Redefining "Homegrown": My Trip to the Agrihood
- Leave your golf clubs and tennis rackets behind
- Eggs, produce, and meat that’s fresher and closer than the grocery
- Farm to table cooking
When it comes to picking a home, there are many phrases that may deter you from looking into a neighborhood. Things like, “up and coming” and “on the rise” may get an immediate pass from some folks.
But for me, after spending a good portion of my life in Florida, the words “planned community” always translated into “no way” when I was looking for a home.
If you’ve ever visited to the sunshine state (or you live there), you’ve probably seen that it’s chocked full of neighborhoods with beige-colored cookie-cutter homes and rows of condos surrounding a golf course, country club, and tennis courts.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these types of communities. But since I haven’t picked up a golf club or tennis racket a day in my life, there wasn’t much appeal in that lifestyle for me.
A few weeks ago, though, I had the opportunity to visit Willowsford, Virginia — a planned community that was, well, very different from the ones I had experienced in Florida, or anywhere for that matter.
Instead of a golf course or tennis courts, I found a nature conservatory, hiking trails, camping areas, fish-stocked ponds, and, most importantly, a farm.
The farm not only provides produce, eggs, chickens and other local, sustainably grown and produced items for residents who participate in the farm’s CSA program or shop at the Farm Stand, but also serves customers who live and work in neighboring communities. Additionally, the farm inspires neighborhood culinary classes and food education.
Farmers Alex Restaino and Nathan Forristall tending to Brussesl Sprouts on the farm in The Grange. Photo Credit: Deborah Lakowicz Dramby
Willowsford is one of about 200 farm-to-table communities that have sprouted up in the U.S.1 Just like Willowsford, these “agrihoods” are redefining the image of suburban life by making farming the community focus over leisure sports.
Three hundred acres of Willowsford are dedicated farmland. From May through November, residents can enjoy over 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs and meat from pastured chickens. These are available through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program or at the Willowsford Farm Stand.
The farm also provides educational events and activities like their 2015 Monarch program which involved young participants learning how to tag and release monarch butterflies, as well as acts as a distribution point for local businesses that sell sustainably raised meats, dairy products, and poultry. One of their community partners includes Heritage Hollow Farms in Sperryville, Virginia who provides grass-fed beef to the farm stand.
Outside the farm stand. Photo Credit: Molly Petersen
Inside the farm stand. Photo credit: Molly Peterson
While Willowsford isn’t a certified organic farm, it uses organic practices, including using non-GMO seeds.
I had the pleasure of talking to Willowsford Farm director Mike Snow during my visit.
We discussed GMO seeds and common farming practice. During our discussion, Mike told me a story about how another farmer he knew resorted to using GMO seeds during a difficult squash season.
When I asked him if he would consider the same practice, he replied, “I just can’t do it.”
An answer as simple and perfect as the food he grows.
But the good food news doesn’t end there for this agrihood. It also has a culinary program led by acclaimed chef and culinary adviser Bonnie Moore.
Mike Snow and Bonnie Moore checking on crops at the Willowsford Farm. Photo Credit: Molly Peterson
On the day I toured Willowsford, I got to meet Bonnie. While she was setting up for a cooking class geared toward kids, she explained that little to no food at Willowsford goes to waste. When there are excess crops, she gets to work in the kitchen. If there are extra tomatoes, she makes pasta sauce. If there are extra strawberries, she makes jam. Very industrious!
Bonnie Moore leading a culinary class at Willowsford’s Sycamore House. Photo Credit: Alan Bushnell
Willowsford has 2,000 acres of conservancy lands which includes the farm. This means 2,000 acres of the community will remain undeveloped, no matter how much the community grows. In these 2,000 acres are miles of trails for residents to enjoy. Plus, they have two beautiful community buildings, the Sycamore House and The Lodge at Willow Lake, with pools, meeting areas, community kitchens, and endless other amenities.
Before you get too excited, you should know the average price of a home in Willowsford is around $850,000.
Living in Willowsford or most agrihoods isn’t an affordable option for everyone, but if you live in the Washington, D.C., area, you can still reap the benefits of the farm by joining their CSA. Click here to learn more.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily
Written By Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore is a dedicated health researcher with a passion for finding healthy, natural, and science-based solutions. After a decade of direct healthcare experience in western and natural medicine, she was involved in public health research before joining Living Well Daily.
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