PBS Video: The Urban Homestead [Click to watch]
The inspiring story of the Dervaes family's Urban Homestead in Pasdena, California is amazing. The Dervaes call themselves "eco-pioneers". They say it's a homegrown revolution that's taking place, a way to get back to a more natural, organic way of life.
Their mission? To change the world one urban backyard at a time. Their goal is to change people's attitudes about food. They say food is power and the more we grow ourselves, the better. Their Path to Freedom site got five million hits per month from over 125 countries. The Dervaes say it’s a growing movement -- a green revolution!
Jules Dervaes (born 1947) is an urban farmer and a proponent of the urban homesteading movement. Dervaes and his three adult children (Justin, Anais, and Jordanne) operate an urban market garden in Pasadena, California as well as other websites and online stores related to self-sufficiency. Dervaes has a one-fifth acre lot in Pasadena, California located 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles on which he and his family use 1/10 of an acre (4,346 sq. ft.) to raise 6,000 lbs (three tons) of food per year. This provides 99% of their produce and 75% of their food needs, and helps them sustain an organic produce business. They also raise ducks, chickens, goats, bees, compost worms and are running an aquaponics fish experiment.
Dervaes experimented with self-sufficiency when he lived in New Zealand for several years and later in Florida. He began his garden in Pasadena as a hobby, but later chose to grow as much food as possible because of his concerns about genetically-modified food. Jules wanted more control of his nutrition and health, in addition to minimizing his family’s impact on the environment. So, he decided to see how efficient he could make his urban homestead. Jules and his family are living the farm life with fresh vegetables, herbs, honey, and new eggs every day. The family-run farm allows the Dervaes to harvest enough not only to feed themselves, but also to sell to local restaurants.
According to Natural Home magazine, "The Dervaeses' operation is about 60 to 150 times as efficient as their industrial competitors, without relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticide." The Dervaes grow over 400 species of plants, 4,300 pounds of vegetable food, 900 chicken and 1,000 duck eggs, 25 lbs of honey, plus seasonal fruits throughout the year. Four people get over 90% of their daily food from their urban farm and the family reports earnings of $20,000 per year. This is done without the use of the expensive, destructive synthetic chemicals associated with industrial mono-cropping, while improving the fertility and overall condition of the land.
The Dervaes call themselves "eco-pioneers". They say it's a homegrown revolution that's taking place, a way for them to get back to a more natural, organic and better way of life. Their mission? To change the world one urban backyard at a time. However, Jules' vision wasn't so clear 23 years ago when he bought the 1917 California bungalow for his family. All he knew then was that the cost of keeping of a green, but barely usable, front yard was a waste of money. So, he began by clearing out the grass and planting an edible garden. In 1991, Jules discovered that area teahouses needed his edible flowers and he could make money from his hobby. Chefs rave about the fresh produce they get with no middleman.
However, the biggest change came in 2001. When buying organic food became expensive and difficult to find, and genetically-modified food hit the market, Jules took matters into his own hands and began Path to Freedom. Jules' garden, or micro-farm as he prefers, has more than 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits, and berries. The front yard is 95% edible and the rest of the main planters are in the backyard. Every corner is used to grow food. Jules says he doesn't need more space. He just needs to be a smarter gardener. For inspiration, he looks to the Japanese and Europeans who have had to grow food in a small spaces for thousands of years.
Living Off Grid
The Derveas live off-grid as far as possible. Their car drives on biogas, solar panels power their television. They have 12 solar panels, a biodiesel filling station, and a solar oven. They also use solar drying and have a cob oven. They use a wastewater reclamation system, a dual-flush toilet, a composting toilet, and hand-cranked kitchen appliances to reduce power use. Living this lifestyle doesn’t mean they are old fashioned. After working in their farm, the Dervaes watch movies on Netflix or work on one of their websites which center around living a greener life and are some of the biggest websites about urban farming. I
It’s a growing movement -- a green revolution! The Dervaes are proud that their energy usage is only 6.5 kilowatt hours a day and continues to decrease. They make their own biodiesel for their truck and also have an outdoor shower for summer use. This is now a full-time job for Jules and his three children who sell their produce to area restaurants. They've also expanded into education outreach, and have an online store to sell garden and eco-friendly materials. Their goal is to change people's attitudes about food. They say food is power and the more we grow ourselves, the better.
The Dervaeses' site is: http://urbanhomestead.org.
In 2008, their former Path to Freedom site got five million hits per month from over 125 countries, but is no longer active. The Dervaes family was featured on National Geographic Channel's Doomsday Preppers in 2012.
The Dervaeses also operate their online farmstand site at: http://www.urbanhomesteadsupply.com shown below.