For Auckland, the idea of Agrihoods being able to accommodate the city’s population growth whilst retaining productive land for farming has a lot of appeal.
In this series exploring sustainable food production systems, I made the point last week that rather than our going down the path of robotic farming, horticulture needs people living on and working the farm.

In previous weeks, I discussed the benefits of food foresting, of small-scale farms and small plot intensive growing systems, and of urban farming.

Across the US, all these factors come together in an increasingly popular concept known as Agrihoods, or neighbourhoods built around a working farm.

Image credit: http://www.shareable.net

Image credit: http://www.shareable.net

Despite the name being newly coined, there is little that is new in the practices behind the concept.

From the commune movement of the 1960s to the present day trend towards community gardens, urban farming, and co-housing we now only play around the edges of where a solution lies – the agrarian economy.

This is not a ‘back to the land’ movement but a serious attempt by many, to find a way to achieve community resilience and sustainable lifestyles.

In considering the four sustainability aspects of productivity, social acceptance, environmental stewardship and economic viability how might Agrihoods stack up?

Agrihood farms utilise organic growing principles and so sustainable production is more assured than that from conventional farms. Couple this with surrounding homes being built to eco-building standards, and the concept ought be environmentally sustainable.

As a community of like-minded people of diverse means, Agrihoods will likely be socially sustainable.

Finally, consider economic sustainability. Food grown in Agrihoods is typically sold direct to residents through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs with surplus vegetables sold on a road-side food stall, at Farmer’s Markets and to local restaurants. In selling direct and by-passing the middle men of the food distribution business, economic viability is enhanced.

So from a sustainability perspective, Agrihoods look promising.

But are they practical in a local context?

We do not lack the land on which Agrihoods would be developed. Town planning regulations may be an issue in some districts but that could be changed if there was the will to do so.

For Auckland, the idea of Agrihoods being able to accommodate the city’s population growth whilst retaining productive land for farming has a lot of appeal.

And forestalling population drift to the cities is likewise appealing. Statistics NZ report that the population living in rural centres or rural areas comprised a slowly declining proportion of the total population between 1991 and 2006.

It is only from a political perspective, that the idea of Agrihoods as a means of pushing back against industrial agriculture may prove problematic.

In light of the many benefits, Agrihoods appeal as a part of the solution to many of the societal issues we face today.