Farm-based communities offer residents easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables but a residential development in Texas grows a different type of crop.

Featuring homes by 12 builders priced from the $270,000s, Cross Creek Ranch near Houston is home to a 40-acre tree farm. With about 2,500 trees of varying sizes the dominant varieties on the farm are live oak, bald cypress, loblolly pine, nuttall oak, and red maple. Once ready to be transplanted, the trees are used to supplement the 3,200-acre community that has already been developed. Cross Creek Ranch general manager Rob Bamford estimates more than 1,500 trees have been moved into open spaces of Cross Creek Ranch.

“This is a great cost-saving move for any community, especially one that will have as many trees as Cross Creek Ranch,” he says. “We are able to purchase very young saplings and seedlings and let them mature for several years until they can be transplanted.”

Many of the current seedlings in the tree farm will be used to landscape the final phase of Flewellen Creek, under construction now. Approximately 4,500 trees have been planted along the already restored portions of the creek, and Bamford estimates about 10,000 trees will ultimately adorn the landscape, provide shade along the trails and be home to nesting birds when the linear park is complete.

An arborist manages the tree farm, which is irrigated to withstand periods of no rain. Bamford said the majority of communities do not have the luxury of growing their own trees.

“First, you have to have the real estate to do it,” he said. “And you need a long enough development cycle that you can dedicate acreage for a significant amount of time to the project without interfering with the introduction of new neighborhoods or amenities.”

Bamford said Cross Creek Ranch, which recently won the People’s Choice Award from the Urban Land Institute, has about five years of active development remaining, and the tree farm will most likely one day be transformed into park space, a neighborhood and other community features.

“A tree farm is a good use of land, and a sustainable, environmentally friendly feature of the type of development we are doing here in Cross Creek Ranch,” he said.

Builders at Cross Creek Ranch include Darling Homes, Trendmaker Homes, and Newmark Homes. Developed by Houston-based Johnson Development, Cross Creek Ranch is located near the Grand Parkway and in the desirable Katy Independent School District.