On the front porch of a farmhouse in Franktown, Paige McLaughlin paused to let the silence make her point for her.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” she said finally.
The haze from nearby wildfires shielded the picturesque view of the mountains. From memory, McLaughlin pointed out exactly where Pikes Peak should be. Acres of farmland stretch to the western horizon and as far as the eye can see in each direction, north to south, along Flintwood Road.
The 106-year-old farmhouse has since been converted into a sales office for the Fox Hill community development. The 365 acres of farmland and open space just south of Parker used to be mostly hay farms in the late 1980s. Now, Fox Hill is being developed into a community of 92 $1 million homes, about 1 to 4 acres each.
The tranquility of the land, in the age of constant connection through social media, could be enough to attract potential homebuyers, McLaughlin said. But people are beginning to pack their bags and move to Fox Hill for another reason: a farming lifestyle without much of the work behind it.
Fox Hill opened April 22, Earth Day, of this year with a different kind of community in mind. Instead of a typical community surrounding parks and public pools, Fox Hill will offer its residents the option to join in community agriculture.
“It’s the culture of agriculture, that’s what it really is,” McLaughlin said. “It’s about the lifestyle that it provides — the healthy way of living but also for the heart, soul and mind.”
A community orchard, vineyard, hopfield, berry patch and an aquaponic greenhouse will eventually be developed on five acres near the original farmhouse. Residents will have the option to participate in several community events like egg harvesting, picking berries and learning to brew from locally grown hops. The optional farm program will be for an additional price yet to be determined. Residents who opt-in will also receive a box of fresh, seasonal produce delivered to their houses weekly. Residents can help farm as much as they like, but are not required to as part of the program. The farming will be left up to a hired hand.
“When you think about that, it’s similar to the idea of living in a maintained golf course community,” said Elizabeth Craft, owner of Growing Up Green, the landscape consulting firm designing the farm. “You are paying for the beauty and landscape of the community already, and some of them may be golfers themselves, but we would never ever require them to go mow those greens.”
McLaughlin and her husband, Doug, are partnering with Elizabeth and Kory Craft, who are consultants of Growing Up Green to develop Fox Hill into a shared farming community. Elizabeth and Kory Craft came up with the idea after seeing a similar project they consulted on in Austin, Texas, succeed.
“I think because you have the guidance of having professionals there developing it, you can learn as much or as little as you like,” Elizabeth Craft said. “You can reap the benefits of the produce, or you can be part of the production.”
This Franktown community is part of a growing trend of similar communities centered around community gardens or agriculture, which are popping up all around the country, according to Becca Jablonski, a food systems economist at Colorado State University. Communities around Colorado, even in more urban areas have sprouted. It’s an attractive way for people to live healthier lifestyles, even if they don’t have a farming background.
“There’s a lot of these more innovative models of community agriculture that have emerged over the past decade,” Jablonski said. “This is just another kind of hybrid model for this.”
A community of hundreds of acres along the I-76 corridor in Adams is being developed into several one-to-10-acre farms for sustainable living. People in cities like Detroit and Chicago are making use of vacant lots by farming sustainably.
Jablonski said that while these community gardens and farms are not very profitable, they offer a larger social and educational impact to its residents.
“For people being able to participate, they’re more likely to support Colorado proud products,” Jablonski said. “There’s something around the educational and health benefits that really resonates with people.
“As we have 80 percent of our population that live in urban areas,” Jablonski said, “they want some connection to the land.”
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