber. For the small or large family? Not by a far stretch. And even if the owners are making a profit? So what. I'd rather support a small farm, than the large chain big-box grocer down the street. And I'll sleep well at night, knowing that fact!

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46483781)

*addendum.

That $100 is the monthly fee, not weekly.

Re:454 / 16 (2)

Rob Bos (3399) | about 9 months ago | (#46479047)

About one acre per person per year. So this would at best be supplementary.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#46479447)

452 families, not people. and 16 acres total.

So, maybe 0.01 acres per person? Sounds more like an Allotment Garden than a working farm...

Re:454 / 16 (1)

Rob Bos (3399) | about 9 months ago | (#46479651)

Sorry, I meant that subsistence requires one acre per person per year. Much less for solely vegetarian diets, about a quarter to half off the top of my head. Maybe 1 acre per small family, less if you don't like your kids too much.

Either way, it's only going to provide a pretty small chunk of the diet.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 9 months ago | (#46480493)

Sorry, I meant that subsistence requires one acre per person per year. Much less for solely vegetarian diets, about a quarter to half off the top of my head. Maybe 1 acre per small family, less if you don't like your kids too much.

Either way, it's only going to provide a pretty small chunk of the diet.

Why the fuck is it per year?
It's just 1 acre per person, for as long as they subsist on it. You're not going to need 10 acres for 1 person over 10 years, just 1 acre for 10 years for 1 person for 10 years. The years cancel out.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 9 months ago | (#46481137)

Yeah, yeah, you're right. But, at least show some respect for your 4-digit elder. Sheesh, kids these days.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46482583)

The 1 year term describes the subsistence as indefinate, as it includes all the growing seasons \ harvests. If you only need to feed 1 person for a few months out of the year, the allocation would shift.

Re:454 / 16 (4, Informative)

mythosaz (572040) | about 9 months ago | (#46479053)

Those 454 homes are no different from any other suburban home in Gilbert AZ.

There's just a pair of plots where a strip mall full of dentists and swimming pool supply stores could have been full of fruit and grass.

Every person in there just goes to the grocery store like everyone else, minus a bag of oranges once in a while that they probably let rot.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479061)

Exactly. This kind of project just increases home's market value by supplying a nice environment, the actual economic or environmental impact of the farm is negligible. In fact, I would not be surprised if such a neighbourhood results in a worse economic footprint due to all these families using overpowered SUVs to drive their children to their weekly football game 20km away.

Of course, none of that means that living in such a neighbourhood might not still be desirable. You just have to realise that getting some eggs once a month is not the important part. But perhaps being able to walk out of your house and right into a green area is. Being able to show all kinds of plants to your children. Being able to let your children roam freely because you are not in some metropolitan street. Basically, this could be a beautiful middle class suburbia.

Also, I am a bit shocked by the $100 a month charge for some produce. Of course I do not know how much produce you actually get and would assume that it is a lot. However, I used to live in a small town in Scotland where an environmentalist initiative had set up a deal with a nearby organic farm. For £6 you would get about 5kg of whatever was in season. Usually enough potatoes for a week, 1-2 dozens of carrots, a swede, some turnips etc. That was not a lot of course (though more than sufficient for my single student needs), but if we scale this and take into account that this stuff is not organic and not for profit, I would expect to get groceries for a week for a 5-person family at least.

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479165)

You meant you can't smell pretentious yuppies? You should have at least been able to hear the bleating of sheep...

Re:454 / 16 (0)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#46479241)

Supply them with their entire diets? No, not even close, obviously.

It is enough to supply them with a few regular tidbits though. "Luxury veges", as another poster said. A few tomatos, a few berries, stuff that can really spice up the staples, and stuff that people with more money than sense spend a FORTUNE on when you figure in that they are looking for this absurd little 'organic' label and paying accordingly.

Obviously it sounds like they must be importing a lot of their packages from offsite but it probably does produce enough to be profitable. But the main point to it is obviously atmosphere.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

fermion (181285) | about 9 months ago | (#46479509)

The real insanity of this project is a simple number. 1-2" rainfall a year. Even with 20-30" of rainfall, these crops still requires quite a bit of water. Water that comes, probably, from the same river that irrigates most of the desert west. Farming in the desert. It is special kind of crazy. And I bet each of those houses each has a lawn.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

Dasher42 (514179) | about 9 months ago | (#46479533)

Actually there are a lot of ways that they could make this happen. Vertical farming, interplanting, and aquaponics all are producing very high yields. They can be more labor-intensive, but there's a lot of pay-off in having a local, resilient food system.

