Harvest: A Photo-essay

November 24th, 2019  |  Published in November 2019

“Harvest.” The very name cultivates savory mental images: farms bearing crops in extensive rows; gardens dotted with aromatic delights; green fields as far as they eye can see; fruits and vegetables plucked from fertile earth. Indeed this tillage is productive, though its yield is not so lush. There are no farmers gleaning fruit from the raw terrain, only a corporation reaping profits by developing it.

 

Yet signs around the tracts propound bucolic promise, and even happiness.  Tarpaulins blanket chain-link fences with printed scenes that might felicitously grace a U-Pick farm or a country home design magazine: a giggling child embracing a basket of fresh edibles, a grinning man offering a crate of fruitage to a woman laughing as she chops vegetables.

 

 

 

 

Will residents of these abodes really enjoy such bounty?  There is not enough land for a garden around each single-family dwelling, for there is virtually no lot beyond its exterior walls. The houses are built right up to the alleys behind; and there is scant space in the margins on the sides; but anyway, there would scarcely be enough light for greenery to grow there in the shadows. No matter; a disclaimer on the developer’s website forthrightly warns us, in fine print on an obscure page, that “Scenes may be of locations or activities not on Lennar property.”

“Harvest at Upland is a one-of-a-kind masterplanned community centered around the idea of sustainable living and an agrarian, farm-to-table inspired lifestyle,” boasts the website.  Naturally, “idea” and “inspired” are the operative words.

It doesn’t appear as though this tree will bear abundance.

Southern California used to be replete with scenery of orchards and farms. Now that such sights are largely gone, we wistfully embrace ersatz signifiers supplied by the very developers that have paved them over. Photos and words evoking possibilities plowed under are plastered around barriers demarcating the very structures that replaced them.

Happiness, harvested as a crop.  If only we could all partake in such farming.

 

Such proclamations are as specious as this close-up shot of the sign in the previous image.

Community gardens and orchards are promised; but it seems unlikely that the meager parcels earmarked for this purpose will sustain such abundance as the pictures indicate—if such promises ever come to fruition. According to Lennar itself, “All site plans, community maps and computer generated or enhanced depictions shown…may not accurately represent the actual condition of the item being represented…All Illustrations are solely for illustrative purposes and should never be relied upon.”

Studies have shown that new homes are likelier to include unhealthy chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and toxins such as formaldehyde. These contaminant byproducts of building materials dissipate with time, which means that an older home is, in fact, likely to be healthier than a newer one.

 

Lennar has discovered the panacea.

Boldly emblazoned on a picture-perfect sign, Lennar’s slogan, “Everything’s Included. Even Joy,” trivializes emotion—as though money could buy happiness—and discounts the costs and troubles faced by homebuyers. These houses start at the high $400,000s. Funding and maintaining a home comes with stress extending beyond the bite of the initial purchase. Furthermore, under any circumstances, how could anyone possibly guarantee joy to another? Life is too unpredictable; the human mind, too complex.

Waving in the breeze around the development’s perimeter, blue flags bandy the trademarked proclamation, “Everything’s Included.” All this means is that houses include certain fixtures and features that Lennar claims normally would cost extra. But remember, Lennar’s promises “should never be relied upon”.

The paradoxical nature of basing a high-density housing tract on agrarian-inspired principles thus comes full circle, ending at its own cul-de-sac of ironic conceit. Everything’s Included®—but nothing is necessarily included except thin walls and even thinner fantasies.

–Annabel Osberg

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