Farm Share: As absorption rates drop, Quint Redmond is helping some builders retrofit existing plats to include fewer homes and more farms.
Credit: Celin Serbo
Is greenfield development dead?Developer Quint Redmond doesn’t think so. But he does believe that master planned communities would do well to trade in golf courses and pocket parks for a different kind of amenity.
Redmond is among a handful of planners and developers advocating “agricultural urbanism,” a development model that clusters housing and commercial buildings into tight-knit villages, thereby preserving larger chunks of land for green space. Except in this case, manicured lawns are traded for working farms as a mixed-use and shared community feature.
A farmer himself and founder of the land planning firm The TSR Group, Redmond has more than 3,000 acres under development as early experiments in what he calls “agriburbia.” One such venture, The Farmstead at Granite Quarry, will blend 275 housing units and commercial space with fields of vegetables on 126 acres in North Carolina. The team has already hired a farmer to tend a 40-acre professional agricultural operation, as well as “steward farms” that homeowners will have the option of hosting in their own backyards. (Twelve lots have already presold over the Internet.) Upon completion, the town center will include a farmer’s market, an education center offering cooking and gardening classes, and leasable sales space for local growers.
Credit: Courtesy The TSR Group
The model has financial benefits too, Redmond says. Funds that would normally pay for landscaping are parlayed into food production, which yields a return on investment. And farms aren’t an extra infrastructure line item since they use the same roads, water, and sewer as the adjacent housing.
But the biggest boon may be the role farming can play in phased development. Empty parcels that will eventually support homes or retail can be cultivated to grow salable produce in the interim.
“We can do feasibility studies with local restaurants and schools and grow enough to meet that demand five or 10 acres at a time,” Redmond explains. “Everything is staged, with agricultural production beginning first, so you can pay your way through each phase. That way you don’t end up with a half-built PVC forest that you can’t sell. Even if there are only five to 10 houses built, it will feel like a community if there is farm production. It won’t feel abandoned.”