SEEDING CHANGE

Freedom Gardeners of the World, Unite! Photo Copyright 2004 Path to Freedom

Seeding Change: Website Seeks to Liberate Diets—and Wallets—from Supermarket

Site’s “100-Foot Diet” Brings Local Food Movement Home

PASADENA, CA. – July 7, 2008 – Think of it as Facebook meets the Farmer’s Almanac: A social networking site for backyard pioneers who want to fight soaring food prices and global warming by growing their own food. At FreedomGardens.org, novice and expert growers from all over the world can gather to post success stories, ask questions, and challenge one another to ever-increasing levels of self-sustained living.

The site is backed by the example of its founders, the Dervaes family, the urban-dwelling “eco-pioneers” who have been growing most of their own food since 2001. On their one-fifth acre residential lot in Pasadena, Jules Dervaes and his three adult children, Anais, Justin, and Jordanne, grow over 400 varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers-with enough left over to run an award-winning “green” business selling fresh organic produce to local restaurants and caterers.

Few can match that output, but the Dervaeses say that by growing at least a portion of what they eat, “Freedom Gardeners” everywhere can take back control from the corporate food system. In the process, they can improve their health, reduce their ecological footprint, and save money. With food price inflation at the highest levels since 1990, the latter may be the most compelling reason to join what the Dervaeses call their “homegrown revolution(TM).”

To motivate new gardeners and focus their efforts, Freedom Gardens offers challenges like the 100-Foot Diet. With a nod to the 100-Mile Diet and other “eat local” initiatives, the 100-Foot Diet urges people to garden in whatever space they have available, be it a small patio or a spacious backyard, then prepare at least one meal a week using as many homegrown ingredients, and as few store-bought ingredients, as possible.

Mr. Dervaes uses the illustration of a target to explain the 100-Foot Diet in the context of the global food economy and the distance food travels from field to plate. “The outer ring of the target is overseas, while the circle at 1,500 miles represents the average distance produce in a grocery store travels. The 100-mile diet is getting you closer to the center. But, the 100-foot diet is actually bringing you right back to your home, and that is the bull’s-eye,” he says. “We want people to look for food security in their own backyard.”

Freedom Gardens is an offshoot of the family’s first website, PathtoFreedom.com, a seven year-old sustainable living blog that gets 5 million hits per month from 125 different countries. The new, more interactive site uses social networking software to connect visitors with other gardeners in their area. They can share tips about local climate and soil issues, display which challenges they are participating in on their profiles, and find others nearby doing the same challenge.

“We are providing the setting for ‘over-the-fence’ chats,” says Mr. Dervaes. “Neighbors can help each other more than we can from our particular locale. Through the website, we facilitate their getting together.”

Growing your own diet is not easy, but the Dervaeses are living proof that it is not impossible either. In their first year of full-time gardening, the family’s harvest was over 2,300 pounds; by 2003, their yearly take had reached over 6,000 pounds. This year they have challenged themselves to reach a new all-time high: 10,000 pounds from a one-tenth acre urban garden.

The Dervaes family has received several local awards and congressional recognition for their environmental contributions and outreach efforts. They have been the subject of numerous articles in newspapers around the country, including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, and were recently featured on ABC’s Nightline and CNN.

About Freedom Gardens

Launched in May 2008, Freedom Gardens is a social networking website for gardeners and homegrown food enthusiasts. The site’s founders, the Dervaes family, draw on years of personal experience on their model urban homestead to help others take back control of their diets and their budgets by growing more of their own food. For more information, please visit www.freedomgardens.org.

Comments(20)

  1. Sinfonian says:

    Boy, that 100 foot challenge is tempting. Unfortunately my garden here in the PNW is severely limiting on food choices right now. While I likely have enough salad greens to eat salad 2 meals a day, and peas for several meals a week, but that’s about it. The rest of my crops are so slow growing that I would starve to death on a 100 foot diet. Besides, I am not a vegetarian, which puts another crimp on it.

    Ah well, kudos to all that can participate. What a lofty, yet attainable goal!

  2. Sinfonian says:

    Boy, that 100 foot challenge is tempting. Unfortunately my garden here in the PNW is severely limiting on food choices right now. While I likely have enough salad greens to eat salad 2 meals a day, and peas for several meals a week, but that’s about it. The rest of my crops are so slow growing that I would starve to death on a 100 foot diet. Besides, I am not a vegetarian, which puts another crimp on it.

