CITY FARMING: IT CAN BE DONE

Lisa Rau  Square Syndrome

It’s using your yard for more than just grass. That useless, stubborn weed.

One family in Pasadena, Calif., took this idea and ran with it. Nearly every nook and cranny of their yard sprouts something edible. Last year, they grew more than 4,000 [correction 5,000]  pounds of food, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, honey and more. And they live within a stone’s throw of Pasadena’s bustling shopping district.

Check out the video to catch a glimpse of their rural city life, which they’ve dubbed: Urban Homesteading. Sit back and meet Anais, Justin, Jordanne and their father, Jules, who pioneered this movement decades ago.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdbFPkKeSRw&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

My 3-minute vid only scratches the surface of the plethora of skills and talents this family puts to work. They’ve had tons of press, but of course, there’s a lot more to them than can be told on camera or in an article.

For the record, Justin makes biodiesel for the family car from used restaurant kitchen grease; Anais cooks up all sorts of food-based products like soap and is an expert at canning; Jordanne is developing a special line of poultry feed to prevent common diseases; and Jules passed down his aesthetic eye to the whole family, who produces stunning, high-quality photography on a regular basis. [ She’s talking about our Little Homestead in the City Calendar – get them now because there are only a few left!!!]

Plus, their website is a beautiful hand-coded work of art, filled with a plethora of well-written content, snazzy photos and personal anecdotes. Props to Jordanne for the self-taught design and development skills.

My favorite thing about this family (along with the fact that they’re really, really nice) is their do-it-yourself attitude. They seem to have skipped the gene for complaining. Or laziness. If they need something done, they seem to just go out and do it. I think they see it as a “duh” response to life.

So why do they live in the city? Jules says they’ve always wanted to move out to rural California, but land isn’t cheap. They’re looking to relocate to a bigger farm eventually, but for now, they’ll continue to be a novelty among city dwellers who don’t think twice about using up their plot of land for grass.

Original article and video

Comments(26)

  1. Melina says:

    I never get tired of watching these videos. Whenever I need a little inspiration, I just need to watch and learn. Keep up the good work.

    • wILL says:

      @Melina, I am lucky I have land in the country =it is just hard to get to the point that you are mostly free of the system. Thats the objective=plus keeping your youth and health for a long time . WE had it made yrs ago growing up on a farm and didn’t realize how lucky we were!! Will

  2. Debbie says:

    I agree…I never tire of seeing the video clips of your success! You inspire me every time I click on!!! Thanks <3

    • wILL says:

      @Debbie, Me too! I am working on my own projects=its hard getting free of the system! Will

  3. tracey gallahan says:

    I always enjoy the interviews. thank you for the inspiration. Hope your Holidays are Blessed.

  4. Helen says:

    Can you please tell me what type of wood you use to build your raised garden beds? Thanks!

    • Dan Langhoff says:

      @Helen,

      Helen, it looks like the beds are made of two 2 x 6’s on top of each other, most likely Douglas Fir. Whatever wood you use for your raised beds, make sure it is untreated.

      • Helen says:

        @Dan Langhoff, Thanks for the quick reply!

  5. Fran says:

    You are all doing a great job. Keep it up.

  6. Lusi says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog and it was very inspiring! I grew up in a similar way! My parent’s backyard looked very similar as I was growing up with almost everything in their garden being edible!
    Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Anais says:

      @Lusi: A warm welcome to you! Thanks for commenting and enjoy browsing around.

      • wILL says:

        @Anais, What you all are doing is what I am just stating, but I have had it in the back of my mind for years. Anais, I grew up on a farm near Westminster, Md. ,and milked cows by hand when I was 8 yrs old. I had the best memories growing up there. WE damned up the creek to go swimming, had tree forts in the woods, etc. Just had a great time. My mom canned a lot of stuff. She always said”Land is Life”! Getting back to all that is work but is the only way to go!!! Wish you were here! I Could sure use your advice on growing a variety of greens and flowers for eating. I now have 30 acres (mostly wooded) in West Virginia. Good water but only about 5-6 month growing season. Beautiful country! Just

  7. Michele says:

    My son and I just bought a 1/4 acre “farm” down the freeway from you. After living 5 years in a townhome I’m getting back to my roots! You all inspire me.

    • Anais says:

      @Michele: Congrats and good luck!

  8. Milissa says:

    My town will not allow chickens in your backyard. It is nice that Pasadeana does.

  9. deb says:

    Thanks for your info. I have been watching videos on permaculture and also decided to take over my yard with edible plants. I will be planting fruit trees etc in the front yard, and taking away the grass. Most do not realize the work and chemicals they put on grass is not good for the enviroment, and why waste the time and money on something you can’t eat. We can all make a difference even in small yards. Get together with neighbors and make a plan. Decide what fruit trees you would all love and make sure you have pollinators within reach. You will be able to exchange the different fruit. I also have all my heirloom seeds started. Here is to a better future one person at a time.

