By TRICIA AREND
Published: Monday, July 13, 2009 | 5:36 PM
Gardener and urban homesteader Jules Dervaes is growing a revolution in his Pasadena home. Dervaes’ little urban garden plot that could has led him to found the Path To Freedom and Little Homestead in the City, a sustainable resource center and urban homestead.
Dervaes, 61, a former high school teacher, bee keeper, lawn maintenance worker and leather crafter, has always been a gardener at heart. But his small Pasadena patch began its transformation into a plot one-tenth of an acre in size in 2000 when he learned companies were genetically altering food through genetic engineering techniques.
According to Dervaes, this was “the last straw”, a discovery that encouraged him to start growing his own food.
“I decided to grow as much food as I could,” he said. “I stopped fooling around – I knew I had to get serious and take care of our food security. They’re messing with nature. I didn’t want to be in the experiment, I didn’t want to be a guinea pig. I wanted to get out.”
Dervaes and his three children – Anaïs, 34, Justin, 31, and Jordanne, 26 – now grow more than 6,000 pounds of organic produce a year. Edible landscaping covers 95 percent of their front lawn, and more than 400 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries grow on their property. The Dervaes also harvest their own honey and raise their own chickens and ducks for eggs – in 2008 alone, 3,155 eggs were produced.
Since then, the Dervaes family have expanded their self-sustainability measures to include harnessing solar energy, making their own bio-diesel fuel, recycling, eliminating waste and reducing water consumption.
“It’s just been continually going farther to try to get independent, while also helping the community around us to solve this crisis we’re in,” Dervaes said. “I did it because I wanted my family to be able to lead a healthy life in the future, and I was worried about where culture was taking us.”
“We’re trying to be good stewards of the Earth and take care of our home,” he explained.
Considering the economic times, a self-sustaining lifestyle also poses numerous financial benefits, Dervaes was quick to add.
“People are out of jobs and are looking for ways to survive. Growing your own food has become really big in the last year, because people save some money by growing food in their backyard,” he said.
Dervaes said his self-sustaining garden is also his family’s source of income – they grow more than enough to feed themselves and their pets, so they sell the surplus to local restaurants.
And, of course, the taste just can’t be beat. There’s nothing quite like having a salad made from vegetables picked outside in the garden only minutes ago, Dervaes said.
The Dervaes’ story is told in their self-produced film “Homegrown Revolution”. The film, which is approximately 16 minutes long, has been featured in international film festivals and will be shown at the Center Library during the Community Dialogues later this month.
After the film is shown, Dervaes will run through a power point highlighting the 10 elements his family practices to be self-sufficient. The Dialogues will come to a close with a question and answer session.
Although the information is out there, few people are aware of the steps they can take to initiate change, Dervaes believes. He hopes his discussion will encourage individuals to make “war on consumerism”.
“Education helps,” he said. “People feel helpless, and we do what we can to generate hope. We’re basically consuming our resources right out from underneath the next generation. We need to do a lot more, but this is a beginning, and if we can all get our act together we can start changing, and then hopefully continue to change.”
The Community Dialogues will be held on Sunday, July 26 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at the Pasadena Central Library. The event, which is free and open to the public, is not sponsored by the Library, so guests should not use the Library’s parking lot. Free parking is available at the University of Phoenix parking lot adjacent to the Library’s parking lot.
For more information on the Community Dialogues, call 626-795-0376.