This place, for example, is growing a million pounds of food per year on two acres, even through the winter: http://growingpower.org/ [growingpower.org]

Re:454 / 16 (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 9 months ago | (#46481263)

You might think that southwest Florida would have plenty of water - it's right next to the ocean.

But you can't grow crops on seawater and they are under more or less permanent water restrictions.

It is, however, one of the places where they grow things like early-season tomatoes commercially, and for some years now drip irrigation has been used to maximize the effectiveness of available water.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 9 months ago | (#46481677)

Back in the 60's and early 70's, I remember all these communes popping up all over the place. A bunch of hippies would get together (none of whom knew the first thing about farming, of course) and decide they were going to form a community and "live off the land." So they would go buy (or squat) some small piss-poor farm somewhere and start growing their glorified vegetable garden. And pretty soon they would realize that farming was actual hard work (guess they thought they could just plant, sit around smoking weed all day for months, and then harvest at the end). And pretty soon after that they would realize that farming takes a LOT of acreage per person to actually be sustainable. So then the inevitable squabbling and calling back home to mom and dad for bread would begin. And by the end of the first winter, the commune was no more.

Kids, learn from the mistakes of your elders. Don't be a hippie.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 months ago | (#46483413)

What you seem not to realize is that these communities are for hipsters, not hippies. Serenbe, for instance, is full of half-million-dollar 1500 ft^2 homes way out in the middle of fucking nowhere, in a metro area where even other hipster neighborhoods in-town have similar houses at half the price. They're not going to do (most of) the farming themselves; they're going to hire some schmuck to do it for them. And there's no way hippies could afford to live there.

Re:454 / 16 (2)

John_Yossarian (1160273) | about 9 months ago | (#46481795)

I'd bet it gets pretty close to meeting the demand of the community. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is heavy on staples (wheat, corn, potatoes, rice) & meats while being light on fresh vegetables (what this farm seeks to provide). You could probably supply 454 families with more artichokes than they could use with just an acre....

Re:454 / 16 (1)

vectravl400 (953989) | about 9 months ago | (#46482539)

It's 160 acres. "Sixteen of Agritopia’s 160 acres are certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep)." Someone needs to work on their reading comprehension.

Use square-foot or bio-intensive method (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46482579)

Supplying the non-protein foodstuffs for 454 families off 16 acres is not only possible, it isn't even particularly noteworthy.

Do note this assumes you're getting meat and dairy from somewhere else, and eating meat in your meals at least twice a day, and you aren't morbidly obese or bulemic or otherwise hugely wasteful of food, and you're not eating bread (or else you're getting it somewhere else).

Supplying meat to 454 families is a whole different issue, but let's face it - these farms aren't stockyards, dairies or grainfields, they are "truck" (vegetable) farms. So it's completely feasible to supply the needs of 454 families on 16 acres.

Re:454 / 16 (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 9 months ago | (#46484669)

And the aerial photos are even less impressive. Agritopia is a nice idea, but the actual subdivision seems to have the same or even less green space than most other urban or suburban subdivisions.

SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (0, Troll)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about 9 months ago | (#46478999)

The USA finally turns to communism as the first Kolchoz are settled. The irony is unbearable.

Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#46479093)

This stuff has been going on longer than Communism had a name. Some of the early settlements tried such things.

sounds like a perfect recipe for drama (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479015)

Grab your popcorn, reality tv has found yet another windfall treasure. Think about the lack of leadership... The inexperience... The madness of having all those factory made goods... In a place where no one believes in factories. The most amusing thing about it is that the detractors of such a community would be even more extreme and inexperienced as the original group. Truly, a masterpiece. Bravo.

Re:sounds like a perfect recipe for drama (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 9 months ago | (#46479581)

you beat me to it.....another TV reality show concept.

Agritopia in Phoenix (3, Interesting)

mythosaz (572040) | about 9 months ago | (#46479037)

To the best of my knowledge, the only useful thing to come out of Agritopia in Phoenix (Chandler/Gilbert) is Joe's Farm Grill [joesfarmgrill.com] which is a nice place to grab a fresh burger or some BBQ and eat on the patio with the other Mormon families.

If you look at the map [google.com] , you'll see that there's basically a little bit of citrus, a field growing something alfalfa-esque, and a greenhouse where someone's got some tomatoes.

It's not Pauly Shore Biodome.

It's just a place with fresh tomatoes.

