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  • Writer's pictureTheresa M. Kraa

Food and Real Estate - The Series Introduction

As I begin to write this series of posts under the topic of food and real estate, we find ourselves facing a pandemic of COVID-19 with unpredictable outcomes, leading to many questions about how life will be after this has passed. The topic of food is high on our priority list and with many meat processing plants being shut down and farmers having to destroy their crops and dairy, it makes one question if we have relied too much on standard methods of our food supply chains.

To give a little personal perspective on this subject, I grew up with a large backyard vegetable garden at a young age and I thought this was the norm. Everyone in our small rural area had one. See, my childhood was spent in the thumb area of Michigan gardening with my family. My mother grew up on a small farm in Toledo, Ohio and she brought her love of growing vegetables and flowers to our home. My brother and I also loved spending time at our grandfathers home tending to his large garden. As an adult moving to the big city of Orlando at the age of 18, unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to have a garden in my life but I hope to change that soon. As my husband and I are beginning to think about buying land to build a home, I began to see a new type of development happening that blended food and real estate. It was more than just a vegetable patch in the backyard like I grew up with, so I wanted to know more personally and professionally.

We begin this blog series with a journey into exploring food and real estate and how it will impact our food chain supply. Since there is so much to cover on this topic, this will be a series of posts involving multiple types of real estate models revolving around the subject of food. We will touch on national case studies and local examples of these type of properties in Florida, along with a few interviews with those who are involved with developing them.

Let's start with an introduction to the types of real estate developments blending food and real estate.

As described by the publication, Cultivating Development, Trends and Opportunities at the Intersection of Food and Real Estate; published by the Urban Land Institute in 2016. (I will reference this publication and more throughout this blog series.)

  • Agrihoods: Single-family, multi-family, or mixed-use communities built with a working farm as a focus.

  • Food-centric residential developments: Single-family or multi-family developments built around community gardens or restaurants, with a strong food identity.

  • Next-generation Urban Markets: Food halls that are employing innovative food sourcing concepts to encourage food entrepreneurship, grow community, and support other components of mixed-use developments.

  • Food-centered retail and mixed-use development: Mixed-use and retail projects with restaurants and food stores as central development components.

  • Food Hubs and culinary incubators: Regional processing and distribution centers that give food-based entrepreneurs access to commercial kitchen space, connect them to retail and institutional customers or both.

  • Innovations and Innovators: Policies, approaches and investors that are promoting sustainability, healthy food access, and economic development.

Take a moment to view the short video below, showcasing one example of a mixed-use development in Los Angeles that has a long history of building a community surrounded by food in an urban setting.

Question: Why would a real estate developer want to bring food and real estate together?

The answer: $$$$$.

Well, that's the easy answer, as that is the true motivation of any real estate developer and many wouldn't be shy to say that is correct. But beyond the return on investment, you will find that when you speak to a developer who gets the big picture, he or she has many other motivating factors when combining these two elements in life.

Developers are learning that incorporating opportunities to grow, purchase, and consume food within the context of development projects (any of the aforementioned types) can pay dividends. This focus on local food is spurring innovation and creativity that can improve outcomes for people, the planet and profits. These strategies also support improvements to the environmental sustainability, social equity and public health. They reflect the popularity of home gardens for vegetables and fruit production, for which has increased throughout the United States. Developers are also seeing cities and county municipalities welcoming this new type of development, as it brings improved health outcomes, reduced pollution and collaborations between the private-sector and government.

To touch back on the initial subject of this post; examining our the food supply chain. Let's begin by looking at our current food chain and how a food-centered community could improve the cycle, with the graph image below that I created. It shows the simplified cycles of our existing food chain, and some of the impacts it has on our environment, and the lessons learned below.

Noted Lessons from the publication, Cultivating Development, Trends and Opportunities at the Intersection of Food and Real Estate; published by the Urban Land Institute in 2016.

  • The U.S. food system both contributes to and is threatened by high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, food waste and the effects of climate change.

  • Incorporating growing of and access to local food within development projects can leverage increased market interest in sustainably sourced products, which in turn, supports real estate project success.

  • Conserving farmland, accommodating local food within development projects, and creating programs that promote a reduction in tenant food waste can play a role in fostering the environmental health of the planet.

  • Public policies can promote sustainable food production and consumption by streamlining permitting for farmers markets, encouraging community food growing, preserving agricultural areas and offering incentives to developers that incorporate local food access.

Beyond these lessons, I could go on and on with graphs and charts regarding environmental impacts (for which I am very passionate about,) but let's continue to explore this and many more topics in future blog posts within this series. I plan to bring you information on local Central Florida businesses and agrihoods being built throughout the state of Florida, giving you a glimpse inside each of these types of food-centric projects. I hope this series will give you a good understanding of a newer type of real estate coming to your area, that involves food cultivation and food preparation. I think we will begin to look at our food chain a little differently and it will make us stronger as a community.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog and our newsletter to receive notification of new posts in this series of Food and Real Estate. Thank you!

To learn more about the Urban Land Institute and to download a copy of the publication referenced in this post, visit:

©Copyright 2020 Reinvest In Orlando - Theresa M. Kraa, REALTOR®, NHCB

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