Mukwonago development could be one of first agrihoods
TOWN OF MUKWONAGO - Curt and Jodi Wiebelhaus wanted to purchase a hobby farm for their family when Jodi found an article about the growing trend of agrihoods.
With three children who enjoy working with chickens and ducks and who have been active in 4-H, the Wiebelhaus clan has always enjoyed an active, healthy lifestyle, "especially when it involves spending time outdoors with nature and animals," Curt explained in an email.
"We felt the (agrihood) concept would really fit our family and likely other families as well," Curt said. "We love the idea of leading a more simple lifestyle where we can pass on the value of hard work, grow some of our own food, work with animals, spend time outdoors walking the trails, all while creating an enhanced sense of community with our neighbors."
If the proposal for Agape Agrihood on 36 acres of vacant farmland south of Highway NN, just east of Red Brae Road, which was was presented at a public hearing Feb. 1, is approved, Wiebelhaus' idea would become reality.
An agrihood is a collaborative community located around a farm setting where residents can connect with nature and their neighbors while also having the opportunity to enjoy farm-to-table living, according to information provided by Wiebelhaus.
"The agrihood will allow individuals and families to experience farm-to-table living at its finest," said Curt Wiebelhaus in an email.
According to a November 2016 article in Forbes, agrihoods are already thriving in Illinois, Arizona, Vermont and Idaho, with several others being built. Wielbelhaus said, to his knowledge, this would be one of the first agrihoods in Wisconsin.
Descriptions of agrihoods compare them to developments built around a golf course, replacing the golf course with a farm.
"We expect that many of the residents will enjoy knowing that some of their food was grown on the property and be happy to have a space to build relationships with others in the community," said Wiebelhaus. "That may happen while canning food in the barn during the harvest season gathering, walking the nature trails, working in the irrigated community garden, gathering eggs for breakfast or riding a horse along the one and a half miles of trails."
The development proposed by Wiebelhaus includes residential lots of more than one and a half acres, with two clusters on the north and south end of the property, for a total of 10 lots being targeted for the development. The proposal also features more than 14 acres of open area for residents to enjoy.
Residents living in the agrihood would have access to a community garden, apple orchard and about a mile and a half of trails for walking or horse riding around a mini-farm at the center of the development.
Wiebelhaus and his family would build their home on a four and quarter acre lot and would manage the components of the development.
At the center of the Agape Agrihood would sit a 3,120-square-foot barn, which includes a canning room for potential end-of-the-year subdivision canning parties.
The open area includes 9 acres of pasture land for horses, or small beef cattle, adding to the rural ambiance, with run-in shelters — 10- by 20-foot sheds where animals can get out of the weather.
Residents living in the agrihood can board animals at the barn, can manage their own garden lot, or just enjoy walking the paths around the development.
“The residents can do as much or as little as they want to do, that’s the nice thing about this concept," Wiebelhaus explained. "They can have the farm feel but don’t have to do the work if they don’t want to."
Following the town's A1 zoning, Wiebelhaus requested that 15 head of livestock and 150 chickens be allowed for the agrihood. Roosters would not be included. Only residents of the agrihood could board animals in the barn. Residents boarding animals would be charged market rate for boarding to cover expenses and labor.
Wiebelhaus pointed out that an agrihood would involve less impervious area, fewer roads and less storm water run-off than other developments.
Several town residents spoke in favor of the proposed development, while a couple pointed to concerns about the project.
Mariellen LaRue loved the idea, describing it as "fresh and new and fulfills a strong interest in a new culture of people."
"I'm excited to see Mukwonago moving forward with intuitive ideas and a leader in new trends," LaRue said during the Feb. 1 public hearing.
Tom Karthauser, who served on the village of Mukwonago comprehensive plan committee as a Mukwonago school district representative, said the "farming community within a farming community" fits in this area.
"It gives people that would like to have a farmer's lifestyle — but maybe can't afford it, can't afford a barn, afford a full layout — to have a piece of that," said Karthauser. "I think this is an outstanding use of the land."
However, Fred Oakland, who has lived on Red Brae Drive for 19 or 20 years, wanted to see lot sizes at about 3 acres to match closer to those in the Red Brae subdivision. He was also concerned about a proposed access to a cluster of the homes in the agrihood coming out on Red Brae Drive.
"That's a scary way to get in and out of the subdivision," Oakland said. "Adding this adds to that complexity."
Jim Hintz, who lived in the Red Brae subdivision for 26 years, voiced the same concerns, adding the question of what would happen to eggs from 150 chickens.
Wiebelhaus pointed out that chickens would be raised for meat and eggs.
Wiebelhaus continues to work with the town and Waukesha County on approvals that need to be gained before the project gets the green light.
With hopes to start building roads in May, horse fencing would go in, pasture lands built, along with garden and walking trails. Wiebelhaus told town officials he would like to have two to three lots reserved for purchase before starting work on roads. Once five lots were sold, the barn would be built.
Agape is a Greek word for the highest form of love or charity, added Wiebelhaus.
"We see this development as being much more than just a typical subdivision," Wiebelhaus explained in an email. "We believe a component to having an enjoyable and meaningful life is to have healthy relationships with others and be at peace with your surroundings."
For more information visit the Facebook page at @AgapeAgrihood or contact Wiebelhaus at 414-303-4608, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.