Cultivating Crops & Community
Connecting people through food, nature, and community, Olivette Riverside Community and Farm showcases new ideas for healthy living.
In the post-pandemic world, people seek new ways to connect — with each other, with the outdoors, and with opportunities to live more healthy and happy lives. Olivette Riverside Community and Farm is feeding people’s need for nature, locally grown organic produce, and community.
The 411-acre community along the French Broad River near Asheville, N.C., is the first and only “agrihood” in Western North Carolina. With a fully operational organic farm, it’s designed and built to foster connections among residents and with the land.
When public parks and forests closed due to the pandemic, Olivette residents kept enjoying the outdoors through the trails and forests in their backyard. The community has quickly adapted events like farm-to-table suppers and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for our new socially distant paradigm.
Designed and built for a changing world, Olivette is poised to grow as people seek healthy living amid the beauty of the Southern Appalachians, and food security through locally grown organic produce.
“Farm-to-table is the ultimate slow food — you’re watching it grow and really connected in that way,” Olivette founding partner Allison Smith says. “And those connections spill over in community. There’s a shared excitement when people start cooking with whatever’s coming in and swapping recipes. It’s a great way to get people connected.”
Many residents also share a passion for energy efficiency. The community requires geothermal heating and cooling, a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score of 55 or better, and encourages other green building practices such as passive and active solar design. Many residents have gone beyond these energy efficiency requirements to build net-zero homes.
Summer Camp Living
Olivette’s amenities and activities are designed to create a “summer camp” feel year-round, says Scott Austin, one of the community’s developer/partners.
“My passion is born out of camping — to bring the idea of a summer camp to Olivette,” he says. “It’s easy to build an area that has front porch living, but if you don’t give people things to do, if you don’t give them things to create the community, then it’s just people living in homes. So we take the idea of programming a step further to give people reasons to be together and create that camp feeling.”
Know Your Farmer
Daniel Pettus and Lauren Penner, Olivette’s veteran full-time farmers, work to grow clean, nutrient-dense produce that connects people to the food they eat and the land where it grows. Active members of the local farming community, they shares methods, tools, and growing practices while educating interns to become farmers.
Operating a four-season organic farm involves planting cover crops, propagating seeds in greenhouses during the colder months, and then transplanting the seeds into the field for spring and summer growing. Olivette provides organic produce for residents and the greater Asheville community through its Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. People buy shares and then pick up fresh produce weekly at the farm or at the Asheville City Market.
Olivette’s team also includes Elliott Nailen, an expert in energy-efficient, sustainable building practices and a HERS Rater; and Arica Haro, the community’s Event Coordinator, who organizes gatherings such as farm-to-table dinners by the river. Olivette’s experts are available to discuss topics and trends including:
* Agrihoods and the farm-to-table movement.
* Year-round organic growing.
* Sustainable development.
* Housing solutions for the new millennium.
* Design principles for healthy, connected communities.
* Virtual trends in real estate.
* How spending time in nature helps our mental health.
Cultivating a Legacy
The first act of Olivette’s developers was to plant 500 blueberry bushes. As caretaker and steward, Tama developed a plan that designates spaces for wildlife corridors and habitat as well as homes and gardens. His vision can be seen in projects such as a labyrinth, a private river island, miles of hiking trails, and a 7-acre riverfront park. He is also working with residents to plant additional orchards — for beautification, natural habitat, and of course the delicious fruit they provide for the community residents.
The planning that went into making Olivette a premier agrihood is now attracting people yearning for social and economic recovery and new models of community in the post-pandemic world, Allison says. Many residents are early adopters looking to invest in new technologies and ways of living who will ultimately pave the way for making these models more affordable and accessible for everyone.
“The pandemic is accelerating existing trends such as living in balance with nature and telecommuting,” she says. “Early adopters make a huge difference.”