(via Cow Girls & India):

When Manish, our main contact at Shikshantar (a local initiative to re-create Udaipur as a zero-waste “learning city”), informed me that our group would have the opportunity to meet with a California-based family of activists called “Path to Freedom”, I was curious but cautious. The prospect of yet another alt-minded, smug California hipster contingent intent on proselytizing their irrelevant brand of “Whole Foods” yippie sustainability in impoverished areas did not appeal (we prefer to be the only smug alt-minded California group within a hundred kilometers).

Within minutes of meeting Jules and his salt-of-the-earth brood, it was obvious that they are about as pretentious as homemade pickles. The Dervaes family found themselves in India due to a short film, originally created as an audio visual aid for a talk Jules gave to a group of undergrads at UCLA (opening for Michael Pollan, demigod of food politics). The video found its way onto YouTube, and evolved into a piece that is being selected for film festivals all over the world. People from Torrance to Torino have become inspired by the Dervaes’s story of how they turned their barren SoCal lot into a lush profusion of edible vegetation and renewable energy, aka an “urban homestead“.  (—via CowgirlsandIndia)

Read her full blog post

India Travels – Delhi, Updaipur & Mumbai

Greece, Israel, Italy and our last and final stop – India!

Also, a huge THANK YOU is in order to our family, friends/volunteers who watched over the place while we were gone.  We truly appreciate you all lending a hand to help out!

India was one of our most successful trips because of the direct people-to-people exchange!

Our passage to India was a 19 hr flight!  LA to Dubai then 2.5 hrs to Delhi, India – the flight was so long we got to catch up on a few (three) Bollywood movies!

First stop was Delhi and the CMS Vatavaran Environment & Wildlife Film Festival where our short film, HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION, was warmly received and nominated!  The nomination is a great honor because that means the film’s been chosen to tour India in 2010 as part of CMS’s traveling film festival.

The film festival in India was one of the warmest we had ever been to.  All the foreign filmmakers in attendance stayed in a common hotel, meals were taken care of and so was transportation.  We even had a “personal” concierge – who, over the course of the film festival, became a very dear friend!   Actually, we wanted to take him home (but that’s another story!).

Next stop for the film and our family was the beautiful and enchanting city of Udaipur.  After the incredible hustle and bustle or “poetry” of Delhi (quote from the movie Delhi 6 -“poetry that flows through the narrow lanes of Delhi”), it was nice to come to a “smaller” city.

In Udaipur we had people to meet – they were a big part of what made our trip such a success!  Thank you all for your warm, generous hospitality and very hearty, tasty meals.

Our relationship with the people of Udaipur and Shikshantar organization goes back to 2003 or 2004 when one of the persons there came upon our website and in 2006 featured a blurb about us in one of their WALK OUT newsletters (pg 16).   They also printed up Farmer D’s quote and put it up on the wall of their building (which we finally got to see and that was special) along with many famous other quotes from influential people.

The folks at Shikshantar kept us busy!  After showing us their facility with many of the items that we recognized from our urban homestead (pedal powered bike blender, solar ovens), they arranged for a screening and talk at their HQ (to a packed crowd of 100!), a couple other talks to students at two local schools and a visit to an urban farmer in the area who had the BEST soil we’ve ever seen!

Next stop was Mumbai, one of the densest cities in the world, and connecting with another organization there called Urban Leaves, which has close ties with Shikshantar .

We broke ground for an urban homestead project at the house where we were staying, and that night over 100 people showed up to see the film and hear Farmer D speak.

Once again, our trip was short, and we had to turn down other speaking engagements.  But we need to say thank you to all those of you who opened up your homes and hearts to us.  We have come away from this trip fuller hearts, thanks to the all the amazing people we met!  Thank you!

Perhaps with all the contacts we made and with many Freedom Gardeners there- we’ll be back!

In the Media

Our trip to India was covered by three TV channels and three newspapers!

`GM food is almost anti-Hindu’  –TIMES OF INDIA

…The jolly American, who likes to call himself an urban homesteader (farmhouse owner), started sowing seeds outside his house in the monster city of Los Angeles almost two decades ago. Today, he owns a urban homestead which attracts not only green activists, science students and Americans who mistake his daughter’s goat for “some kind of a dog”, but also film festivals the world over. Recently, the Dervaeses screened their award-winning documentary Homegrown Revolution in Mumbai for wannabe homesteaders.

Read full article

US family helps Mumbai walk the ‘green’ mile — Mumbai Mirror

Grow something (even if it’s on your balcony or terrace), save water, avoid plastic, switch off lights when you don’t need them, and buy local food. “We have just followed one motto,” she says, “Do what you can, how much you can and where you can.”

