Free Market Farmland

The Washington Post reports that across the country, new neighborhood developments are including farmland as an amenity for residents whose housing prices include funding for the provision of open space and readily available, hyper-local produce.

This trend demonstrates that developers, when legally permitted to do so, cater to the demands of their consumers. Recent changes in land use policy, allowing for more mixed-use development, have legalized the blending of residential and agricultural uses.

The article explains:

Most of these projects start with a matchup between a fine old farm to save and a smart developer with a vision, but in the case of Potomac Vegetable Farms (http://www.potomacvegetablefarms.com), west of Tysons Corner, the farmers saved it themselves. Hiu Newcomb and her family now have a co-housing project (a community with shared common areas and responsibilities) clustered in one area, but most of the popular farm remains.

In Northern Virginia and many areas of the country where development is being designed around farms, the concept is primarily a luxury for the Whole Foods set that values local farmers and produce. However, a similar trend is emerging in Detroit, as previously discussed here, as a way of putting deserted urban space to use.

Earlier this week, the Detroit City Planning Commission moved to codify this trend, working to update the zoning code to permit more agricultural uses within city limits. However, local television news station WLNS explains:

The draft includes recommendations such as allowing small projects to buy city land at reduced prices with lower tax rates. And it suggests larger farms would need to show how they would benefit the community to get such breaks.

The draft also suggests setting soil testing rules.

While allowing entrepreneurs to make valuable use of vacant land in Detroit makes great economic sense, the city should consider whether, particularly given its current budget condition, a subsidy program is advisable policy.