UNI alumnus develops Iowa's first agrihood
The past few years have been especially fun for Steve Bruere (Marketing ‘03).
The president of Peoples Co., a farmland brokerage firm, Bruere is also a partner in Diligent Investment, which focuses on real estate development. He is also the mastermind behind Iowa’s first agrihood, a development that will bring together housing and farming culture, in Cumming, a small town just beyond the southwest edge of Des Moines.
Bruere enjoys working on the agrihood project because he gets to mix both sides of his professional life — farmland and development.
You have to throw everything you know about land development out the window.
“What’s exciting about this project for me is it brings together our agricultural roots and our land business,” Bruere said. “It also connects to some other things that we’re seeing in our business in terms of sustainability and being connected with food and knowing where it comes from.”
The agrihood concept is simple in nature but complex in design. It’s a community that integrates agriculture into a residential neighborhood. Community gardens produce food for the residents while also providing a recreation activity.
This concept has seen a boon in popularity over the past few years because of increased interest in where food is sourced and how it’s produced. Agrihoods allow families to experience the country life in a suburban setting. To date, there are about 200 agrihoods across the nation.
Bruere visited his first agrihood a few years ago in Virginia, and he was blown away.
“You have to throw everything you know about land development out the window, and think about things in a different way,” he said.
From that point on, he was interested in creating his own agrihood under the Diligent Investment flag, but he just needed to find the right place.
Cumming provided everything he was looking for. It’s tucked between the small-town charm of Indianola, another central Iowa suburb, and the growing cities of Des Moines and West Des Moines. It’s located right next to Interstate 35. Cumming also has its own unique amenities. It’s right on the Great Western Trail and is home to the Iowa Distilling Co. and Cumming Tap.
The proposed plan is a 400-acre site next to the Great Western Trail, with another residential development planned across the street to the east.
“Cumming has this agricultural charm and lifestyle about it,” Bruere said. “It’s this charming small town that has gone largely untouched.”
There are still some approvals needed before construction begins, and Bruere said his company is working through potential challenges that come with an agrihood. Who’s in charge of the food? Who tends to the land? These are questions the development team, which includes UNI alumni Kalen Ludwig (Marketing ‘05) and Keaton Dreher (Management ‘13), is working through.
Bruere’s phone has been plenty busy since the announcement earlier this year. He’s received strong interest from both millennial families and retirees. The actual opening date for the agrihood is still a few years away, but there’s plenty of buzz. And Bruere said his company is dedicated to making sure Iowa’s first agrihood is executed correctly.
“It is a challenge to do it, but we’re committed to doing it right,” he said. “We’re committed to doing it sustainable. We’re committed to getting the farms set up, the gardens set up and doing it in a way that lasts long after we’re done selling lots.”