Suburban Agriculture

One of the coolest ideas I've heard in awhile in terms of creating sustainable communities is the idea of recreating our notion of suburbia by introducing sustainable agriculture.

While exurbs - those extra-urban areas that exist beyond cities and their inner suburbs - are (in my opinion) best abandoned because it’s hard to believe that their relatively low population density (which makes mass transit difficult to establish), combined with low rate of business (which again forces residences to have to commute long distances to work) can ever be sustainable, it does beggar the question of what to do with ailing inner ring suburbs. While urban agriculture has begun to establish foothold in cities from New York to Detroit to Chicago the idea of wide spread agriculture in suburbs is still pretty radical.

Why not, argues new urbanist Andrés Duany, of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), base suburbs around agriculture instead of around golf or faux wilderness?

With a growing interest in locally grown food and the stark reality that more than 6 million acres of agricultural land in the US were lost to development between 1992 and 1997 according to the American Farmland Trust, this is a provocative idea.

Not only would it reduce food miles, it would provide local jobs - the one thing many suburbs lack. In addition by mixing agriculture, open lands, habitat preservation while clustering homes in the center it upends the typical pattern of development that marries both traditional village life of over a century ago, with modern needs and desires. In addition, because industrial farming and residential habitation rarely co-exist peacefully (confined feed lots do nasty things to air quality, while monoculture kills ground water quality), it forces agriculture sustainability through transparency: nobody wants to live in a stinky, toxic community.

So what do you think? Good idea or just another pie in the sky 'solution' that creates more problems than it solves?