Agrihoods – integrating farming and housing in the same neighborhood

By Grow Here

Many times when cities grow and expand into surrounding land a lot of farmland is “eaten up” by conrete and building residential areas or shopping malls. Adding housing into farm or farming into a housing area is esssentially the meaning of creating an “agrihood”.  As a food system designer and architect I believe strongly in the idea of integrating food production into the plans of new housing areas or urban developments. In this blogpost I will share 3 inspiring examples from Agrihoods in the US as well as my own personal vision of how this could be applied in a more rural context in Sweden.

Agrihoods – Growing food for the community

Adding housing areas onto an old farm

Can we avoid loss of farmland as the city grows? In Austin, US, they collaborated between developers and the existing farmers. Instead of just forcing farmers away they incorporated the new resdential areas into the existing farm. I think this is also very relevant to smaller Swedish towns where farmland is disappearing quickly due to new developments. Agrihoods could also combine both new farms and existing farms with new and existing housing. Tiny homes is also an interessting match for small scale farming and infill housing into existing farmland. Personally I believe the plan here is farm from ideal and resembles the villa plan to much, but using the principles I developed in my master thesis on regenerative land use planning more optimal placing for housing could be found.

Adding farms into housing

Many areas around the world are developing agrihood. One of the mosts well known examples is this one in Detroit. This is very interesting because it is a site that use to be vacant land in the middle of the city where the community has no access to fresh food as the nearest grocery store are many miles away. So people took it into their own hands and built community gardens. In other words – vacant land, negative population trends and lacking access to fresh food made people start urban farms in the middle of the city on the vast areas of vacant spaces. In fact so many grassroot initaitives happened so after some years even developers  realizing this is something to invest in and below is an example of how an Agrihood was created where the community of 200 households could even get free food. Ssosmething that might be more relevant as many countries globally face a recession and economic crisis where people can barely afford to buy food.

Happened across the USA – already 5 years ago

One big potential sulotion could be investing in local food production and programs where thosse in biggest need get access to food by supporting farms to develop and be maintained over time. An urban farmer can be a solution to many issues we are facing, but mostly the solution is when you and I start growing our food or buyss it directly from the farmer. So this agrihood trend was big already 5 years ago and in fact it wass not just a few spread out in the US, but this was happening all over the USA as seen in this American news program below reporting that over 200 agrihoods are built acrosss the USA in 2017.  Today they are probably many more..

Building big market gardens & farms into new housing developments

Some of the most inspirational examples that I have heard of so far in this scene of “Agrihoods” in the US is the project developed during 2018 by Steadfasst Farm – a commercial market garden – together with the developers and property owners where this commercial new urban farming enterprise is built at the same time as and in the middle of a new housing area with 15 000 housing units. Based on the what can be sen  in Curtiss Stones videon below where you can hear more about the project – it looks like a luxious development of houssing that is not affordable to all people but the more this concept of integrating small scale urban and local farms into new housing development the better.

What can we learn?

Reflections from a food system designer

I am personally very interested in applying this into the Swedish countext of small and medium sized towns and cities to revive the city, create new attractive housing areas while still increasing and preserving farmland. My personal passion is designing local regenerative food systems through physical/spatial planning – and in the near future I hope to be working with ssome pioneering examples of this  through zoning plans in smaller municipalities in Sweden to also regenerate the countryside and smaller towns as well as the farms and food systems around them.

Can Swedish towns create agrihoods to reverse negative population trends and increase local food production? I do believe this is indeed both possible and needed to increase local food production while also making all of Swedens more rural or semirural areas live and thrive. I have spent the last year studying 4 different municipalities in the Västra Götaland county in my master thesis and in the design studio Local context at Chalmers school of Architecture. The projects I developed all focused on local small scale farming but in the context of smaller towns as well as on the countryside.

Read more on my passsion for food system design in the blogpost I wrote about the findings from my thesis “Carbon positive food regions” below:

Carbon positive food regions & Food system design – Part 2

In the autumn I did a project called Refarm the villages focused on two small villages of just a few hundred inhabitants that faced many challenges just like Detroit with population, access to basic infrastructure like public transport and food stores. Urban and local farms and a localized food system doess not solve all these issues, but maybe a few of them. While alsso creating meeting places for the local inhabitants to grow a stronger community and attract new people to move here. Eventually making it more attractive to live and work and with more people moving in in time more infrastrcuture and services will develop.

Read more about the “Refarm the Villages” project on this website.

Hope you got inspired!


Warm regards,

Jonathan Naraine

Grow Here