Originally from Tampa, Florida, Jules Dervaes (Dur-VAYS) graduated from Jesuit High School as valedictorian and was awarded a full academic scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans in 1965. While studying there, he became increasingly disillusioned with the American way of life.
After graduating in 1969 with a B. S. in Math and a minor in Computer Science, he began a search for a more meaningful and service-oriented lifestyle. As a conscientious objector, he decided to serve others through teaching. Ultimately, this career choice gave him keener insight into the futility of America's future and its inability to nurture the human spirit. As a teacher, he saw first-hand the lack of character development in some students who were to be our country's next generation of parents. Convinced that there must be a better society and more humane way of life somewhere, Jules backpacked through Europe as he considered the future course for his life.
In 1973, with a briefcase whose only contents were the first 13 issues of Mother Earth News, he immigrated to New Zealand, believing that such an isolated, egalitarian society could assist him and his family in living a more integrated, meaningful life. In small town called "Stafford" on the west coast of New Zealand's rural South Island (near Hokitika), Jules embarked on the path towards self-sufficiency and began his homesteading journey. He became a beekeeper, grew his own food, kept chickens, ducks and goats, collected rain water for his family’s water supply and lived without most modern conveniences.
But a series of events and circumstances eventually brought Jules and his young family back to Tampa, Florida in 1975, where they lived on 10 acres in the country surrounded by pastures and orange groves. In this new location, Jules re-established his beekeeping business, started a lawn maintenance business and resumed gardening, while sometimes teaching at local schools.
In 1984, the family made another move, this time to Pasadena, California, where Jules re-entered college and achieved an additional degree in theology. While residing in Pasadena, he continued hobby gardening and beekeeping in varying degrees over the years. Meanwhile, even while working self-employed in lawn-maintenance, Jules began to develop leather craftsmanship skills. He soon progressed from patterns and kits to designing and creating. Together with his two sons, Jules created a unique line of quality products which were featured in various Old Towne Pasadena stores and in other establishments throughout the area.
Nonetheless, Jules still longed for the simpler life and the dependence on the land he had in New Zealand. He planned to "one day" return to that lifestyle and recreate what he had lost. Acquiring the acreage to rebuild that dream proved to be difficult, however. Circumstances, situations, and distractions continually thwarted attempts of a return to country life. And so, Jules and his family continued to dream of "one day" finding "freedom" by returning to the land.
But the Y2K alert and the growing threat of GMO foods was the final spark that propelled Jules to strive to become self-reliant where he presently lived. Not waiting for those dreams of acreage to become reality, Jules' and his family's goal was to incorporate sustainable skills and practices in an urban environment and to challenge themselves to push the limits with back-to-basic innovation. It was with the thought of "just how self-sufficient can we become in an urban environment?" that Jules and his family began recording their progress. As the Dervaes family started tracking and publishing their results online, Jules coined the phrase "Urban Homesteading" to describe what he was attempting to create on his city lot. The 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading outlines his personal roadmap of urban self-sufficiency.
Jules currently focuses on pushing the limits of urban sustainability through extreme urban homesteading and sharing that path with others through outreach events and speaking engagements through his personal website: www.julesdervaes.com. As a self-made entrepreneur, his home-based businesses include a sustainable, organic, community oriented locally grown produce business (www.dervaesgardens.com), and quality handcrafted artisan goods (website currently offline), Goods for the Urban Homesteader (www.peddlerswagon.com) and a seed business / campaign that researches, perserves and protects heirloom, GMO-free, Monsanto-free seeds (www.freedomseeds.org).