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Agrihoods Are Bringing the Country to City Life

Luxe living goes agro in suburban Burlington Township.

The Douglases in 'Green Acres'
The Douglases would have dug Serosun Farms in Burlington Township. Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

We’ve all seen McMansions rise by the dozens around golf courses. But there’s a new option if your taste skews rustic: housing developments built around working farms.

So-called agrihoods are sprouting up from Atlanta to Puget Sound. About an hour’s drive from Chicago, in northwest suburban Burlington Township, Serosun Farms—the second such development in the metro area—is breaking ground this fall on its first custom-built house. The 410-acre property, a once-fallow farm that owner Jane Stickland revived, lets residents live their Green Acres fantasies without lifting a finger. Two full-time employees, with a hand from Stickland and her husband and son, tend the artisanal veggies on the 160-acre farm at Serosun’s center. (The produce won’t come gratis for residents. They’ll have to pay for it at the local farmers’ market.)

The plan calls for more than a hundred houses, equal parts luxurious and eco-friendly, to sit on the one-acre lots Stickland and her brother, developer John DeWald, are selling. Geothermal energy powers the airy 3,900-square-foot model, which includes an outdoor fireplace, a gourmet kitchen, and a green roof. Some houses will run on solar energy (and hopefully one day wind, too); the goal is to have as much as 80 percent of the power coming from onsite sources.

So far, five lots have been reserved, with most of the interest coming from retirees and families who want to experience rural life with easy access to the city. Amy Fahey, a retired head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s commercial lending unit, will be the first to start building this fall. The Elmhurst resident says her passion for food and agricultural preservation drew her and her husband, Tom, to Serosun.

An equestrian center anchors the amenities, and Stickland plans to add a farm-to-table restaurant and a Tuscan-style artisan village, complete with a salumeria and creamery. This pastoral fantasy isn’t cheap, of course. While a 4,000-square-foot residence elsewhere in nearby Hampshire, where Stickland plans to build phase two, lists for between $350,000 and $700,000, houses at Serosun will sell for as much as $2 million, not to mention the $250 monthly fee for use of perks such as walking trails through a restored prairie and wetlands. How’s that for the simple life?

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