I think agrarian urbanism, as proposed by Andres Duany and DPZ in Garden Cities: Theory & Practice of Agrarian Urbanism, is a needed -- and viable -- proposition. It's visionary, yes, but also down to earth, standing on the solid shoulders of things already proven. True, projecting what we do know into a future we don't know leaves many questions open, but this book illuminates one likely path.
I was already a solid proponent of New Urbanism as the best alternative among those that are actually viable. However, I always felt there was something missing, felt that new urbanism is fine for urbanites, but what about for non- or anti-urbanites? What about those of us who spent summers released from the purgatory of suburbia to climb Grandma's cherry trees, storm through her blackberry patch, and shell all her peas? Those who never quite felt right about getting all their food from Safeway? I didn't even realize I was asking these questions.
At the same time, no matter what is or isn't causing it, climate change is happening, and it's speeding up. Food production, as currently praticed in most of the U.S. (and increasingly elsewhere), will not likely keep up with it. So what are my grandkids going to eat? I did realize I was asking this question, sometimes at 3am.
Still, properly dense urban cores do not appeal to me, nor do any of the other less-dense zones along a typical transect. They just do not offer enough vegetation, and certainly no right-off-the-stem cherries, berries, and peas. But the rural zones in a typical transect have always seemed off-limits to me, after being raised in suburbia with no ability to buy acreage or use it to produce food even if I could buy it. New Urbanism never seemed ideal, it just seemed the best viable alternative ... until now.
Agrarian. Urbanism. Could we really have both? This has been my favorite question for several weeks. Duany argues convincingly that we can, at least those of us who honestly want both bad enough to pay for it and work for it. He's no fool; he states clearly that, "Agrarian Urbanism is not for everyone ... " But for those who are truly committed to producing food both locally and with the diversity that could skirt the food disaster that climate change could cause, he offers a model that could work. This could work not just in some utopian vision but within the current realities of political (land-use) and financial (developers' profit requirements) decision-making.
If you do read it, read through to the end -- that's where it gets right down to earth, in the last chapter: "The Usual Questions." In that chapter, Duany tackles critical and reasonable questions head-on. Only then did I start to think, "this could work."
Disclaimer: One of my daughters works at DPZ. However, she was still a journalism major, not a budding urban planner, when I was well into studying new urbanism; regretting the loss of my grandma's orchard, garden, and blackberry patch; wondering what my grandchildren will eat; and observing the effects of current decision-making on our built and unbuilt environments.