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This golf course is being converted into a residential olive grove

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Food has become a cornerstone of residential real estate.

Thirty-five percent of households grow vegetables in their own backyard. That’s a 17% increase in the past five years, according to the National Gardening Association. And builders are catering to this increased appetite by building so-called agrihoods, or residences built around community farms.

Urban Land Institute senior resident fellow Ed McMahon says the concept of having farms as parts of developments has been around for decades, but agrihoods have garnered even more popularity post-recession.

“The foodie generation has led to a boom in agrihoods. People find that almost all social activities involve food in one way or another and are interested in healthy lifestyles and everything local — local products, food and stores,” he told Yahoo Finance.

McMahon has been tracking nearly 50 different agrihoods, in both suburban and urban communities alike. Among them, The Cannery in Davis, California, is the city’s first farm-to-table home community; Cooke’s Hope in Easton, Maryland, has English-inspired cottages nestled in the middle of cow paths; and Hōkū Nui Maui is a residential community in Hawaii that’s being built on a former sugar cane and pineapple plantation.

From golf course to olive grove

Another example of these flourishing agrihoods is Miralon, a 300-acre master plan community in Palm Springs that will offer 1,150 homes — which translates to a range of between 2,500 and 3,000 future residents.

Freehold Communities, a four-year-old development group, is behind the project, and ground breaks in a few months. Freehold has 12,000 lots spread across eight projects in four states — Florida, Texas, North Carolina and California.

The 309 acres for Miralon were originally entitled in 2003, and in 2005 real estate developer SunCal went about developing it as a golf course community. SunCal had built roughly half of the lots as well as the golf course when its financing partner Lehman Brothers had to foreclose on the property and the project was put up for sale, according to Bradley Shuckhart, Freehold’s California Division President.

Finally, last year, Freehold won a bidding war to acquire the property and figured out several ways to improve upon the plan.

Shuckhart looked heavily at revitalizing the golf course, but after looking at a number of demographic studies and having discussions with local brokers and prospective buyers, Shuckhart and his team decided to go an alternate route.

“It’s not like that we have an aversion for golf. We just wanted to have a broader appeal — it wasn’t just going to cater to golfers or people that wanted to look at the golf course. Everyone appreciates vistas and a nice walk,” Shuckhart said. “Plus, when you’re a golfer in the desert you can choose from hundreds of championship golf courses within a 30-mile radius.”

Shuckhart realized he couldn’t just appeal to such a niche community, considering the number of golfers in the US has been in steady decline. There were 23.8 million golfers in 2016, which is well off the peak of 30 million in 2005 (the Tiger Woods era), according to data from The National Golf Foundation.

Given that there are 36 golf clubs listed in Palm Springs alone, Shuckhart rightfully felt the region had no shortage of courses.

Why olives?

The never-been-used golf course will be transformed into a system of olive trees that will ultimately be cultivated to produce olive oil.

The former golf course is being repurposed into groves, parks and trails including more than 70 acres of olive trees, cultivated by Temecula Olive Oil Company, with drip-irrigation. Olive oil from the orchard will be pressed on-site, and produce from the community gardens will go directly to the tables of residents.

Former golf cart paths will constitute approximately 6.5 miles of hiking trails. Former tee boxes and greens will be transformed into smaller groves, dog parks, exercise stations, and social areas with firepits and WiFi.

Shuckhart notes that after considering a variety of different vegetables and fruits, the verdict was clear — olives were the way to go.

“We are very conscious about resource usage. We knew that bringing back the golf course and bringing back the turf — and the amount of water needed — would be exhaustive. We were looking for plant materials that would benefit the community,” he said. “Olives are well-suited for Palm Springs’ climatic conditions, which at times include high temperatures and significant wind.”

Plus, he adds, as he’s trying to cater to all individuals, particularly first-time millennial homebuyers, olives have a certain romantic association.

“Artisanal olive oil has become desirable and sought after. We’re striving to create authentic experiences and realize that people aren’t interested in typical amenities anymore.”

Cashing in on the health craze

Focused largely on health and wellness, Miralon will also offer two pools, a spa, an outdoor recreation center and a gym. The former golf clubhouse is turning into an amenity center that’s interconnected by a large shade structure.

Miralon fitness center (Rendering by Freehold Communities)

While the market will ultimately dictate the price point, Shuckhart says that Freehold is building both single-family lots and multifamily units that will range from the high $300,000s into the $700,000s.

McMahon says communities like Miralon are proliferating all across the country, and not just for aesthetic reasons.

“Today the average vegetable travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate,” he said. “Every grocery store chain in America is interested in having food grown closer to home. Individuals desire the same.”

Agrihoods will likely crop up to cater to young professionals’ changing appetites, whether they be olive groves, vineyards or even rooftop gardens atop apartment complexes.

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm

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