WELLINGTON, Florida — Arden, in Palm Beach County, Florida, has opened as South Florida’s first “agrihood,” with a five-acre farm serving 2,000 planned homes. Arden is set on 1,209 acres west of West Palm Beach and includes a mile-long central lake, 20 miles of trails, and 500 acres of parks and open space. Arden is developed by Freehold Communities, creator of vital masterplanned communities in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and California.
Freehold Communities recently hired Arden’s two full-time Farm Directors – Carmen Franz and Tripp Eldridge. Both have extensive backgrounds in organic farming. They are guiding Arden homeowners in the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Residents will be encouraged to help the farmers plant, tend the crops and share in the harvest.
All of Freehold’s new communities express its Vital Community™ approach embracing healthy living, engagement, connectivity, stewardship and distinctive home design. And all are distinguished by extensive amenities, including nature preserves, or innovative merging of homes and community farms, or “agrihoods.”
“Carmen and Tripp are the social heart of Arden’s community farm,” said Freehold Southeast Division President Andy Smith. “They embody our approach toward immersing ourselves in the local market to create amenities and a community that best expresses its interests and wellbeing. Carmen and Tripp are already allowing Arden’s first residents to take pride of ownership.”
Other agrihoods by Freehold Communities include Orchard Ridge in Liberty Hill, Texas (near Austin) with orchards and community gardens; and Miralon in Palm Springs, California, where an 18-hole golf course is being transformed into olive groves and community gardens.
Franz and Eldridge Bios, Video and Q & A
Carmen Franz, who graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Political Science and focused on Agriculture Policy and Organic and Sustainable Crop Production, went on to serve as a Sustainable Agriculture Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. After she worked at University of Florida conducting organic horticulture research, she started the teaching farm at the University of North Florida. Before coming to Arden, she pursued her passions for community food system development as director of Fresh Access Bucks, a Florida program designed to increase underserved communities’ access to fresh, locally grown produce.
Tripp Eldridge was introduced to organic growing while studying at the University of Georgia. Tripp then served with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, focusing in sustainable agriculture and community empowerment. In 2009, he completed a master’s degree in Public Health at Georgia Southern University with focus in Community Health. In 2011, he joined White Oak Pastures as the Organic Farm Manager where he supervised a 5-acre CNG/Certified Organic vegetable farm, along with 6,500 pasture-raised egg laying hens and a commercial-scale composting operation. In 2014, Tripp moved to Tennessee to manage the startup of a 400-acre agroforestry venture called Caney Fork Farms.
How have Arden residents received the farm?
Tripp: All the feedback has been immensely positive. There have been a lot of expectations about integrating the farm and what programs we would offer. We focus on fun events and weekly volunteer activities as a way for residents to get involved, including growing their own food.
Carmen: We really want the children to get involved as well. Kids love getting dirty and watching things grow over time. On a recent Saturday we had a birdhouse-building workshop, for example.
What are the social advantages of a community farm?
Tripp: A farm at the heart of a community embodies the spirit of healthy living. We want ours to be successful not only at providing delicious food but also by actively engaging residents. To be a farmer, it takes athleticism. You’re out there with your neighbors, working hard to produce food to fuel your own body. That embodies everything a healthy community stands for.
Carmen: We are encouraging residents to consider the farm a large community garden that’s open to everyone. In the middle of September, we’re going to start planting the beds and in November, we’ll start harvesting and sharing the food we’ve grown. With everything from vegetables to fruit trees, we want everyone who can to come get involved.
Give us a picture of what to expect when the farm matures.
Carmen: You can expect to see 50 different types of vegetables of a vast variety. Of course we’ll have produce that’s generally used on a day-to-day basis: tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc., but there will also be delicious surprises unique to South Florida that you might not always find in the grocery store. There will be summer fruit trees as well, but the main growing season is between October and May.
Will the crops be available only to residents?
Carmen: Arden’s main priority are the homeowners. All households will receive an equal share of the harvest, but they can also volunteer to help the farm and receive additional produce in exchange for that work. Inside the barn will be a store with additional produce from other local farms, including organic meat and dairy products.
Did you look at other agrihoods around the country?
Tripp: We researched agrihoods nationwide and were influenced by many them, when appropriate. The Cannery in Davis, California did stand out to us. Carmen and I are also familiar with Serenbe and East Lake Commons, two established models around Atlanta. But, of course, South Florida is a very distinct lregion for growing and we’re happy Arden is the first to break ground here.
Do you incorporate organic farming approaches?
Carmen: We are organic farmers. That’s the only way we know how to farm. We are both from the South, so we’re familiar with the soil and climate. In terms of what’s unique about Florida agriculture, it’s one of the largest producers of fruits of vegetables in the nation, surpassed only by California. However, only 15% of that produce stays in Florida. We want to be able to give back to our state and provide people access to fresh food and nutrient-dense products, as well as connecting people to more local growers. We also intend to donate any extra produce to local underserved populations in Palm Beach county.
Arden, in Palm Beach County Florida, includes a five-acre community farm. Photo by Freehold Communities.
About Freehold Communities
Freehold Communities is developing over 10,000 residential lots in Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and California. We create Vital Communities™ that embrace healthy living, engagement, connectivity, stewardship and distinctive home design.
As we evaluate opportunities, we focus on the right planning, the right properties, and the right partners. We begin with comprehensive research to gain insight into the unique needs, trends and preferences in the local market. We then carefully consider each property to determine how we can maintain its beauty and character as we create a Vital Community™. Finally, we partner with quality, creative builders who share in our philosophy by offering niche solutions and unique, timeless designs.