Trend: Farm Livin’
Several of our 2022 wellness trends explore how big farms and farm-focused experiences are becoming much more central in wellness real estate and at wellness resorts—and how the home gardening and foraging trends just continue to bloom and evolve
Next Friday, April 22, is Earth Day—so we thought we’d spotlight how the getting-people-back–to-the-earth trends of farming and gardening are a key focus of not one, but several, of our top wellness trends for 2022. The pandemic has made self-sufficiency and survivalism much bigger values. And the quickening environmental and soil crisis is sparking a new awareness that we must restore the world’s soil (through more regenerative farming practices), while the medical evidence mounts that exposure to soil brings so many eye-opening health benefits.
These forces are making a new kind of ‘farm livin’ a major wellness trend and one taking different directions:
The in-depth “Dirty Wellness” trend explores how in wellness real estate, agrihoods–and especially regen-agrihoods, where the community revolves around a large regenerative farm–are a powerful trend, as more people now seek to live in communities that deliver a purposeful, self-reliant, planet-changing life of restoring the soil, farming, healthy food, and connection to nature. (What a welcome “development” given that wellness real estate has been associated with elitist, gated luxury developments dripping with wellness amenities.)
At wellness resorts, the farm—and increasingly the regenerative farm—is becoming as important as the spa or fitness amenities. The resort farm experience is no longer some “nice tour”: People are getting dirty farming and foraging, going deep with resident farmers for some nitty-gritty ag-education, with whole menus of cool farm experiences on offer. At more wellness resorts, the programming is soil-to-guest now, not just farm-to-table. And more resorts are re-wilding impressive amounts of land far beyond the resort walls.
The at-home gardening trend and foraging mania that exploded during the pandemic is here to stay. And now more people are becoming serious ag-geeks digging deep into the science on how to more sustainably farm. Regular folks are turning to farm industry media platforms like Farmerama Radio and their CEREAL podcast—the “voice of regenerative farming.” It’s why Rodale Institute recently launched online courses on regen-farming techniques for consumers. And the smart home-garden-tech that brings indoor farming even to people living in studio apartments continues to sprout.
Farming Is Medicine: As we celebrate Earth Month, we should consider the growing research on the powerful, ancient link between the soil and human microbiomes (they evolved in lockstep for millions of years), which makes farming and gardening evidence-based medicine. Salon’s excellent, recent overview of the science behind the soil-gut microbiome connection explains how our health is impacted by the soil microbes we ingest. They cite Emeran Mayer, MD, from UCLA’s School of Medicine: “It’s an absolutely amazing story, how the same molecules are used for the health of a plant in soil and our own gut; it must be a very ancient system that’s been preserved.”
This is likely why soil exposure has a positive impact on everything from immune health to mood. Most of us have heard of the “farm effect,” the research, such as that from the University of Helsinki, about how children growing up in farming areas suffer far less allergies, asthma, and other inflammatory/immune disorders. Other studies show that the soil-dwelling bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae boosts serotonin production and lowers stress in both people and mice (with researchers now studying how to develop a “stress vaccine” from it).
If we humans have been a soil-deprived, urban species for a century-plus, it seems brilliantly intuitive how people are now re-wilding their microbiomes with this return to farming and gardening and getting down and dirty in the soil. Farm-wellness is a trend that will only rise.
Wellness real estate developments that revolve around regenerative farms are multiplying fast globally. Serenbe near Atlanta, Georgia is a true pioneer, a 1,400-acre community revolving around a 25-acre regenerative farm; their vision is “healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people.” At the Modern Elder Academy (Baja, Mexico, and coming to New Mexico in 2023), communities founded by hospitality icon, Chip Conley, to reimagine the future of aging, it’s striking that the concept’s four pillars are regenerating the soul, the locale, the community, and the soil, through regenerative farming initiatives. At the very cool Agrihood now being built in Silicon Valley, a 4,200-acre farm-centered development for lower-income people and seniors, the community and wellness revolves around 1,700 acres of regeneratively-grown crops. Glen Junor, being built outside Melbourne, Australia will feature 1,000 homes, the largest urban farm in the country to be carbon-positive, and it’s all grounded in regenerative agriculture and biodiversity restoration. Sterling Hills will be India’s first agrihood, also revolving around regenerative agriculture.
At more wellness resorts, the farm is now the star: Both the “Dirty Wellness” and “Wellness Travel: Seekers Welcome” trends explore how more resorts are making big working farms (and increasingly regenerative farms) their centerpiece. The programming is moving far beyond passive farm-to-table cuisine or polite farm tours, and really immersing people in rich menus of ag-experiences. At the 325-acre Southhall opening near Nashville, Tennessee, “it’s all about the interaction between the farmers and guests,” and guests go deep, such as foraging in a wild “food forest,” learning beekeeping, and meeting with horticulturalists to learn about regenerative farming practices. At the Organic Farm School at the Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah guests can learn sustainable practices from its head farmer and help with harvesting, irrigating and planting.
At the new Heckfield Place resort in Hampshire, England, a 250-year-old estate on 438 acres of countryside, it’s all about regenerating the land and soil and guests experience a unique slate of out-in-the-soil wellness experiences, from a “Farm Fit” circuit that has you jumping over hay bales and milk churns to forest meditation. Six Senses is making the regenerative farm experience and wilderness restoration around their properties more central. They state they’re investing in the future of farming, making it a key guest experience, and regenerative demo farms are stars at their new properties, such as Six Senses Ibiza, Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal, Six Senses Botanique in Brazil, and Six Senses Bhutan. At Auberge Resorts’ Wildflower Farm coming to New York’s Hudson Valley in late 2022, guests will farm and forage the gorgeous 140-acre property.
As Skift notes, more properties are also becoming major land conservationists, regenerating vast swaths of wilderness and soil beyond the resort’s walls. People will now reward travel destinations that are activists in restoring the soil and biodiversity.
The “Next-Gen Naturalism” trend examines a new survivalist mentality and return to self-reliance born of the pandemic, predicting that unlike Zoom happy hours, the home gardening and foraging trends are here to stay. The hashtags #foraging and #foragingtiktok have a combined 520 million views on TikTok, with internet-famous foragers like @alexisnikole bringing the trend into the mainstream. Through her exuberant videos, Alexis Nikole Nelson—better known to her 3.3 million followers as the Black Forager—shares edible treasures she finds in the woods and helps people identify poisonous plants.
We’re showing far greater interest in where our food comes from, finding pleasure in watching it grow, and above all—taking comfort in the fact that if all else fails, we have the know-how to put food on our plates. GlobalData estimates that spending on all-things gardening will rise by another 7% in 2022. And startups are benefiting from the green-fingered boom. North Spore is making it easy to grow your own mushrooms from your kitchen. Celebrity-backed Lettuce Grow is turning vertical, self-fertilizing, self-watering Farmstands into the hot new home accessory. Perhaps the most advanced gardening innovation comes from LG, which recently unveiled a sleek indoor gardening appliance called Tiiun, Korean for “to sprout.” The self-contained unit grows vegetables, herbs, and even flowers from the comfort of your living room in just a few weeks. It’s also designed to automatically regulate temperature, light, and water, meaning even the most novice growers can’t mess it up.
Some of these high-tech devices don’t come cheap, and a more democratic solution comes from AllotMe, a London-based company on its way to becoming the Airbnb of vegetable patches with an app that lets urbanites rent out unused gardens. How it works is simple—homeowners set a fee of at least £5 per month, and interested “‘Greenfingers” can then rent the plot and begin growing their own vegetables.
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