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.