Q. First of all, I’d like to know where exactly you’re located in relation to the urban center.
A. We are located in Pasadena, California ( a city on the outskirts of Los Angeles – less than 20 minutes away) and our homestead is located less than 1 mile from Old Towne Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. I have enclosed a picture of an aerial view of the location of our homestead to give you an idea where we are situated. It is an average city lot. The actual size of our property is 66’ x 132’ (1/5 acre).
Q. Also, is your property open to “the public” and, if so, have you had problems keeping your gardens protected?
A. Yes, our property is open to the public through schedule tours and a variety of public events. The majority of the vegetable garden is located in the backyard so we’ve had no problems with having to protect that area. For the front yard garden, we intermingle fruits and vegetable amongst herbs and other unusual edibles so not to draw too much unnecessary attention. However, occasionally, we do have visitors who stop by unannounced and wander through the front yard.
Q. Are you involved with the larger community around your smaller community?
A. We are just a family of four, who are trying to lessen our footprint and live a more sustainable lifestyle in an urban environment. Our family maintains an extensive web site located at www.pathtofreedom.com documenting the daily and seasonal activities of the Path to Freedom homestead, with additional links and resources about environmental issues and sustainable living. Our ‘Path to Freedom’ project was started in 1990 and is now beginning to receive attention from the community and other parts of the nation and world.
“This project evolved from our commitment and conviction to live a simple, self-sufficient and holistic lifestyle,” says Jules Dervaes, founder, “It is an entire life’s journey and we have many more miles to go–the journey is by no means over! We are proving that we can attain our goal if we advance in stages whatever the circumstances. Our hope is that by documenting our personal experiences we can offer encouragement to those who are on the same journey towards a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle whether they are in the city or country.”
To help others along the path, we have an “outreach program.” Path to Freedom has had tours and many educational workshops. In addition, our family has been invited to participate in a number of eco/green events and festivals. The project has attracted local, national and international media attention, including television, magazine, and newspaper coverage.
Q. On your website, you say that you want to “break free from the system.” Could you elaborate a little bit on that statement? What system do you mean and how are you breaking free?
Evolving from Jules Dervaes’ personal commitment to live a simple, self-sufficient and holistic lifestyle, Path to Freedom is breaking new ground every year. In the midst of a densely urban setting, this family enterprise has incorporated back-to-basics practices, trial and error experiments and band aid technologies – i.e. solar energy and biodiesel – to bring about a homegrown revolution. The tangible results (tasteful and beautiful also) are evidence of the remarkable success of Jules Dervaes’ simple, practical and sensible philosophy.
Our urban homestead now grows over 6,000 pounds of organic produce annually, providing fresh vegetables and fruit for our family’s vegetarian diet. In addition, Path to Freedom operates a home business that supplies area restaurants and caterers with salad mix, edible flowers, heirloom variety tomatoes and other in-season vegetables.
Jules Dervaes states: “In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest, one that can–and will–overturn the corporate powers that be. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world–we change ourselves.”
Over the years, by purchasing energy efficient appliances and using electricity conservatively, we have cut our energy usage in half. Solar panels have reduced our dependence on electricity by two-thirds and have furthered our goal of energy independence. In 2004, we constructed a biodiesel processor from a discarded hot water heater. We make about 30 gallons a month of biodiesel, a non-toxic, alternative fuel made from free waste/recycled vegetable oil, which powers our diesel vehicle. This alternative fuel cost about 70 cents a gallon to produce.
As the world faces ever increasing danger based on its dysfunctional system, there is a critical need to look ahead with a new vision, a vision which sees that a step backwards is progress. With the severe shortage of hand-to-mouth workers only getting worse, we intend to use our hands, to employ them as weapons of mass creation.
The Dervaes family’s mission will be to continue to acquire the total package of brains, skills and guts necessary to break free from the system and become survivors.