Agritopia in Gilbert, Arizona, started with one question: What kind of community would I like to live in? That’s what founder Joe Johnston asked himself when planning how to develop his family’s farm into an experiment in community living that incorporates commercial (certified USDA organic) and community gardens, a 24-hour honour-system farm stand, and housing for residents aged one to 100. Plus: He wanted to be able to walk to work.
“This is an ideal community,” Joe tells a group of visiting writers over breakfast at Joe’s Farm Grill, the community’s diner-style restaurant located in the 1967-built farmhouse. “That’s why we named it Agritopia. It’s different from suburbia. It’s designed to bring people together. The individual home is not the primary unit. The primary unit is the village.”
Walking through the curving streets of Agritopia with Joe and his son William, both of whom live in the community, that village feel is on display. Houses are built with front porches to encourage interaction between neighbours, and homes large and small mingle on the same block. Plus, of course, agriculture is everywhere, from the gardens to the citrus and apple groves to the chickens and ducks.
“Agriculture is a key part of village life,” Joe says.
Agritopia covers 160 acres, with about half of that representing single-family homes. More than a quarter is agricultural land and open spaces, with the rest being used for commercial and other purposes, including the restaurant, the aptly named The Coffee Shop, and plans for a beer garden, micro-brewery and “nano-winery.”
Keeping things local, Joe’s Farm Grill draws as many of its ingredients as possible from the fields right outside its doors. During an early season visit, that meant spring mix, arugula, citrus and dates.
Visitors can get a taste of the agritopian life with a visit to the community’s restaurant or coffee shop followed by a stroll through the community gardens or a farmer-led tour. The weekly Farm Stand and Food Trucks event, Wednesdays 4–8 p.m., features a rotating line-up of food trucks and opportunities to buy farm-fresh produce, grains, and eggs.
If you go:
Agritopia is located at 3000 E. Bay Road in Gilbert, Arizona. Multiple airlines offer direct flights from Vancouver to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport, with service available daily. Allegiant offers non-stop service from Bellingham to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, located five kilometres from Agritopia.
The writer dined as a guest of Joe’s Farm Grill and Visit Mesa.