Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

Stories

the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

Arizona || Agritopia

Agritopia, gilbert, arizona

Laurel grew up in the San Jacinto mountains, and went to school in the Chesapeake Bay.

Bees, Agritopia, gilbert, arizona

As you might imagine, relocating to the desert came as a bit of a shock.

Orange, Agritopia, gilbert, Arizona

She came here for a job that was perfect; the working environment, alas, was not.

Agritopia, gilbert, arizona

Matters were not amended by life in the Phoenix suburbs sans car. (Try it for a few months before you judge.)

Laurel, agritopia, gilbert, arizona

She labored unappreciated under her workplace administration. Meanwhile, she yearned for the crunchy DIY nesting habits she'd enjoyed during college--canning, preserving, pickling, and drying.

Aaron, agritopia, gilbert, arizona

And then, within the first few weeks of her first winter in Arizona, she came to Agritopia to pick oranges.

Agritopia, gilbert, arizona

That, she says, was the moment she decided that she might be able to stay in Arizona, after all. 

Aaron + Laurel, agritopia, phoenix, arizona

Agritopia is a 450-lot housing tract that is, in fact, so much more. The land used to be a farm, in keeping with Gilbert, Az.'s early reputation as the Hay Capitol of the world. (Yes, the world.) But after 40 years of independent, self-sustained living, by the time the family's sons were graduating college, Gilbert was becoming a suburb all around them.

Agritopia, phoenix, arizona

Rather than sell out, or fight the trend, the family's eldest son collaborated with city officials and landscape architects to create Agritopia, a planned community that integrated farming with suburban sprawl.

Spray, agritopia, gilbert, arizona

I know...I wouldn't have believed it either, except that I've been there.

Aaron, agritopia, gilbert, arizona

You pass a number of strip malls, tract developments, and unnaturally green lawns, one of which is anchored by a fountain of strongly phallic suggestions. The entrance to the farm appears, at first glance, to be just another suburban park. Except that unlike most planned community gathering places, this one is full of people.

Aaron + Laurel, agritopia, phoenix, arizona

It's no park, but rather the capacious grounds of Joe's Farm Grill. Walking round this fine establishment brings you to the coffee shop, which faces a Vespa shop and a little farm stand selling the remainders of the last growing season and the firstfruits of what's coming.

Agritopia, gilbert, arizona

Not more than 100 feet down an asphalt walkway, past the community garden, across from a little frisbee golf park, you'll find the entrance to Agritopia's 15-acre citrus grove.

Farmer, Agritopia, Gilbert, Arizona

It costs $3 for a 5-lb. bag, $5 for an 8-lb. bag. All the fruit is certified organically grown. Along with favorites such as Satsuma mandarins, Meyer lemons, and pomelos the size of your head, you'll find heirloom varieties of unheralded flavor, such as Arizona Sweet oranges and Ruby Blush grapefruits.

Laurel, agritopia, gilbert, arizona

Certain rules apply, depending on supply and time of year; for instance, no bag should contain more than three Lisbon lemons.

Agritopia, Gilbert, Arizona

Laurel comes back with each new growing season, usually with an offering for the farmers of what she made from the last one--lemon curd, limoncello, beer infused with dried orange peel made by her friends at San Tan Brewery.

Laurel, agritopia, gilbert, arizona

Sharing with your neighbors is, as you know, a sure sign of having settled in.

Laurel + Aaron, the hoelzen house, phoenix, arizona

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The Farm at Agritopia is open for U-Pick on Saturdays from 10am-2pm, and offers produce at several local farmers markets, as well as through a CSA service.

Visit the farm. Follow their growing cycle on Instagram. Learn more about Agritopia.

See more.