Agrihood: Where Affordable Living Meets Urban Farming in Santa Clara

A newly opened farm is situated in one of the most bustling regions of the South Bay, and officials have proclaimed it as the largest urban farm in the state, hailing it as a “first-of-its-kind space.” This farm, known as Agrihood, is located on North Winchester Boulevard in Santa Clara, near the San Jose border, and it proudly cultivates a variety of crops including sweet potatoes, parsley, bell peppers, and more, all just a short stroll away from Westfield Valley Fair mall and Santana Row in the South Bay.

This marks the inception of the nation’s first urban Agrihood within a city of this magnitude,” remarked Kirk Vartan, an influential figure driving the farm’s creation.

Agrihood is more than just a farm; it stands as a beacon of affordable housing, with a special emphasis on accommodating senior and veteran residents. Beyond providing a place to reside and access fresh produce, it fosters a vibrant community that includes farmers’ markets and gardening workshops.

Mayor Lisa M. Gillmor of the City of Santa Clara envisions Agrihood as a catalyst for enriching the lives of its residents, stating, “It’s not just about providing them with a place to live; it’s about offering engaging activities, social gatherings, and a total of 50 pop-up events per year. This will facilitate connections, fun-filled experiences, and a significant enhancement of their overall quality of life.”

Kirk Vartan, along with other dedicated community members, initiated efforts two decades ago to persuade the city to revitalize the former UC Davis agricultural site. Their hard work bore fruit in 2014.

Vartan elaborated on the journey, saying, “I started making connections, engaging the community, and holding meeting after meeting.”

The 2016 Measure A Affordable Housing Bond injected $23.5 million into the project, and the City of Santa Clara contributed an additional $15 million, eventually securing the involvement of a master developer known as the Core Companies.

A total of 165 affordable housing units have been designated for older adults, which includes 54 units specifically designed for permanent supportive housing.

Consuelo Hernandez, the director of the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing, emphasized the significance of their approach, stating, “It was imperative for us to carefully consider both what we are constructing and who we are serving. We recognize that our homeless population is aging, and Agrihood is our response to this pressing need.”

Residents have already commenced their move into these units, with more expected to join the community soon.

While housing is undeniably a cornerstone of Agrihood, those leading the charge for the urban farm are keen to emphasize that this innovative space is meant for everyone.

Kirk Vartan passionately expressed this ethos, saying, “It’s not solely intended for the residents; it’s open to everyone. Our ultimate goal is to create a community public asset that serves the entire public, a shining example of how public space can truly benefit everyone.”

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