The Willowsford MPC Gives Residents a Taste of the Farm LifeView All 9 Photos > Play slideshow
This article was featured in our December 2014 issue of BUILDER Magazine.
Apologies to golf fanatics, but the original theme of this community was indeed a farming village. Agriculture, after all, was what led our hunter-gatherer ancestors to settle down in the first place. That was 10,000 years ago, but a surge of interest in locally grown food has given the idea new currency. Clear proof is the success of Willowsford, a 2,100-unit master planned community in Loudoun County, Va., centered on a farm-to-table model.
Committed to maintaining half of the 4,000 acres as open space, developer Corbelis Management located four villages in distinct “agricultural theaters,” which they share with the fields and infrastructure of a working farm. “Ultimately we’ll have 300 acres devoted to food production,” says Corbelis president Brian Cullen. The surrounding woods include fishing ponds, campsites, and trails.
Corbelis’ market research identified a target demographic of wealthy, educated home buyers more interested in relationships and experiences than in material goods. “They care a lot about where their food comes from,” Cullen says, and Willowsford is a locavore’s dream come true. A farm stand offers sustainable and site-grown produce, chicken, and eggs, along with locally sourced meat, cheese, milk, and ice cream. The farm offers a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, which operates like a weekly seasonal-produce subscription. Teaching kitchens in the two community center buildings host cooking demonstrations and occasional pop-up restaurants with local celebrity chefs.
Alexandria, Va.–based Rust|Orling Architecture took inspiration from the architecture of old Loudoun County towns for Willowsford’s public buildings. Residential design guidelines favor local vernacular styles but are flexible enough for contemporary designs. “We allow any architectural style you want,” says firm principal John Rust, who reviews every proposed plan. “Our premise is that you have to be true to that style.”
The back-to-the-land ethos is manifest in site planning mindful of topography and drainage. “We used grass-lined ditches and culverts rather than curbs and gutters,” Cullen says. “We’ve kept our impervious areas as small as we can, and we’re restoring meadows with vernal pools.”