    Ah well, kudos to all that can participate. What a lofty, yet attainable goal!

  3. lavonne says:

    Um, that link is bad. You have a comma after the w’s instead of a dot. 🙂

  4. lavonne says:

    Um, that link is bad. You have a comma after the w’s instead of a dot. 🙂

  5. melisa says:

    excellent press release. well written.

    thank you all for the daily inspiration!

  6. melisa says:

    excellent press release. well written.

    thank you all for the daily inspiration!

  7. Eric says:

    Sinfonian…
    Don’t count yourself out so easily….it’s sounds like you’re aready doing fine!
    The goal is to produce as much of your meals as you can. If that means that you provide yourself with a salad a few times a week then you are well on your way. By trying to eat out of your garden, you realize opportunities to incorporate more homegrown produce into your growing/eating routine.

  8. Eric says:

    Sinfonian…
    Don’t count yourself out so easily….it’s sounds like you’re aready doing fine!
    The goal is to produce as much of your meals as you can. If that means that you provide yourself with a salad a few times a week then you are well on your way. By trying to eat out of your garden, you realize opportunities to incorporate more homegrown produce into your growing/eating routine.

  9. Alida says:

    THanks for the inspiration. I found you b/c of CNN. You inspired and my little 5 year old just ate a homegrown strawberry this week. Not from the store. She is amazed to see the fruits coming from the plants in our own yard.

  10. Alida says:

    THanks for the inspiration. I found you b/c of CNN. You inspired and my little 5 year old just ate a homegrown strawberry this week. Not from the store. She is amazed to see the fruits coming from the plants in our own yard.

  11. Alida says:

    Thanks for the Freedom Gardens site and the challanges !

  12. Alida says:

    Thanks for the Freedom Gardens site and the challanges !

  13. bethanne says:

    I make sure that at least one ingredient in every meal is from my garden. Sometimes it is the main ingredient, sometimes not.

  14. bethanne says:

    I make sure that at least one ingredient in every meal is from my garden. Sometimes it is the main ingredient, sometimes not.

  15. Susy says:

    Over the past year DH and I have been trying to eat as much locally grown food as possible, and we try to shop at stores that offer locally grown products. We’re proud to support local business not only in food, but in all other things as well. We try to buy from small businesses (being small business owners ourselves).

    We’re more of a 100 mile diet people, we grow some of our own food, more in coming years I’m sure.

  16. Susy says:

    Over the past year DH and I have been trying to eat as much locally grown food as possible, and we try to shop at stores that offer locally grown products. We’re proud to support local business not only in food, but in all other things as well. We try to buy from small businesses (being small business owners ourselves).

    We’re more of a 100 mile diet people, we grow some of our own food, more in coming years I’m sure.

  17. Susy says:

    I put the press release on my site: http://chiotsrun.com/2008/07/09/100-foot-diet-press-release/

  18. Susy says:

    I put the press release on my site: http://chiotsrun.com/2008/07/09/100-foot-diet-press-release/

  19. Melissa says:

    We picked 5 little okra spears tonight from our tiny front yard garden. It’s where the previous owner had flower beds but I decided to grow okra, basil, and potatoes. Like I said – tiny! But my partner is on board for converting the whole front yard into a veggie garden. I don’t think I could’ve convinced him on my own – but he stumbled across your web site and really loves the idea! Thanks for the inspiration.

    We plan on planting some berry vines on our backyard’s fence as well as some dwarf fruit trees and other perennial edibles. The garden can’t go back there because it’s where the clothesline, dog, and kids go. Eventually we’ll add chickens to that! How do you keep stray cats, raccoons, and the like away from your chickens?

    I’d love any advice you might have on getting rid of grass. We have bermuda. It’s going to be a long fight.

  20. Melissa says:

    We picked 5 little okra spears tonight from our tiny front yard garden. It’s where the previous owner had flower beds but I decided to grow okra, basil, and potatoes. Like I said – tiny! But my partner is on board for converting the whole front yard into a veggie garden. I don’t think I could’ve convinced him on my own – but he stumbled across your web site and really loves the idea! Thanks for the inspiration.

    We plan on planting some berry vines on our backyard’s fence as well as some dwarf fruit trees and other perennial edibles. The garden can’t go back there because it’s where the clothesline, dog, and kids go. Eventually we’ll add chickens to that! How do you keep stray cats, raccoons, and the like away from your chickens?

    I’d love any advice you might have on getting rid of grass. We have bermuda. It’s going to be a long fight.

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