With the rising popularity of farm-to-table movements and people’s desire to eat locally and connect to their food source, it’s no wonder we are seeing increasing resources and dwelling types that create these connections.
A concept many are familiar with is that of urban agriculture, which describes the process of designating small spaces in urban settings for the purpose of growing foods. Common examples of this include allotment gardens within densely populated areas and rooftop apartment gardens. Urban agriculture has been popular for a long time, and the number of creative solutions to offer food growing options to urban dwellers is ever expanding.
Another concept for connecting to the land where food is grown is that of agricultural urbanism, which describes people living near vast pastoral farmland. This setting typically involves low density single-use dwelling types that are highly reliant on the use of cars. In many cases the farmers are on short-term lease land and don’t have the resources to invest in proper soil stewardship and focus on monocrop farming. Generally, there is a disconnect between the interests of the farmers and that of the residents of the area.
However, a new model of agricultural urbanism demonstrates that good urbanism and valuable farming can co-exist. This is where the concept of the agrihood comes in, which fosters a deep connection between food source and community.
An agrihood integrates urbanism and agriculture and ensures trade value between the two, resulting in a thriving community ecosystem. When part of the farmland is developed in a manner that is compatible with the people living next to it, value can be derived and transferred to the farmland, allowing for investment in proper soil stewardship, and making the land available for smaller scale, more diverse farming with higher value mixed crops. In the case of Southlands, farmland was secured in public hands where the City of Delta owns the farmland, allowing for long term use and planning.
Not only does this model create better outcomes for the farmland, it also creates opportunity for better urbanism with mixed-use, walkable neighbourhoods with greater density and therefore more services and resources. An agrihood, like Southlands, is planned in a way where residents appreciate the farming because it is integrated economically, socially, educationally and recreationally within the life of the community that co-exists with the farm.
While some residents of Southlands do have allotment gardens in the heart of the neighbourhood, many residents don’t necessarily have a direct interest in farming or growing themselves, but they appreciate a connection to their food source. They value the ability to walk to the farmers’ market each weekend to connect with their local food source. Within the community, children are exposed to special programs that teach them about farming. The town square offers multiple festivals each year that celebrate farming, growing and seasons changing. There is vast open space surrounding the neighbourhood through which residents can walk or cycle to trails. Farming and food energize the Southlands community, where even restaurants and cafes use produce right from the fields.
This is an agrihood. A place where there is a connection re-established between the places where people settle and live and the places where their food is grown and harvested. The people who live at Southlands know where their food comes from. They are proud that real farming is taking place in a growing urban region. New, young farmers are arriving on land that the old farmers left years ago when industrial farming was made impossible with encroaching development. At Southlands, local human-scale agriculture is proving to be possible again.