Growing Communities with Agriculture: 10 Ways to Add Value to New Developments

Designers at SWA Group share their expertise in shaping healthy communities using agriculture.

From backyard growers and public plots to community-operated farms and for-profit enterprises, refined farming technologies are creating potential for food production at all scales within our communities. Now is the time to plant the seeds for a future that not only looks good, but tastes great.

SWA urban planners and landscape architects have expertise in fostering strong communities using agriculture. We see our work as productive adaptation of neighborhood design that anticipates the various roles that food production can play in the future fabric of our communities, lending social, aesthetic and ecological benefits.

With many greenfield developments occurring on formerly productive land, integration of an agricultural framework can allow new semi-rural communities to maintain connections to the land and its productive abilities. Further, incorporating agricultural components in dense mixed-use settings reduces the environmental footprint of food production, and creates experiential and educational values by enabling interaction with the productive lands that sustain us.

Laguna Beach-based SWA principal Andrew Watkins says, "We're working on several projects that explore methods of integrating agriculture and community in a win-win relationship that allows farming to be sustained in an economically challenging environment and community members to live close to their food."

Working with SWA on its agricultural efforts is consultant Daron Joffe, Director of Agricultural Innovation and Development with the Leichtag Foundation. "Farmer D", as he is called in Ag circles, promotes the concept of the Citizen Farmer—helping people to see themselves as farmers by inspiring them to grow something. "Farming nurtures us as individuals," he says, "which in turn nurtures community."

We couldn't agree more.

Here are 10 ways that integrating agriculture into any landscape project adds value:

1) Anchor a community by providing a sense of identity
2) Reduce environmental impact
3) Increase local business
4) Encourage healthy food and exercise
5) Offer residential farming options
6) Provide shade in hot climates
7) Act as a fire break in drought regions (employing orchards)
8) Promote agricultural education
9) Invite community involvement
10) Provide new models of economically sustainable farming


SWA Group, an international landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm, celebrates 61 years of creating healthy, vital outdoor spaces around the world. For more information, please reach out to Communications Manager Julie Eakin:; 212-734-6646.

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