Read full article (please note: because of the Hindi to English translation some of the facts like “Vietnam vet” have been misinterpreted

Stop going to your neighbourhood bhaji market — Mid Day Mumbai

An American family is in town to demonstrate how they have managed to grow their own food, not in a rural farm as you might think, but in the middle of a bustling city

Read full article


The Environmental Film Festival in Delhi was amazing – the atmosphere was warm, friendly.  Food (vegetarian) was delicious.  We had a great time.

Opening Ceremony there was a rousing speech by Dr Farooq Abdullah, Honorable Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy who stirred the audience with his passion and concern over climate change.

Closing Ceremony awards were given out by one of the top most filmmakers in India Mr Mahesh Bhatt, a prominent Indian film director, producer and screenwriter (think Steven Spielberg)

While we were in Dehli, we wanted to stop off at Vandana Shiva’s office but they said she wasn’t in town.  Oh well.  Instead, we gave her volunteers a HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION dvd.

Justin and our new friend Ashish. He took care us of while were were at the film festival and at the end we were extremely sad to part.

Filmmakers and our new Delhi friends.

Our family get’s interview by Prema Malini of TV 9.

All dressed up! Filmmakers and our constant companion, Ashish.


Gate of India.

Press conference with the filmmakers.

A longtime blog reader of LHITC from India.  What a treat it was to meet Sanjay and hear how our website has changed his life!

It’s amazing to witness how our site (now celebrating 10 years online) has touched so many people worldwide.  This site/blog is our book and testament to living a more sustainable, self-reliant life in the city.


Next stop, the valley of Kings and lakes.

Jordanne and Justin and learn how to roll paper that Rama (left) will weave into a basket.

Everyone made us feel right at home.  No shoes doesn’t mean no service!  Shoeless, sitting on the floor and sharing plates and eating with our hands.

We visit a family’s home that’s been in their family for over 500 years.  The entire family lives in the compound and Jordanne hangs out with a few of the adorable kids.

Breakfast.  What a feast!  Bananas, peanut butter brittle, apples, tangerines and cherimoya.  Delicious!

One of the beautiful lakes of Udaipur.

Farmer D talks with students at Phoenix International Business School.  They are building a rooftop garden.  Look forward to seeing your results,   good luck!

Manish and Justin wait for our ride.

Vidya Bhawan Polytechnic School, where the students listen intently to Farmer D’s presentation.

Actually, we were not sure how the film, HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION, and the PowerPoint presentation would be received overseas.  The film and presentation were made for an American audience, but one young girl said, “Thank you for bringing the Indian way of life back to India!

What an amazing thing to say coming from a 19 year old, and her statement really touched our hearts.

Jordanne and Justin meet an American who came to Shikshantar   to meet us.  She had seen and hosted a screening of HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION in the States and happened to be in India at the time we were there.   Funny we had to travel 1/2 way around the world to meet in person – small world!  We met another person who was a ‘neighbor’ in California lived just 40 minutes from us in Redlands.

Checking out a local urban farm and admiring Sandeep’s rich, dark black soil.

Local corn gets ready to be hand ground into meal.


Visiting local families.

Dinner with a longtime friend who stumbled on our website back in 2003.  What a pleasure it was to spend time with Shilpa and her family.  Thanks, again, to everyone for everything!

Udaipur at night.

Jordanne learns how to shred coconut by hand

At Shikshantar  over 100 people crammed in to see the film and hear Farmer D.

Morning walk along the lake.

Rama, our new friend, takes us to her lovely home to meet her mother.   She’s wanting to become a filmmaker.

Reva and Justin on the rooftop checking out the solar ovens.

Urban farmer, Sandeep, shows us a photo of his crops.

Cow crossing the road.

Cows everywhere!  Unfortunately many of the cows are suffering because of the plastic pollution.

This cute kid sorta adopted Justin!

Walking around Updaipur.

Farmer D points to his quote on the walls of Shikshantar

Helping with food preparations.

Breakfast of porridge, honey,  nuts and fruit.  Yummy and filling.

Rooftop to rooftop.  Check out their rain barrels!

Once again a delicious lunch.   Sharing, eating, talking, laughing!

Goat herder walks through town.

Popular modes of transportation – two feet or two wheels.

Thanks to Sameer and Reva for their hospitality and wondrous breakfast.

and our Udaipur host and family, Manish, Vidhi and Kanku, and new friends.  Thank you all for your warm and gracious hospitality!

Also to the urban farmer, Sandeep, who showed us his urban paradise.

Finally, a huge thank you to Shilpa, who helped us plot out our itinerary, made connections for us, and answered our first-time-travelers-to-India questions, as well as to all the folks at Shikshantar whose kindness and friendship will always be treasured.  Thank you all!


Our last stop the massive city of Mumbai.  Amidst the hustle and bustle of this mega city, ordinary people are making a difference.

