Take just about any preconceived notion you might have about farmers and farming, and Daron “Farmer D” Joffe is apt to dispel it. A self-described “social entramanure,” Joffe’s consulting business has worked with developers to create farm- and garden-based housing developments such as Atlanta’s Serenbe Farms, a 25-acre certified organic CSA and education farm in a planned sustainable residential enclave 40 miles south of the city; South Carolina’s Palmetto Bluff, a community garden and organic farm within a 22,000-acre conservation community; and LongLeaf Preserve, a 2,500-acre farm-based community bordered by a 50,000-acre preserve in Florida’s panhandle.
Farmer D Consulting provides clients with farm design, implementation, and management services for farm and garden-based developments, non-profits like schools and camps, private farms (from corporate campuses to CSAs), and public projects like rooftop gardens and city parks. Core to Joffe’s mission is sustainable development, and his work emphasizes the ways in which green technology can both diminish the negative environmental impact of development and improve the bottom line for the developer.
Having just returned from a visit to a gated community in Southern California that turned its nose up at the hint of anything slightly agricultural (let’s just say the homeowners’ association was very pro-lawn), I was curious to learn about the biggest challenges faced in creating these communities.
“Potential buyers and residents love the idea of a farm in their community,” Joffe explains. “A few tend to be skeptical at first but they almost all fall in love with the farm rather quickly. Many of them end up being impacted in a big way and often change their eating behaviors as a result. Some even become avid gardeners, foodies, and farmers themselves.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge in projects like these is funding the farm infrastructure and consulting to get it up and running, knowing that it will take a few years before it will break even. The second major challenge is staffing the farm with skilled organic farmers who, says Joffe, “are few and far between. This is not a short-term investment, but rather an investment in the health and sustainability of a community over the long haul.”
Though things may have slowed a bit in recent years, Joffe is still plenty busy: he’s currently designing and building gardens for the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta to provide a healing and educational space focused on nutrition, and has also been working with Camp Twin Lakes designing a farm program for children with all types of diseases. “I personally like to get the residents involved as much as possible. It is important to get the residents’ hands dirty so they can truly appreciate the work that goes into growing their food.”