Re:Agritopia in Phoenix (3, Informative)

mythosaz (572040) | about 9 months ago | (#46479081)

"About 16" is "About 12."

Within Agritopia are approximately 12 acres of permanent urban farming. Farming first began here in 1927 when barren desert was cleared. The availability of irrigation water made farming in the desert possible. Initially, alfalfa hay was the principal crop (Gilbert was known as the hay capitol of the world).

When the Johnston family bought the farm in 1960, cotton was the most important crop. Cotton was grown in rotation with wheat, sorghum, corn, and barley. For a time, sugar beets were grown to supply the Spreckles Sugar plant in Chandler. In the 90’s, cotton became less profitable and the family grew mainly feed crops for dairy cattle, such as corn and alfalfa.

With the creation of Agritopia, preservation of agriculture was an underlying principle. In 2000, we began to carve out and convert the parcels that would be the permanent urban farming plots. Some of the earliest plots planted were the Medjool date and olive groves as well as the New Orchard (citrus, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, and blackberries).

The plots closest to the restaurant are for field crops. Seasonally, these plots produce a broad range of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We are particularly proud of our leaf crops (lettuce, endive, asian greens, etc.) and our tomato crop (heirlooms, yellow, red, plum, etc.). The production of the farm is utilized by Joe’s Farm Grill, The Coffee Shop, and is available for purchase at the Agritopia Produce Stand.

Also, as should be obvious, nobody actually uses this land except Joe's Farm Grill.

At least they're a tasty place to eat.

silly (1, Troll)

drwho (4190) | about 9 months ago | (#46479051)

I am sure the unending drudgery of 16th century work will wear pretty thin within a year.

Re:silly (1)

Stuarticus (1205322) | about 9 months ago | (#46481027)

Of course, that's why no-one gardens any more.

fix available? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479079)

Is there a patch yet for this remote root vulnerability?

same guise write all /.'stories'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479103)

like a robotic uncle sam cheerleading centrifuge with some burlesque schlapschtik?

Grammar Fails Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479181)

...seriously, "Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US"? Come on...

Nice dream ... (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 9 months ago | (#46479197)

... it's such a nice idea to think about, but as the other comments have mentioned the reality is a bit different.

Ooh, CONSERVATION not CONSERVATIVE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479217)

I initially read the title as "Conservative Communities Takes Root Across US" and was very very confused.

Re:Ooh, CONSERVATION not CONSERVATIVE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479893)

It should be agricultural communities as the name of conservation community suggest an effort to conserve a forest, for example. About the summary, what might those conservation community members think about the slavery? Are they ambivalent on the subject?

Ed McMahon (1)

sharknado (3217097) | about 9 months ago | (#46479397)

'I hear from developers all the time about this,' says Ed McMahon.

I thought he died...

Re:Ed McMahon (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 9 months ago | (#46481153)

It really would be a change for Ed, since he once said:
"Golf courses sell real estate and that's why they're built."

Not a bad idea (1)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 9 months ago | (#46479435)

This actually makes some sense. Of course you're not going to -feed- all these people off of one farm, but it provides some food, a natural meeting place, and some open area that's not annoying subdivisions.

Sounds cool as long as it's not... (2)

istartedi (132515) | about 9 months ago | (#46479437)

Sounds cool as long as it's not a HOA that runs with deed. The community pool where I grew up was like that and it worked fine. If you were in the community you had the right but not the obligation to purchase a membership.

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (1)

wiggles (30088) | about 9 months ago | (#46479543)

I found one of these houses for sale in the community listed in Grayslake, IL.

Here's a link to the listing on Trulia. [trulia.com]

$200/mo HOA. Tax bill is INSANE for the area at around $12k/yr. House was 2300 sqft for around $250k, which is what I'd expect for the area.

Not only do you have to deal with a HOA, you have to deal with a tax bill at 5% of the worth of the property.

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479681)

I suspect property taxes are 5% of home values in Illinois due to the retarded way the state pension system has been mismanaged there.

They've got to come up with $100 billion for all of those retirees somehow.

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46481055)

I suspect property taxes are 5% of home values in Illinois due to the retarded way the state pension system has been mismanaged there.

They've got to come up with $100 billion for all of those retirees somehow.

