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About the Urban Homestead city farm
In the mid-1980s, our family set out to do the seemingly impossible: To create a new revolution in sustainable urban living. Finding ourselves owning a run-down circa 1917 craftsman-style house in the metropolis of Pasadena (the 7th largest city in Los Angeles County) and just 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles with the intersection of 134 and 210 freeways 30 yards from our home, we shelved our dreams of idyllic country living and "five acres and independence" and decided to do what we could, with what we had -- RIGHT NOW. No one thought it was possible. Residents in our low income, mixed race neighborhood thought we were the "crazy white folks."
We forged ahead, calling our project the Urban Homestead® model and with no small means of blood, sweat and tears, we worked to transform this ordinary 66' x 132' urban lot [LINK: Comparison Diagram of Property ] into a self-sufficient city homestead with an organic garden that now supplies us with food year-round. Despite its diminutive size, the Urban Homestead model is a fully functioning urban farm in every way (although, some of us believe it should more aptly be described as a 10-ring circus) and it supplies our family with 6,000 pounds of organic produce annually. We recently upped our production to 7,000 pounds harvested (in 2010) and 90% of our vegetarian diet comes from the garden so we eat on almost $2.00 per day per person. [LINKS: Harvest Chart (last updated: 2009) & 6,000 lb Harvest Breakdown ]
We are living off the land "directly" -- supplying our diet, and "indirectly" -- we sell the excess harvest local establishments and individuals through a customized CSA program via our "Front Porch Farmstand" that can also be found online at: www.frontporchfarmstand.com.
Having found food security in our own backyard, we were emboldened to take further steps. We began powering our home with alternative energies and fueling our car with home-brewed bio-diesel. Along with new technologies, we also embraced the simple living of past generations. We keep farm animals for egg production and manure, cultivated honeybees, used secondhand goods to decrease our consumption of earth’s nonrenewable resources, and taught ourselves a variety of back-to-basics skills. Our Urban Homestead model now enjoys a dramatic degree of independence, with ever-decreasing environmental impact.
Family dynamics figures strongly in the day to day operation of this family farm: We share genes and a garden pedigree. We talk the same dreams, feel the same disappointments and pains and eat dinner at the same table. Our family is definitely not normal (duh!) and yes, we're crazy (but it depends on what your definition of "normal" is) and there's a bizarre off-beat humor trait that must be genetic. However, even with our common likenesses, we believe it’s our distinctions that stir up the magic in this unlikely family project.
But we're not going to lie. We fight, we argue, we disagree and have huge differences of opinions. We have many different personalities and sometimes, it's a crazy mix! But it works! When we work to make this micro farm successful, we pull from all of our individual perspectives and happenstances to create solutions and form ideas. There is a tightness between us that that can’t be fabricated. And, besides - we know that through the thick and thin of life and the Urban Homesteading lifestyle we’re watching after each other.
The journey is ongoing—and we are by no means finished—but we are grateful to have come this far. In 2001, with the success of our Urban Homestead model, we named our homegrown family-run organization the “Path to Freedom” and created this Urban Homesteading website.
We hoped that by documenting our personal experiences we could offer encouragement to those striving to live a simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle and to create a new, modern movement of Urban Homesteading lifestyle. We believe that our family’s real-life experience is what makes the site unique: We aren't just writing about the latest eco-practices, ideas and products; for more than two decades, we have been living the revolution. In addition, at our daily blog, "Little Homestead in the City," you can witness first-hand our struggles and joys, defeats and successes on this pioneering journey.
Our highly productive Urban Homestead model is now widely considered a successful one-of-a-kind model for sustainable agriculture and eco living in urban areas and has been featured in multiple news medias both nationally and internationally. Our work in creating the Urban Homesteading lifestyle as a flourishing and self-sufficient life using minimum resources and land has been continually referenced as a progressive and forward-thinking example and sourced as the representation of future city planning and reclamation worldwide. We believe in using our hands as "weapons of mass creation™" for the betterment of our world.
Please note that this is a noncommercial, family-operated venture. We're not a huge organization nor are we backed by one. It's just us four with a desire to make our world better. This website is written, created, developed and run by the Dervaes "kids" because -- let's face it -- Dad (Jules Dervaes) is a luddite at heart and hates computers.
We devote countless hours to this site. We do this because we believe in giving freely to others, a value upon which strong, healthy communities are built. We hope you will take this principle to heart, and will view this site not just as a place to “take” (answers, ideas, inspiration), but as an opportunity to “give” as well. Whatever you may gain by reading about our journey, please remember to “pay it forward” to others in some fashion.
Together, we can ignite a revolution of spirit that will truly change our world for the better.
Meet the Dervaes Family:
The family here consists of a father and three of his four children.
Jules Dervaes (Dad) came of age during the turmoil of the late 1960s. Anxious for the future of his family, he moved to New Zealand in 1973, where he homesteaded in an abandoned gold mining town and trained as a beekeeper. After returning to the U.S., he lived on 10 acres in central Florida. He is a free thinker, inventive, creative -- a true old-fashioned pioneer but one constantly searching the future. He was a self-employed entrepreneur throughout most of his adult life in a series of successful startups from beekeeping and naturally-produced honey, to low environmental impact landscaping and lawn maintenance. A former schoolteacher with a degree in math, Jules Dervaes eventually found himself stuck in the wasteland of Los Angeles despite wanting to find a self-sufficient farm somewhere to escape to. Behind the plaid shirts and the gray hair lives a progressive change-maker who got angry about the GMOs invading the food supply. His solution -- grow his own food and say to heck with the supermarkets and the over processed so called food that was being shopped to the public. [read more]
Justin is our biodiesel maker and a plant addict. The dude really needs to chill out on the seedlings. Every year, he grows far too many heirloom tomato plants for our small lot. But we have to give him credit -- he manages to fit them in somewhere. In the summer, the backyard turns into a jungle of towering tomato plants that have reached over 10 feet high at peak season. He's involved in taking care of the honey bees and is passionate about naturally and holistically solving the varroa mite / Colony Collapse Disorder that is affecting our hives. Between his seed/plant/gardening addiction and his enthusiasm for beekeeping, his bedroom is crammed to the ceiling with seed catalogs, seeds, planting implements and empty bee boxes (and tools) and honey extracting equipment. Let's hope "the big one" never hits! [read more]
Anais is a throwback to another era. She's an apron-wearing barefootin' dynamo in the kitchen. With over 7,000 pounds of produce coming in, someone has got to handle all that food! Having the burden of cooking for the family, Anais keeps it all running with an efficient hand. With the assistance of her sister Jordanne, Anais run the household and a lot of the public relations our business and non-profit brings. She and Jordanne do a lot of crafting, knitting, cooking and baking together as well as handle the customers at our Front Porch Farmstand. [read more]
Jordanne is the youngest and self-described geek of the family with an ability to handle computers and does most of the website work Most of what you see on our sites is her handi-work and entirely self-taught. Her siblings call her the "animal whisperer" as she is really passionate about caring for all kinds of animals. She treats them holistically and naturally. Being in the city where no veterinarian will ever treat a goat or a chicken, she was forced by circumstances to become a "vet" of sorts and do most of the nursing of the animals. She is working on developing some natural products for the backyard chicken raiser. [read more]