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Ariana Reguzzoni's Posts

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Farming the ‘burbs

Prairie Crossing is a 669-acre subdivision in Illinois with small lots, 70 percent open space and 100 acres for food production.

It’s a familiar story: A farming family in a small rural town can’t make ends meet. After generations of farming, they’re forced to sell their land and call in the auctioneer. In 2005, I produced a short film about a family like this in Meridian, Idaho. All but one of the five McKay siblings had chosen to work off the farm, and the son who’d stuck around grew sod to sell to developers who were systematically paving over Meridian to make way for residential subdivisions. It was a doomsday view of the future of rural land and farming in this country.

Almost seven years later, the story, on the surface, hasn’t changed. According to the American Farmland Trust, over 4 million acres of agricultural land -- almost the size of Massachusetts -- were developed between 2002 and 2007. Meridian is now an official suburb of Boise and, despite the Great Recession, small rural towns across the country are still being devoured by urban sprawl. Meanwhile, the urban farm movement is in full swing in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Detroit, and the blighted landscapes of inner cities are increasingly transformed into vibrant plots of vegetables and flowers. Something else is happening too -- this renaissance, or reimagining of agriculture, is starting to spill over into the suburbs.

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Small farmers crave horse power

Photo: Donn HewesAsk any 5-year-old: Few tools symbolize the farm like a trundling tractor. In fact, you'd have to reach further back in time to find an equally enduring symbol: the horse. And while there's little doubt that tractors have revolutionized farm labor and made farms much more efficient than they were in past centuries, a growing number of farmers are taking the back-to-the-land ethos as far as it will go and choosing horses and mules over John Deere. "Maybe it's a [glimpse] into the future," says Adam Davidoff, co-owner of New Family Farm in Sebastopol, Calif. Davidoff is 25 …