Our host family in Mumbai, Brian and Neesha, and members of the Urban Leaves organization

What a pleasure it was to spend time with these passionate people – too bad it was such a short stay for us.  Thanks so much for organizing such a great event!

Introductions all around before we get started on breaking ground for the first urban homestead in a suburb of Mumbai.

Preeti and Daulat mixing fresh cow dung (which Daulat had wrapped in fig leaves and brought from a forest outside Mumbai), cow urine, and leaves by hand.  This concoction is used in rooftop and balcony gardens.

Spreading leaves over the ground to bring life to the soil.

Checking out the paper, which features our family’s visit.

Jordanne and I get interviewed by Lekha Menon for a local paper.

Over 100 people turned out to watch the film and hear Farmer D’s presentation in Mumbai.

Answering questions afterward.

Justin talks about farming and biodiesel.

A local farmer brings us an unusual ype of cucumber!  Tasted great – like a melon.

Urban Leaves table – filled with seeds, urban farming information and anti-GMO materials.

What an inspiration it was to see this local organization fight against GMO – GMOs that are destroying their land and people.   Monsanto’s golden promises aren’t, well, so golden.  Instead misery, debt, low food production and dependence on more and more chemical fertilizers are what’s happening to the Indian farmer.   India is on the front lines of the fight for food sovereignty.

Keep up the great work there everyone!

Whew, that was tough – choosing photos to share with you for the India leg of our journey.

That’s A Wrap

Well, that about ends our world travels.  We’ve taken you to Greece, Israel, Italy and lastly India.  Hope you enjoyed your armchair travel experience.

Going over the photos has brought back a lot of great memories, and I am amazed that we even were there! Not to mention how humbling and educational our trip was.  I think we are changed (hopefully for the better) because of it.

So, where are we going next?

Well, not to far from home this time!  In mid January, we’ll be Northern California so be sure to come and see us!

And after that?  Well, if it were up to us, we’d pack our bags and visit Tennessee.

Heck, you never know! God willing, we may end up in your neck of the woods.


  1. Cena says:

    You are about as pretentious as homemade pickles…hahahaha

  2. Cindie K. says:

    My gosh, you guys are international celebs!!!! Anais, you look like a glamorous movie star in the photos! Thank you for sharing your trip with us via your gorgeous pictures. You remain a constant source of inspiration. Merry Christmas to you all and a blessed New Year.

  3. Anais says:

    Thanks for the positive compliments. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

    Ah, yes, the sunglasses. I NEVER EVER wear sunglasses – only when traveling.

    Since we gals don’t wear makeup it’s an easy solution for those tired dark circle eyes “coon eyes.”

    Many blessings to you all

  4. AROUND THE URBAN HOMESTEAD | Little Homestead in the City says:


  5. Wendy says:

    Aah….if only I could get you to come to South Africa!!!

    Is there anyway I can buy a copy of the movie?

    Kind regards
    Cape Town

  6. Preeti Patil says:

    Dear all wonderful urban homesteaders

    It was a privilege to have you with us in Mumbai and YES you will remain a source of inspiration in our journey. Success stories like yours bring hope to people who are learning and persisting to live and promote this lifestyle.
    From all of us at URBAN LEAVES we wish you a Very Happy New Year. may god bless you all with what you love most… with family, farms and friends… : ) Hope to see you in India in near future…!

    Love and best wishes


  7. URBAN HOMESTEADING IN REVIEW | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] Check out our rundown of highlights for 2009, especially our trips as urban homesteading ambassadors to Greece, Israel, Italy and India. […]

  8. TALLY HO 2009 | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] Pretty good considering 2009 was a year full of whacked out weather & bug infestations the likes we’ve never seen before (thanks to climate change),  in addition to our trips as urban homesteading ambassadors to Greece, Israel, Italy and India. […]

  9. satish says:

    its nice to here your trip to 4 country in world and specialy indian’a trip

  10. Jogesh Yogi says:

    Anais, it was exhilerating to read about your India experience. You guys are definitely a role model for the world to follow. It is quite revelational what the little girl said, “thank you for bringing the Indian way of life back to India”.

    India in the last couple of decades have undergone tremendous change due to irresponsible industrialization. The human greed and ambition has engulfed India, where children are toiling 12 to 14 hours a day studying for tests to excel in them, the so called middle class is confused and lost trying to acquire the next gadget in the market. The culture is undergoing an enermous amount of confusion propelled by the market economy. So, I join the little girl in thanking you for bringing the Indian way of life back to India. India needs a lot of reminders about its balanced, yogic way of living.

    I was not aware of your movie “Home Grown Revolution”. Surely I will try to watch it in next day or two. I very much enjoyed the pictures posted by you – they tell such a story!

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