Arden farm begins to take shape as ‘agrihood’ hires directors


Brenda and Bob Helman had a certain lifestyle in mind when looking for a home in which to retire. The couple hoped to move from Cooper City to a place that would be healthy, active and centrally located.

They found those things in Arden, a community rising just west of Lion Country Safari on Southern Boulevard in Loxahatchee.

“It’s like going back in time,” Brenda Helman said. The houses have front porches, and all the neighbors know each other, she added. “We were looking for the simpler times.”

RELATED: First look: New development west of Wellington has community farm, 1-mile lake

But they also found something in Arden no other South Florida community can offer: A working farm where residents will be able to partake of the fresh produce.

The neighborhood planned by Freehold Communities of Boston is one of more than 100 throughout the United States called an “agrihood,” or agricultural neighborhood. Willowsford in Virginia is one of the largest agrihoods, sitting on about 4,000 acres with a 300-acre working farm.

Once completed, Arden’s farm will have a 4,000-square-foot barn and 5 acres of soil being tended by the neighborhood’s recently hired farm directors, Tripp Eldridge and Carmen Franz.

The farming couple met two years ago at an agriculture conference and most recently worked together at a sprawling organic farm they helped start in Tennessee. Both started their farming careers in the Peace Corps.

RELATED: More news from western Palm Beach County

“We love the creative process,” Franz said of digging her hands into a new project and building Arden’s farm from the ground up.

Sprouts were rising from the farm’s sandy soil on a recent Monday: Eldridge, 36, and Franz, 31, are building organic matter into the soil with a round of ground cover in the form of iron clay cowpeas and sunflowers.

Another round of ground cover will follow before the farm’s “first real growing season” begins in the fall — about the same time the barn will be completed, Franz said.

She added that part of her excitement in moving to Florida from Tennessee — in addition to warmer weather — comes from the diversity of crops that can be grown in the Sunshine State.

“I’m obsessed with Florida’s agricultural abundance,” she said. The farm will start on a portion of the 5-acre plot, but once finished will grow vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit trees.

RELATED: First home closes in ‘agrihood’ Arden as new home-builder added

Eldridge and Franz also will direct events in the barn. They plan to hold workshops on organic gardening and flower arranging, farm-to-table dinners and eventually to host farmer’s markets with outside vendors. A retail space inside the barn will sell products from local vendors, including honey and olive oil, Franz said.

The farm will focus on “serving our resident customers first,” Eldridge said. “We’ve got to get pretty fine-tuned, but also make sure we’re tending to the growing needs of the residents.”

Plans for Arden call for 2,000 homes. More than 70 homes have been sold since summer, when the neighborhood held its grand opening. A monthly $246 homeowners association fee helps cover the costs of running the farm and Arden’s 9,900-square-foot clubhouse.

RELATED: How three projects on Southern Boulevard could change your commute

“It’s just something you don’t see anywhere,” Arden marketing director Susan Moguel said of the agrihood. “People just want to get back to the earth.”

Eldridge noted Arden is one of the only agrihoods in Florida — making it an example for those to come. “Nobody’s seen how the model really works in South Florida,” he said. “We have a lot of ideas.”

Bob Helman, who moved with Brenda into Arden in December, said he is excited for his family to visit once the farm is completed. “Our grand kids are going to love it,” he said.

The agrihood concept is one Brenda Helman said she was drawn to immediately. “You don’t have to leave your neighborhood to find healthy produce,” she said. “There was not any kind of lifestyle anywhere that was like this.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: PBSO says laser 'blinds' helicopter pilots during Lake Worth blackout
BREAKING: PBSO says laser 'blinds' helicopter pilots during Lake Worth blackout

A 33-year-old woman is facing a felony charge for allegedly pointing a green laser at the cockpit of a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that was patrolling Lake Worth early Thursday. A PBSO deputy and his co-pilot were surveying Lake Worth during the six-hour, citywide power outage when city resident Jacqueline...
Ex-Riviera Beach manager sues city over his firing
Ex-Riviera Beach manager sues city over his firing

Fired city manager Jonathan Evans has sued Riviera Beach and three of its council members, alleging they axed him last September, after six months on the job, because he sought to crack down on sexual misconduct by staffers and improper spending by the council. In a suit filed late last month in federal court in West Palm Beach, Evans alleged the city...
What is selfitis? 5 things to know about the obsessive selfie disorder 
What is selfitis? 5 things to know about the obsessive selfie disorder 

The term "selfitis" may have started off as a hoax back in 2014, but now psychologists have warned it's a genuine mental health issue. Researchers form the Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom and Thiagarajar School of Management in India actually investigated the social media phenomenon, leading them to create...
NEW: Man stabbed to death at West Palm senior home, medical examiner says
NEW: Man stabbed to death at West Palm senior home, medical examiner says

As rescue crews wheeled a bloodied 65-year-old out of a senior-living home April 2, the man pointed toward an apartment door.   That’s where the person who stabbed him in the face lived, Mathew Stevens told West Palm Beach authorities.  Stevens died from those stab wounds nearly three weeks later. The Palm Beach...
Suit: Jail keeps teens in solitary for months without care, education
Suit: Jail keeps teens in solitary for months without care, education

One young inmate in solitary confinement at the Palm Beach County jail hallucinated, staring at the blank wall of his cell, thinking he was watching a television show, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges. A 16-year-old got his teeth knocked out by deputies after flooding his cell with toilet water when his telephone privileges were cut...
More Stories