Property taxes are done at the county level and have nothing to do with state-managed pensions. Grayslake is in Lake County, IL which has ridiculously high property taxes. The communities there insist on being small and independent, so there are a lot of inefficient and redundant services. School districts with one or two schools, police and fire departments that serve 15,000 people. And all of them have administration costs. Two miles down the road and you have another small town with it's own set of of departments with administration costs. But you must know - it is exactly the way the citizens there want it to be operated; it's not like consolidation has never been suggested. It gets suggested all the time. So go ahead and make it seem like a "Democrats and their pensions" problem, when in fact that is a heavily conservative area.

By the way, I live in downtown "Union/Democrat mismanagement-ville" (Chicago) and pay around $6,000 in property taxes on my $500,000 condo. Combined with a low state income tax, negligible commuting costs and a high salary, I have very little to complain about.

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (1)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | about 9 months ago | (#46481667)

By the way, I live in downtown "Union/Democrat mismanagement-ville" (Chicago) and pay around $6,000 in property taxes on my $500,000 condo. Combined with a low state income tax, negligible commuting costs and a high salary, I have very little to complain about.
So rampant [washingtonpost.com] gun violence doesn't bother you?

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (1)

dave562 (969951) | about 9 months ago | (#46482253)

Or the weather?! Forget that nonsense.

Our corporate headquarters is in downtown Chicago. I love to visit there. Chicago is by far my favorite big city and the people there are some of the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. There is no way in HELL I would live there though. Those winters are stupid.

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (1)

wiggles (30088) | about 9 months ago | (#46482627)

You may have a lower property tax bill, but your 10% sales tax is ridiculous. Combine that with city penalties such as the corruption tax [chicagoist.com] , insurance fees, parking, wear and tear on your car and your body that city life brings, and it's about equal - not to mention the square footage you get for the dollar.

Re:Sounds cool as long as it's not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479899)

Small world I used to live in Grayslake, my folks just sold their house there.

News for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479497)

NERDS
What happened?

Water usage in the desert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479501)

Agritopia looks like it uses a lot of water. Locavores haven't solved the problem of "I want artichokes even though the land can't support them."

Rain water that's not from God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479599)

The utopia we all wanted on this planet is getting toxins and noxious aerosols with metals and biological matter raining down from those who have different ideas about utopia. These are the corporate skies of the New World Order. Good luck.

tu*bg,irl (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46479837)

the aspirations of many Americans to be farmers... (1)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about 9 months ago | (#46480935)

"...the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers..."...And they said that was a purely British disease...what next? Will youse guys all start listening to The Archers http://www.bbc.co.uk/programme... [bbc.co.uk] (1950), is still running (January 2014), and is the world's longest-running soap opera with a total of over 16,800 episodes

Re:the aspirations of many Americans to be farmers (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 9 months ago | (#46481165)

What next? Maybe we'll start cocking up our beavers!

What a joke (3, Interesting)

sirwired (27582) | about 9 months ago | (#46481159)

16 acres of water-thirsty crops outside Phoenix in a development with 452 homes? This isn't a farm, (much less something you could call a "conservation community") it's landscaping that happens to produce something you can eat. Better than a golf-course, I suppose, but still a bit "slacktivist."

Re:What a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46483409)

Keep up the good fight, internet warrior.

Agriculture for nerds. Stuff that matters. (4, Interesting)

Dasher42 (514179) | about 9 months ago | (#46481209)

The part of this story that the Slashdot audience could most easily get in on is aquaponics, which is producing huge yields in some cases and holds a lot of promise for the local food movement.

Aquaponics is a system you can use indoors or outdoors, on large or small scales. It is a closed loop wherein ponds full of fish, usually tilapia, have their water pumped through hydroponic grow beds full of food-growing plants. The all-important third ingredient is a bacteria which converts the ammonia of the fish waste into nitrates which nourish the plants. The water goes back to the fish clean and livable. Once the bacteria are established and in balance to keep this conversion going, the only investment this needs are the energy to keep the pumps going, stable temperatures, and fish food.

Because the density of available nutrients is quite high, the plants can be so too. Their roots mostly just need to grow straight down, so typical planting distances don't apply. The fish too get a cleaner environment, and the usual equations for how many fish per gallon of water can be exceeded. A stabilized, intelligently planted aquaponics system can grow a lot of food - this site (http://portablefarms.com/2013/part-one-sizing-your-aquaponics-system/) claims that 25 to 30 square feet of grow bed is enough to completely meet one adult's supply for table vegetables, and given that you keep the water quality high, the tilapia will make for very tasty protein too.

Because the water is in a closed loop system, very little of it is lost, and aquaponics is radically less demanding of water than traditional agriculture. Because you can grow this stuff indoors, chemical pesticides are neither needed nor desirable, for your sake and the fishes'.

