Understanding Agrihoods: An Exploration into the Growing Trend of Farm-to-Table Communities across the United States

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,932.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Elizabeth Brabec
University of Massachusetts Amherst


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, farmers' markets/farm stands, new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, employment opportunities, food hubs, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, quality of life, social networks, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    A real estate trend is sweeping the nation right now with tremendous opportunity to benefit sustainable agriculture by providing new job opportunities for farmers and new land for agriculture. The term “agrihood” is used to describe residential developments, from 2-acre urban infill projects to 5,000-acre subdivisions, which integrate farms, orchards, and/or gardens, as a central focus of the community. Agrihoods promise to re-localize parts of the food system, an imperative in the face of climate change, while also providing tremendous social benefit in the form of agricultural education, community building, and nutrition. While agrihoods have been reported on in newspapers and at real estate conferences, there is little research on these communities that goes beyond being purely descriptive.

    My project seeks to be one of the first to provide in-depth analysis into how agrihoods function, why developers are incorporating agriculture into communities, the challenges and benefits for the agrihood farmer, the spatial design of the neighborhood, and how residents engage with food production and consumption. I developed a website (www.agrihoodinfo.com) which includes a map with 70 agrihood projects and I have been researching this topic for the past year. I propose to choose a subset of mature agrihoods and carry out semi-structured interviews with the developers, farmers, and managers of each neighborhood in order to identify common themes and specific approaches in each development. My findings will aid agrihood designers, farmers, and developers and advance sustainable agriculture by promoting the agrihood model and providing insight into how these communities function.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Continue to identify, inventory, and investigate agrihood projects and add projects to the map on my website, www.agrihoodinfo.com, which already includes 70 projects.
    2. Identify a subset of agrihood projects suitable for further investigation which have been lived in for more than 3 years and span the spectrum of size, context, and type of agriculture practiced.
    a. Within the subset. develop and execute an online questionnaire geared towards agrihood residents.
    i. the role of agriculture in them moving to the neighborhood,
    ii. engagement with the agricultural components of the community,
    iii. consumption and purchasing of food from the community farm, and
    iv. sense of place and belonging within the community
    b. Within the subset, develop and execute semi-structured interviews with agrihood developers, farmers, and managers, covering the following themes.
    i. Agrihood Developers
    1. Site history and land acquisition
    2. Decision to include agriculture
    3. Land protection and conservation, use of agricultural easements, and spatial design of community
    4. Role of agriculture consultants in the deign process and how type of agricultural amenities were decided
    5. Organizational structure and partnerships, management of farmland, educational events, CSA, and farmer’s market
    6. Financial information, including real estate performance, upfront costs for agricultural amenities and expected payback period.
    7. Transition from developer management to homeowner association (HOA) or lifestyle manager
    ii. Agrihood Farmers
    1. Professional background and agriculture experience
    2. How and why they began working at the agrihood
    3. Benefits and challenges of farming with sustained engagement from community
    4. Role as agriculture educator, communicator, and event planner
    5. How decisions are made for what to plant and when to harvest
    6. Management of sales outlets, including farmer’s market, CSA, and/or farm stand
    7. What they wish they knew when they first started at agrihood
    iii. Agrihood Managers (Homeowner association president or lifestyle manager)
    1. Business structure of community management
    2. Revenue sources (HOA fees, property taxes, etc)
    3. Relationship with and responsibility for farmland and other neighborhood amenities
    c. For each community within the subset, develop a series of maps and diagrams, which help visualize the land use, integration of agriculture within the community, and the surrounding context.
    3. Transcribe and analyze interviews and identify emerging patterns and themes
    4. For my master’s thesis, describe each community as a unique case study, rich with quotes and insights, in a nicely formatted publication.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.