I have this tremendous desire to buy a farm, a specific farm. After decades of vacationing in the area, after a decade (while vacationing) of making a daily pre-breakfast bike tour around the lake and admiring the setting, views, changing light, and topography of the farm, and the great collection of colorful tractors the farmer had, the place came up for sale.
The use of the property has been changing with the age of the farmer. Formerly a vibrant orchard, more of the land has been converted to corn as the task of maintaining the trees became more difficult for the owner. The remnants of the orchard are now maintained by one neighboring farmer, and the corn is grown as feed by another neighbor who raises cattle.
We’d been close to purchasing other properties in the area but, in the overheated market of just the recent years, it’s been difficult to reconcile price with place. Our interest in this one is not only because it’s a wonderful site, and because it’s possible to imagine a life of serenity there, but also because the area is quickly transforming, subdividing, and becoming suburbanized, and not in a very thoughtful or even attractive way. This is one of those areas where everybody wants to live because of its beauty, but then transforms properties into a replica of the worst of the downstate burbs.
This could be one of the last good-sized properties in the area to stay agricultural, and there is pressure in the community to change the zoning ordinance to allow smaller lot sizes.
We made an offer, now about a year ago, that seemed to be right for the market. It was rejected. The farmer is at a turning point in his life. He is too old to take care of the place and his kids are not interested in it. The real estate agent they chose, engaged before the dramatic turn in the market, gave the farmer hopes of being able to achieve a fortune in its sale to a developer, and has been marketing the property as a development site.
We’ve tried to persuade the agent and his client of the importance of the property as an agricultural site, important not only because of its beauty, but also as an asset giving value to the surrounding communities and the region. But we’ve been told that once a farmer gives up farming he could care less about the land. So, ever since our initial offer, we’ve been dreaming more anxiously about the place and trying to imagine other ways of financing and affording it.
Even while rejecting the notion of its development, my own thoughts have been in imagining a different kind of development, a different kind of settlement in and on this land. Is it possible to design and develop in a way that is not only appropriately sustainable, but aesthetically “compatible”? I have only little particles of ideas emerging, yet, so maybe I’ll come back to this in the future.
In the meantime, this competition brief is an inspiration, from [bracket].
Once merely understood in terms of agriculture, today information, energy, labour, and landscape, among others, can be farmed. Farming harnesses the efficiency of collectivity and community. Whether cultivating land, harvesting resources, extracting energy or delegating labor, farming reveals the interdependencies of our globalized world. Simultaneously, farming represents the local gesture, the productive landscape, and the alternative economy. The processes of farming are mutable, parametric, and efficient. From terraforming to foodsheds to crowdsourcing, farming often involves the management of the natural mediated by the technologic. Farming, beyond its most common agricultural understanding is the modification of infrastructure, urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production.