CUMMING, Iowa — Anyone who farms near the city has seen the sometimes unwelcome sight of developers paving over farmland and seeing houses sprout up where crops used to grow. But at this unusual development just outside of Des Moines the farm, or at least part of it, isn’t going anywhere.

The development, called an “agrihood” by its promoters, is built around the farm.

“Other developments are built around golf courses,” explains Kalen Ludwig, a realtor with the Peoples Company in Clive. “This one is being built around a farm.”

It’s an idea that has been attempted in several other locations around the country. Steve Bruere, president of People’s Company, got the idea after hearing about similar developments. Daron Joffe, also known as Farmer D, was one of those who revolutionized the concept and in 2019 Bruere brought Joffe to his company’s annual land investment expo.

Today the development is still in its seedling stage. But it is planned to eventually cover 600 acres just outside the small town of Cumming and it could grow to as much as 1,000 acres. That plan is to include shops and bike trails and other amenities but the main attraction here is the farm.

“Steve saw a couple of things about this idea and thought, ‘what better place for that than Iowa,’” Ludwig says.

Middlebrook farm

The farm at the core of this agrihood development is called Middlebrook Farm. Dan Fillius is the farm manager for Middlebrook Farm and this year he is putting in his first crop.

“We’re putting probably 20 different things into the ground,” Fillius says.

The idea, he says, is to promote a lifestyle. The farm will provide vegetables. People in the agrihood could join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that would provide them with baskets of ripe vegetables during the growing season. They might also be able to stop at the farm to buy produce. A barn is being built and a chicken coop is also being erected. A high tunnel is going up.

Residents may also be offered garden plots at an area of the farm, Fillius says. And it will be a gathering place for those living here.

“It’s a for-profit farm,” Ludwig adds.

Near the farm there will eventually be a small downtown area with a few shops.

At the end of the day. this is expected to be a place where people who work in Des Moines can live where there is a community that is still connected to agriculture.

“We believe there are a lot of people who really want some connection to the land,” Fillius says. “We want to give them that connection.”

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.