Pleasant Hill “agrihood” unique in community development

December 31, 2019

Ever heard the word “agrihood?” It’s a combination of agriculture and neighborhood, and the concept is popping up in community planning nationwide.

Pleasant Hill is a city of about 8,700 a few miles east of Des Moines. Our Community Food Systems team, led by Courtney Long, worked with city leaders and residents for three years beginning in 2015. The coalition, Grow Pleasant Hill, identified several priority projects in the food systems arena. A planned “agrihood” was one such priority.

Drawing of planned community.
Concept drawing of the planned Pleasant Hill agrihood.

An agrihood is a neighborhood development strategy centered on agriculture and open space. The development will support beginning farmer programs, provide connections to natural resources and the food system, promote community gathering space, and provide opportunities for education and events.

The five core values Grow Pleasant Hill has set for the development include:

  • wellness
  • agriculture
  • education
  • community, and
  • stewardship.

Leaving a legacy

Phyllis Childers is the landowner who has offered to sell about 120 acres to the city for this planned development. Her land is adjacent to the city, and Pleasant Hill city council intends to annex it.

Phyllis said, “This development will be different, and any time you can have something different, that’s an asset for a small community. I have lived here 50-some years. It’s important to me to be a part of something like this.”

Rural landscape.
Childers property, from the east.

Grow Pleasant Hill hopes to hire a developer soon. The agrihood will include 70-80 acres of residential property with an additional 40-60 acres devoted to agricultural and conservation land use.

Madeline Sturms is community development director for Pleasant Hill. She’s excited about the possibilities of this unique development to attract residents to the city.

Sharing expertise

Madeline noted that the Community Food Systems program has brought a level of expertise and passion to a topic that was otherwise unfamiliar to Pleasant Hill.

Community egg hunt.
Egg hunt at Prairie Crossing agrihood community in Grayslake, Illinois.

“Extension has brought many players to the table to further the initiatives brought forward by the Community Food Systems program,” she said, “such as Veterans in Agriculture, the Iowa Food Cooperative, and our local food pantry, Caring Hands.”

Pleasant Hill has developed other food systems-related projects including a community garden and partnership with the Iowa Food Coop. Learn more about these and other projects in the city’s Community Food System Assessment.