Leafy green plants are the easiest to grow in this way, root vegetables some of the hardest. Tweaks on this system do keep expanding the options, however, like microgreens, wherein you harvest plants in the first two weeks after they've sprouted for a nutrient density four to forty times that of typical mature vegetables. So the question is, how could we make this the most easy thing to get started, so that people with little experience and limited time can skip the refrigerator and east straight from their greenhouse?

Done rightly, this system can shake up food supply as surely as 3D printers are going to shake up industry.

Arizona Aquaponics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46482819)

Please take note that the Arizona aquaponics shouldn't be considered 'conservation' by any stretch of the word.

Re:Arizona Aquaponics (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 9 months ago | (#46484547)

Why? Aquaponics is easily the most water-conservative method for growing crops in any climate.

Re:Arizona Aquaponics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46484941)

Aquaponics use 1/10 of the water of conventional outdoor/dirt farming.

pesticides elevate risk of Parkinson's Disease (1)

vrhino (2987119) | about 9 months ago | (#46481431)

Before you move to the farm or the golf course, be aware that certain individuals have genetic predisposition to elevated risk of developing Parkinson's Disease from exposure to common pesticides. 11 different "safe" pesticides were associated with 2- to 6-fold increases in PD risk. Neurology February 4, 2014 vol. 82 no. 5 419-426

you've got to be kidding me (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#46481895)

"Agritopia, outside Phoenix, has sixteen acres of certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep)."

And not one of those is supposed to grow in the desert. They're wasting an unbelievable amount of water and ruining the environment just so they can feel all warm and fuzzy being eco-hippie douchebags. Good job.

Re:you've got to be kidding me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46483151)

Broadly agree with your point, but don't olives and dates in fact grow in pretty tough conditions?

Olives will grow in shitty soil on hillsides that have serious irrigation issues, in blazing heat. It's what makes them so easy to grow in spain; they will put up with desert and near-desert conditions.

And dates are the fruit of a tree in the palm family, I believe. They need better soil than olive trees but they grow slowly and don't need irrigation in the way that a cucumber would.

A Vital Issue (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 9 months ago | (#46481899)

Suburbia has issues in which self raised crops really can help. In the cities locally grown food can do all sorts of good things. Often the food must be grown indoors and the production can be amazing. But in addition to the huge bennefits that one might get in the suburbs in the cities things like control of violence can relate to farming. When each neighborhood has a distinct boundary and limited entrance and exit points things like gang activity tend to fall off completely. Locals begin to know who belongs and who is a stranger. Psychological stress is reduced. Drive by shootings vanish as the neighborhood can be completely sealed off at the drop of a hat. Pollution is reduced as far less transportation is involved in supplying food. Even things like the heat island effect can be reduced by incorporating food production within an urban area. Jobs that are created can be filled by local people reducing the illegal immigration issues. Indoor fish farming can supply healthy and tasty protein for the public. The list is endless. We should have been doing this for decades. We can even produce wind and solar energy for the community from the buildings used for vertical farming. And you can bet your last penny that just like auto companies are trying to keep Tesla from doing something new the powers that be will do all that they can to cripple new designs and implementations of local farming communities.

Re:A Vital Issue (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 9 months ago | (#46482693)

There is a group that has been working to improve impoverished high crime areas through urban farming in Kansas City. http://theurbanfarmingguys.com... [theurbanfarmingguys.com]

Cul-de-sac is a fire hazard (1)

tepples (727027) | about 9 months ago | (#46484061)

When each neighborhood has a distinct boundary and limited entrance and exit points things like gang activity tend to fall off completely.

Cul-de-sacs, chokepoint streets that feed onto a sidewalkless artery, and other phenomena associated with suburban "street hierarchy" subdivisions are a fire hazard. They tend to be less friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, and it takes longer for emergency first responders to get in and out.

Inter-mixing farms and homes (2)

virchull (963203) | about 9 months ago | (#46481933)

15+ years ago, Pittsford, New York (a suburb of Rochester) decided it would remain a mixed community of farms and suburban homes. The town voted for a bond issue and used the proceeds to buy the development rights from the existing inter-mixed farm owners. They are now forever farms. Some of these farms raise commodities, e.g., beans, some raise produce, e.g., sweet corn, raspberries. As people drive about town, they pass by suburban home groups, then farms, then more homes, then more farms. It has been a win for everyone.
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