Living at Arden

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An Interview with Farm Directors Carmen and Tripp Eldridge

AW: Describe Arden and what it means to live in an Agrihood.

Carmen: Arden is a master planned community developed by Freehold with over 2300 homes.  An Agrihood is a residential community that incorporates agriculture in some way.  At Arden in particular, the homes are built around an organic farm, and it also includes U-Pick gardens, a Children’s Garden and Butterfly Garden. Arden has an emphasis on healthy living, active lifestyles and having positive relationships with your neighbors.  The farm is definitely the heart of the community.  Our full-time Lifestyle Director plans year-round events for residents. 

Carmen and Tripp Eldridge, Arden Farm Directors

AW: What kinds of meals are prepared using farm fresh vegetables? How do residents get the fruits and vegetables?

Tripp: We grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  The vegetables – can go into salads, soups, and many other dishes. We share recipes with residents weekly and love it when residents share their culinary adventures with us too.  We are lucky to have some great photographers and cooks who live in the community. 

As a benefit of being an Arden resident, each household receives a share of the harvest through our Farm Share program. With over 2300 homes, we’re producing a lot of food.  Arden residents use an online system to sign up, rate their vegetable preferences and customize their farm shares, so each share is tailored to a household’s particular likes and dislikes. We try to make it very easy and convenient for residents. 

Farm Share pick ups happen every Wednesday and Saturday from November to mid-May. 

We also have a retail store where we sell Florida made products, our produce and tropical fruits.

AW: Tell us about the other amenities at Arden.

Carmen: There’s the Lakehouse, which is Arden’s clubhouse, that includes swimming pools, an amazing gym, a café, rooms to rent for private events, all overlooking a giant lake.  Many of our residents enjoy kayaking there.  There’s a variety of sports courts, including volleyball, basketball and tennis.  Arden features a winding trail system that goes throughout the whole property, with over 20 miles of trails.  Every house backs up into a big green space. Arden’s many acres of grassy parks and playfields, winding trails, beautiful lakes for fishing and kayaking, working farm, clubhouse and resort-style pool offer plenty of fun for everyone.

We also have 2 U-Pick gardens, a butterfly garden and a children’s garden.  In the future, we will be adding a U-pick orchard and a garden for residents to grow their own vegetables. 

AW: What have some of Arden’s residents said, in terms of positive feedback?

Tripp:  Every year, we do an end-of-season survey, and we get a lot of feedback plus emails throughout the year. The residents tell us…

  • They love trying new things (the Farm Share challenges everyone to try new things)
  • They like things they’ve never tried before (like radishes, okra, eggplant, and an unusual Japanese salad turnip, for example)
  • How easy and convenient this system is. They set their preferences and swap items before they pick up

Residents are sent a list of upcoming produce items and then can swap out items up until harvest day.

AW: What’s the price range of homes in Arden?

Carmen: Home prices at Arden range from the mid $400,000s to over one million.  

AW: What do your farm volunteers do?  How many volunteers do you get for farm help?

Carmen: Our volunteers have been awesome.  Pre-COVID we’d get 10 to 15 volunteers per week.  They would do weeding, spreading mulch, planting seeds or plants, depending on what’s needed. 

AW: Describe your passion for farming/ gardening and your previous experience.

Carmen: For me, it stems from a desire to leave the world a better place than we found it.  I am passionate about growing, cooking and sharing food, and love how organic agriculture has the ability to improve the environment. At the University of Florida, I studied organic crop production and political science.  I served as Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, teaching organic farming at an agroforestry high school.  Then I started a teaching farm at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville called the Ogier Gardens.  After that, I went to work for FL Organic Growers, where I directed a program called Fresh Access Bucks that increases the purchasing power of SNAP recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, and other outlets. I farmed in Tennessee with Tripp for a few years and then came back to Florida and started the Arden Farm.

Tripp: I actually did not grow up farming.  I visited a community supported agriculture farm (CSA) which I didn’t know existed until my senior year of college.  I was excited about small scale organic farming, how it’s intimately integrated into a community.  I also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, working on different farming projects.  I returned to the US, apprenticed on farms, and learned as much as I could.  I had opportunities to manage some farms.  I fell in love with the design piece of it, creating efficient systems and doing field design. Arden was such an amazing opportunity.  I loved partnering with Freehold and their amazing vision for Arden.

By the way, Arden won a National award in 2020 from the National Association of Home Builders for Best Amenity.  There’s a Forbes article about it. 

AW: How did you two meet? Tell us about your family.

Carmen: We met in Lexington, Kentucky at a sustainable farming conference – it was love at first sight.  I was speaking at it and Tripp was looking for a farmer to hire. 

We have a one-year-old son.  Our schedule is a little nutty these days, but we’re getting by. 

Tripp:  I agree with everything she said!

AW: Can someone take a tour of Arden any day of the week?

Tripp:  Yes, the Arden Lakehouse offers tours daily.  Just come by and meet one of our friendly community ambassadors.  The Lakehouse is right across from the farm and barn.  Every 2nd Saturday from 1pm to 3pm, we do guided farm tours of the farm.  No RSVP necessary, just show up.  Arden is located just past Lion Country Safari.

AW: What’s something most people don’t know about Arden?

Carmen:  One thing is that they have planted 85% FL native plants throughout the landscape, which is great for pollinators and local wildlife.  They’ve really made it feel like natural Florida.  Also, we grow all of our fruits and vegetables organically. 

Tripp:  Arden is a very multicultural community.  It’s been fantastic to grow a diversity of food.  We see the food prepared in so many different ways.  It’s fun to get to know people from all over the world. Arden’s diversity is one of its strengths. 

Visit Arden FL
Call 561-461-5501