By Jake Flannick | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
Amid an undulating landscape of fields and woods in Woodfin, an agriculturally rich community is taking root, drawing the attention of prospective homebuyers who wish to live with an intentional connection to the land. In truth, the most noteworthy amenity at Olivette is the land itself, 350 verdant acres located alongside the French Broad River.
Like several local neighborhoods with an agricultural thrust, Olivette is being touted as an “agrihood,” a residential community situated around at least one working farm. While home construction began only a year ago, five acres, earmarked for farming, have already been cultivated. Two dozen types of greens—including kale, fennel and several varieties of cabbage—were raised on one of the fields last year. A greenhouse is flush with microgreens. Two farmers, employed by the developers, ferry the crops to tailgate markets and local restaurants in season.
“The farm is for the community,” says Tama Dickerson, one of Olivette’s owners and developers. It already has its own community supported agriculture (CSA) program. When residents start moving in, they will have the option of tending the farms in exchange for a share of crops.
For Dickerson, a lifelong gardener, the community is a dream come true. “I’ve always felt the intrinsic value of being able to connect with nature,” he says. “Gardening is a doorway to understanding our connection to nature.”
The agrihood is also meant to cultivate a sense of community. In addition to its recreational amenities—a mile-and-a-half-long walking path along the French Broad, as well as a community park featuring a stone fire circle and a labyrinth—there are plans to eventually build a school for kindergarteners through eighth graders. “We want to build a village here,” Dickerson says.
Beyond being nourished by the land, communities like French Broad Crossing (FBC) seek to preserve it. Tucked away in a pristine stretch of woodland, the Marshall-based property encompasses 750 acres, about one-third of which is protected under a conservation easement with the Southeast Regional Land Conservancy.
Developers encourage sustainable design, employ an onsite horticulturist to offer guidance on planting native species and provide educational hikes to help promote good stewardship of the land. A community garden that will be maintained year-round by residents is located near the entrance.
“We wanted something that everybody passes every day,” FBC’s general manager Christen Miller says of the organic vegetable garden. “This community is comprised of people from all across the nation, at varying stages of life, yet everyone is knit together by a common bond: to enjoy and protect this beautiful land.”
Andy Baker, president of TFM Carolina Inc., which manages Asheville’s Sovereign Oaks, says, “Agriculture and green spaces are very much woven into the fabric of the community.” Design guidelines here help future homeowners incorporate eco-sensitive practices, from effective permaculture to the installation of green products such as solar panels and rain barrels.
“All we can provide is the tools and the ideas,” says Baker. In addition to a greenhouse and produce stand, there are plans for community gardens, an apiary and an onsite beekeeper. The beehives are meant not only for harvesting honey, but to bring pollinators to the community. Baker says, “This is our small way of trying to take a positive step toward increasing that population locally and improving the health of our flora and fauna.”
Jake Flannick has reported for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Charlotte Observer, The Pittsburgh City Paper and, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He now works as a freelance writer in Asheville.