Out to pasture: Bundoran redefines house and farm

onarch-bunderonfarmBundoran Farm in North Garden hopes to be the State's premiere "preservation development."

On Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's recent visit to dedicate the Albemarle CiderWorks, his helicopter touched down at a development site just down the road off Route 29 South.  While Bundoran Farm, a so-called "preservation development," provided a convenient nearby helipad, it also gave Kaine a chance to see the first community in the state to receive a “Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary” designation from Audubon International.

Kaine was talking about the CiderWorks when he said that “protecting working farms like this and open space are among the ways we can preserve our agriculture heritage." But he might have had Bundoran in the back of his mind.

Since 2005, when the 2,300-acre Bundoran Farm was purchased (for a whopping $33 million) by Qroe Farm Preservation Development, the developers have sought to make it a model of rural land stewardship.

For example, rather than cutting it up into 21-acre lots as County ordinances allow, over 90 percent of the land will remain untouched. This includes 1,000 acres of pasture for livestock, 200 acres of apple orchards, 1,000 acres of managed forest, fifteen miles of walking and riding trails, and two ponds. Eventually, the plan is to have the money paid by farmers who lease the land going to the homeowners' association, which will in turn safeguard the land for farming.

Including forestry, agriculture is the number one industry in Virginia, hauling in $79 billion a year, with crops like soybeans and livestock like broiling chickens and beef cattle topping the list. Kaine asked the CiderWorks crowd to guess how many farms there were in Virginia. Someone shouted 800. Someone else said 1,000. Try 47,000, said Kaine, with the average size being about 170 acres.

As Audubon International mentioned in its citation, Bundoran Farm is to be "commended for their efforts in fostering sustainable development and land management with emphasis on protecting and sustaining land, water, wildlife, and natural resources where people live."

After a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of the two men who initially began the eco-conscious work at Bundoran, the property is now being codeveloped by Celebration Associates, whose founder, Charles Adams, spearheaded the famous Walt Disney Company master planned community of Celebration

"It was a lot of work to get that designation," says Bundoran's development director Joe Barnes. "It took us about four years."

In addition to having the Audubon's scientists study the quality of the land, an extensive resource management plan had to be submitted. The installation of underground electrical and fiber optic systems, as well as the development's network of roads, also had to be monitored. Finally, the first two houses in the development had to be built to pass environmental muster.

Barnes says the vision is three-fold: to preserve agricultural land, enable on-going environmental stewardship, and allow folks to live on a farm without the headache of having to manage one.

However, Barnes, a licensed architect who also holds an MBA from UVA's Darden business school, admits that Bundoran has been impacted by the sorry state of the real estate market.

"We've noticed some lack of motivation to move forward with purchases," he says. But he also points out that they have something unique to offer. "So there has been pretty steady interest," he says.

Clearly, rural land stewardship isn't for the middle-class home-buyer.  So far, only 11 of 108 lots have been sold, and only two houses have been built. Lot sizes range from around two acres for under $300,000 to as much as $1 million for 30-plus acres, though Barnes says there is no limit on the number of lots that can be purchased.

Lot buyers must also use builders and designers from a vetted list. Bundoran's "guild" of builders are asked for a list of their past customers going back five years, and similar background checks on architects are also conducted.

Moving forward, Barnes says construction on two more homes will begin in August and September, but making the Bundoran ideal a reality appears to be taking more time.

"The challenge," says Barnes, "is figuring out how you balance the design vision with the business plan."

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Celebration Associates, someone told me today this is the same group developing the old Martha Jefferson Hospital site --is that true ?

The article states that 90% of the property "will remain untouched." Unlike many of the other landowners in the area, the developers/landowners of this property did not donate a permanent conservation easement, as this article seems to imply. While there may be a legal arrangement among the current/future landowners, it does not have the teeth of a conservation easement held by an organization such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation or the Nature Conservancy.

Lastly, I think it's important to point out that this is a residential development, regardless of what agricultural practices may go on there, being built in Albemarle's Rural Area, an area that the County goes to great effort to protect from residential development.

Another point of clarification, Audubon International has nothing whatsoever to do with the widely known and respected conservation organization, The National Audubon Society.

This idea is for metros thinking "what a wonderfull idea to live on a farm." I kinda like this more then the pack em in developments but I thought the best part of living on a farm was the freedom to do what you want with the land, not wait let me ask the association. Darn, it says here I can't get drunk and run around naked.

Celebration Associates: this is the same company that is responsible for the make believe town of Celebration, Florida.

I'm disappointed that this article and the cover tag line "Bundoran Lauded By Audubon" fails to make the distinction between the National Audubon Society and Audubon International. The National Audubon Society is a well known and well respected conservation organization and the latter is an organization set up to give awards to developers and their projects while artificially capitalizing on the public good will and respect associated with Audubon’s name.

There is absolutely no link or connection between the two organizations and I find it a gross oversight in the Hook’s ââ?¬Å?reporting” to not make this distinction clear to the reader.

After witnessing the recent dog wars in the county, I'd suggest anyone thinking of moving to this or any other rural development read Frank Levering's book "Welcome to the Country"

In central Virginia as well as some other parts of the state, the past few decades have witnessed an extraordinary urban-to-rural migration. The splendor of the countryside, the yearning to escape the urban fast lane, the lure of a simpler life lived closer to nature have all combined to bring flocks of ââ?¬Å?metropolitans”Ã¢â?¬â?folks accustomed to the brisk rhythms and vibrant cultural activities of citiesââ?¬â?to rural areas.

ââ?¬Å?People moving into rural areas like the idea of farms. They just don’t understand farming.”


Thanks for making the distinction between Audubon International and the National Audubon Society. There are over 500 Audubon Society organizations in the U.S. and we are all seperately incorporated from one another. Audubon International is incorporated as the Audubon Society of New York State, and was orginally created in 1897. We began conducting business as Audubon International in the late 1980's because our approach to engaging people in environmental stewardship where they live, work and play has been so popular that we are now working with people in over 25 countries around the globe. Thus, the term Audubon International more correctly fits our agenda today. Having been involved in promoting environmental stewardship and public involvement for over 35 years, including a 5 year stint as a Regional Vice President of the National Audubon Society, I find it amazing how some people tend to go out of their way to attempt to create "negative" out of something so positive as is under way at Bundoran Farm.

Ron Dodson
Audubon International