  10. wILL says:

    Anais, I wish you were here. You could teach me so much I am sure. I have 10 acres in the mountains near Mathias West Virginia. I am putting in gardens , Fruit tress, grapes, etc. The growing season is short (April 15-20 to Sept 30.)I am sure there are a lot of things I can grow besides green beans, corn, tomatoes =the usual. I have asparagus beds and Kiwi . I need to have raised beds for greens , carrots, beets,etc. It is a lot of work getting free of the system. I am putting in an outside wood stove to gravity feed heat into the house I have there. and solar will come eventually ( for heat and electric) It is beautiful country. Horse farm on one side and goat farm on the other. The horses on the farm were wanted for the movie “13th warrior” .It is hard to accomplish this when I am mostly doing it by myself. My family is all for it but have no time in their busy lives to spend getting this done. One of my sons is making headway with his own place but even he has to just work it in between his job and family. We all know the future and being in the city is not getting any safer or the place to be as things keep getting more unstable. My mother taught us “Land is Life” and that is so true. It is also uplifting to just be working outdoors as I was going up on a farm. Have a nice Day, Take Care , Will

  11. Leslie, Eagle Idaho says:

    Love your site! Can you tell me if you have any tricks for keeping neighborhood cats out of your newly planted beds?

    • Anais says:

      @Leslie, Eagle Idaho: Thanks and welcome! You know those plastic black trays from nurseries? Turn them upside down and it should deter cat from using the beds as litter box!

  12. Tessie Hauman says:

    Awesome website you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics talked about here? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Bless you!

  13. Pego says:

    Hi Anais

    I frequently discuss your homestead and methods and one of the people I speak to asked me a good question. What doest that 99% mean? How many people are fed this completely from your little place? What is imported in? (salt, borates, fabric, coffee, tea?) How much do you bring home via foraging (I looked at the Kelp for an answer but no source listed)

    You’ve got a pretty exhaustive itemization but, still, people want to know more. I am, I must admit, a total no numbers zone with my own garden. People ask me about my garden production and my answer is “Dunno, 5 bags full last week” I need something more useful about numbers than myself.

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      We grow 99% of our PRODUCE needs from our 1/10 for a family of four. We are both indirectly and directly self sufficient because what surplus produce we do have we sell and that goes toward purchasing bulk staples like flour, rice, etc. So we eat & making a living from our land
      Check out our Facts & Stats page at http://urbanhomestead.org/urban-homestead

      • Mit W says:

        Hello Anais;

        I’m that one of, “these people”, that the fair Pego speaks of and she suggested that i should ask you myself, which makes sense. So, here goes.

        How many pounds of rice, flour, grains, do you purchase per annum?

        Of your own produce, what are the actual items and in what quantities (pounds) do you grow from your 0.1 acre garden? You can leave out the herbs as they don’t have many calories.

        What do you feed your chickens? How much ? Is any of your chickens’ feed purchased? How many chickens do you have that contributes to the 2000 eggs/year ?

        What do you feed the other animals you have and where does their food come from (I’m only interested of animals fed that you either eat or get milk or other foodstuff from)?

        You mentioned in your website that you made 2500 gallons of biodiesel over the last 4 years. From what was that made from and where did that come from?

        Do you use cooking oils in your food? If so, how much and where do they come from ?

        It was mentioned that you also forage public land and harvest food from the sea. Do you have an accounting of what and how much per year ?

        I know the above is an exhaustive request but your website leads one to believe you nearly wholly feed 4 adults directly off of 70% of the food produced from just 0.1 acres (6000 lbs of produce, 70% = 4200 lbs). What i mean by directly is, directly consumed or fed to animals (and fed nothing else but what you produced) that, in turn give you eggs, milk, etc. And you produced 2500 gallons of biodiesel over 4 years to boot.

      • Pego says:

        Thank you for the info. Every time I get into one of these big discussions, I get into wandering your blog for a while. Great stuff, If I ever get to CA, I would love to come by. If you want to see the dialog, it is in a public forum; http://www.care2.com/causes/is-organic-agriculture-bad-for-the-environment-another-reason-to-eat-locally.html#comment-3069975

  14. gjaiowejaol says:

    CITY FARMING: IT CAN BE DONE | Little Homestead in the City – the Urban Homestead Journal I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are amazing! Thanks! your article about CITY FARMING: IT CAN BE DONE | Little Homestead in the City – the Urban Homestead JournalBest Regards Veronica

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