Re: Cohousing and suburban sprawl
From: James Kalin (
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 00:51:42 -0500
Howdy folks:

Urban/suburban sprawl annually takes enormous amounts of prime ag land out
of production.

Conventional wisdom is that the only way to halt loss of ag land production
is to stop building new residential developments in ag communities and
force new development into ever denser existing suburban/urban communities.

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Properly designed sububan and rural residential developments can actually
increase ag yields instead of decreasing or eliminating them.

Cohousing projects should include agricultural land uses if they're
concerned about sprawl taking ag lands out of production.  Having worked as
an ag advisor back in the late 70's, I know what can be done with ground
around buildings, trellising of walls or a creative use of roofs.  Where
enough land is available, a farming (by "farming" I mean grains, vegies,
orchards, or aquaculture) operation can be operated within the residential

This is not to say you should operate a "factory floor" agribusiness farm,
with the usual reliance on heavy machinery and agrichemicals.  An organic
farming operation, on the other hand, can be quite a community asset.
Living in a community integrated within an well designed organic farming
operation would create a wonderfully rich old world farming village

Examples of recent residential developments integrated with farming include
Prairie Crossing (near Grayslake, Illinois) and Tryon Farm (near Michigan
City, Indiana).

Community Supported Agriculture projects (CSAs) provide an excellent
organizational structure for cohousing groups interested in integrating ag
land uses into their projects.  More than 500 CSAs have been created since
1985.  As a CSA shareholder you are obligated to pay a share of the farm
annual operating costs.  In essence, you lease or own the farm.  In return,
shareholders get organic "vine-ripened" food, typically 20-30% cheaper than
regular supermarket food.  A CSA farm operating on a cohousing site could
provide good jobs to a few or more professional farmers and provide organic
food to cohousing and neighborhood CSA shareholders.

Existing cohousing developments should reevaluate their current land use to
try and "retrofit" farming into their communities.  For example, from what
I saw on a tour of Nyland was enough acreage to support a substantial truck
gardening operation, even perhaps grains.

Most cohousers are urban/suburban born and bred, so the idea of integrating
farming into cohousing usually sounds fantastic, impractical, utopian, or
messy.  Play with idea.  Invite some local organic market gardeners or
farmers to tour your site and discuss how farming might be done on your
cohousing property.  Find a Permaculture professional with solid business
sense, who could do a design workshop on your site.  Have fun with the
notion of living in a farming village!

James Kalin

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