As Amanda talked about in a recent post, she and I took a drive out to Loudoun County a few weeks ago to check out Willowsford, a new residential housing development within a stone’s throw of Dulles Airport. And we left with different impressions of the place.
To some degree, it’s a typical Loudoun County development: it features large single-family homes with all the latest amenities, built on sizable lots, and starting in the “upper $500’s.” But a few differences set Willowsford apart from other developments in Northern Virginia. And for this I am grateful.
Rather than subdividing every last acre into individual lots or building around yet another golf course, Willowsford has incorporated a working farm and nature trails into its plan, setting aside 2,000 of its 4,000 acres as the Willowsford Conservancy. The 300-acre farm provides food for residents through a farm stand and optional CSA shares, and farm-related family activities get kids outside while teaching them where their food comes from.
Their website and marketing materials are very polished and eloquently link the community’s lifestyle to the land: “Willowsford draws on Virginia’s scenic landscape and rich agricultural heritage to create a community defined by its expansive natural beauty, unique and engaging recreational spaces, a strong food and farm connection, and activities that encourage an appreciation for the environment and land stewardship.”
Amanda sees this as paying lip service to the current popularity of the farm-to-table movement as a way to sell homes. Whereas I say, so what? It’s working!
Is Willowsford taking advantage of a trend to make a profit? Absolutely, but that’s market forces at work. They are meeting people where they are by offering all the standard bells and whistles that Loudoun County home buyers are looking for, while ensuring that agriculture and open space will continue to exist in exurban Virginia. I think that’s pretty good, given that property so close to Dulles Airport and Metro’s forthcoming silver line, was destined to be developed…and most likely in a less environmentally friendly way than this project.
While Willowsford may not be my American dream, I am pleased to see that its food-and-farm lifestyle is resonating with people. What could be a better a testament to how far the local food movement has come?