"An Apple Tree Grows in Suburbia" - The Wall Street Journal covers the trends of edible landcaping

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An Apple Tree Grows in Suburbia

The hot trend in the suburbs is to mix homes and agriculture

September 12, 2011

By Stephanie Simon

Used to be, developers built high-end suburban communities around golf greens.

The hot amenity now? Salad greens.

In a movement propelled by environmental concern, nostalgia for a simpler life and a dollop of marketing savvy, developers are increasingly laying out their cul-de-sacs around organic farms, cattle ranches, vineyards and other agricultural ventures. They're betting that buyers will pay a premium for views of heirloom tomatoes—and that the farms can provide a steady stream of revenue, while cutting the cost of landscaping upkeep.

Forget multimillion-dollar recreation centers—"our amenities are watching the cows graze and the leaves change," says Joe Barnes, development principal for Bundoran Farm, a 2,300-acre development set amid apple orchards and cattle pastures outside Charlottesville, Va.

To be sure, the shaky economy has taken a toll on some of these developments, including Bundoran Farms, where the developers are moving ahead with new financial backers after a co-owner of the acreage went into foreclosure. Still, Bundoran's developers say they have sold 19 lots, which run from about $250,000 to more than $1 million, in the past 10 months. And new communities centered on agricultural development are in various stages of planning and construction in cities from coast to coast, including South Burlington, Vt., Hayes, Va., Boise, Idaho, and Stockton, Calif.

"Agriculture is the new golf," says Ed McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group focused on land-use planning.

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