North Carolina agrihood seeks to redefine community living

Rick Bagel, managing partner of Wetrock Resources, LLC, holds the plans to Wetrock Farm.

In the small, rural community of Bahama just north of Durham, N.C., a freshly paved road winds through the middle of two pastoral fields filled with wildflowers, past a burgeoning orchard, and into the middle of a clearing surrounded by a lush green forest. This road is the beginning of a first for the area — an agrihood.

What was once a working farm and then a hunting club, the land is being transformed once more to create a sustainable community where local food is at the center. This is where the agrihood, Wetrock Farm, is growing from the ground up.

“Wetrock Farm is about maximizing human enjoyment, minimizing environmental impact in developments, and creating a real community centered around local food, sustainability, and green living,” said Rick Bagel, managing partner of Wetrock Resources, LLC, and the man behind the idea for Wetrock Farm.

“In the last 10 years, the trend towards sustainable living has seen a growth, especially here in the Durham area proper,” he said. “A community like Wetrock Farm is important in today’s world because the suburbs need love, and people need something different.”

“Neighborhood models like these have been talked about for decades, and we are actually implementing it here, on the ground, in North Carolina,” said Bagel.

This where the agrihood model came in.

“Unlike the thousands of golf-course developments in the nation, where homes are built around a central golf course and club house, an agrihood is built around a working farm, with much of the land preserved for growing food or set aside in conservation easements,” said Jeff   Birk, National Center for Appropriate Technology Smart Growth Specialist, in the article “Agrihoods: Development-Supported Agriculture.”

Bagel took that idea of an agrihood one step further by implementing advanced renewable energy in the form of net-zero homes.

Each home will have rooftop solar, which offsets the average energy usage for that home size, said Bagel. Depending upon a resident’s energy usage — most people should have a power bill of about $0.

For other utilities, residents have access to onsite community water (wells) and septic. There will be a fee for these services, and Bagel states that it will be comparable to regular utility costs. Future residents will also have access to recycling and composting services.

According to the Urban Land Institute, there are currently 41 agrihoods in the U.S. in the development, completion, and planning stages.

The size, the amount of land contained with the community, the number of residences, and what type of agricultural center each agrihood contains varies from location-to-location.

Whereas Wetrock Farm will include 140 home sites and 100 acres of open conservation space for a total of 230 acres, other agrihoods, such as Agritopia in Arizona contain more than 450 homes located on 166 acres, and Arbor House in New York contains 124 units of affordable housing and a 10,000-square-foot hydroponic-rooftop farm, the Urban Land Institute states on its site.

The burgeoning orchard at Wetrock Farm

Why live in an agrihood?

Wetrock Farm is an ideal place for people who want something different, that want a real sense of community, and that want to live in a cutting edge sustainable community with superior access to local food, said Bagel.

Interest in the community has ranged from first time homebuyers to young families to empty nesters.

Kiya Penzien, a potential homebuyer from Virginia, said after touring the property that she was attracted to Wetrock Farm because sustainability is important to her. So important that she even hosted a green Christmas for her grown children last year, complete with stainless steel straws and reusable beeswax wrap.

Penzien also said that she liked the fact that the community was a new build. “New developments tend to create community,” she said.

Bagel showing potential home buyer Kiya Penzien the property.

And, a sense of community is what Bagel is trying to accomplish.

Traditional new build neighborhoods that are popping up are nice places to live, but there are is no connection to the neighbors, he said. There is this piece of American life that we took for granted for the longest time that’s not really there the way it was 20 years ago, or even 50 years ago. A community like Wetrock Farm is bringing that back.

People need to be connected to each other to even be mindful of the environmental stuff, Bagel added.

What about the farm?

The center of the community’s focus is food, and not just any food, but food that is grown locally, sustainably, and organically.

The farm growing area consists of four acres on either side of the road at the entrance to the community, and an additional eight acres towards the back of the community.

The property hasn’t been sprayed in at least five years, so it is eligible for organic certification, said Bagel. But, until that process is complete, residents don’t have to worry, he said, sustainable farming practices are being utilized.

They also don’t have worry about their neighbor spraying chemicals all over their lawn on a weekly basis.

Because the community’s focus is farming and sustainability, residents have the ability to create gardens in their own yards; though, chemicals, such as synthetic pesticides, are restricted per the HOA guidelines, said Bagel.

The community will have a fulltime farm manager that oversees production, so residents get to enjoy the farm, but it won’t be their responsibility to upkeep it, he said.

As part of their HOA fees, residents also get two boxes of fresh produce monthly.

Wildflowers at Wetrock Farm

In addition to farm, residents have access to 100 acres conserved open space. This space includes wooded trails, a stream, and the ability for residents to create a big community garden, if they wish.

The amount of conservation land that comes with the community is what set the price point for the homes, but Bagel said that the agrihood model can be replicated for all types of income levels.

“It is very possible to have fully integrated food systems in more moderate income communities,” he said.

Bagel hinted that a community that meets those parameters was on the horizon for the future.

The Details

  • Number of homes: When completed, Wetrock Farm will contain 140 homes.
  • Lot size: Lots are sold in sizes of 50×100 feet, and 100×220 feet (about 1/2 acre).
  • Sales begin: Presales are starting this summer with the first homes slated to be ready in November-December.
  • Cost: The presale prices for homes in Wetrock Farms range from $389,000 up to the high $800,000s. Homes are for purchase, but long-term rentals will be allowed. HOA fees are estimated at about $200-$300/month.
  • Location: 205 Preston Andrews Road, Bahama, N.C. 27503

For more information on Wetrock Farm, visit www.wetrockfarm.com

 

 

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