Meet a family who achieved what most people would think impossible in a big city. On less than 4,000 square feet of land in the heart of Pasadena, California, the Dervaes family gets all the food they need from their own backyard. This family of farmers grows 400 varieties of vegetables, fruits, greens and edible flowers and also raises their own livestock. But as a poster child for self-sufficiency, their green lifestyle does not stop in the garden. Almost all their electricity comes from solar panels and they use recycled cooking grease to fuel their cars. They’ve even found a money-saving method for washing up using water from their toilet. These are certainly not your typical city-slickers.

My Generation’s Val Zavala is welcomed into the home of these unique backyard trailblazers to discover the technique behind this well-sown clan

Courtesy My Generation AARP HOME & GARDEN

Just to clarify: We planted our first city garden back in 1986, killed our lawn and farmed in the front yard in 1990.   Because of the GMO treat, over 10 years we started to take our “hobby” urban farming efforts more seriously when we took on the challenge to grow 90% of our produce on a 1/10 acre.

:: Resources ::


Solar Ovens

Homebrew Biodiesel Book

How to Grow More Vegetables

Barnyard in your Backyard Collection of Books

Tromboncino Squash from Freedom Seeds

Toilet Lid Sink


  1. Joy Giles says:

    Please know how much you and your family inspire me to do more to do my part. We have a full lot next to our our house, here in Austin, Texas, that we were able to purchase for a paltry sum in the early 90s. It is only developed for food production to the extent that I can handle. I am a retired school teacher (56) and so enjoy doing my part to provide my family and friends with fresh, organic produce. I considered chickens until a huge spike in my cholesterol and figured I would give a great egg lady at the farmers’ market my business on a monthly basis. Thank you for your daily/weekly inspirations.

    • Anais says:

      @Joy Giles: Thank you for that. Comments and stories like this mean a lot to us. We never tire hearing from our readers, in fact, sometime a positive comment or two is what keeps us going thru the day. Kind words are certainly like honey – sweets for the soul!

  2. Konnie says:

    I have seen many clips about your family. I think this is one of the best features. I am always inspired by your family and it spurs me on to do a little better myself.

    • Anais says:

      @Konnie: Glad you enjoyed it, we thought it was a good one too. Could have been longer though since they were here TWO Days and got hours and hours of footage and interviews.

      • Chris says:

        Considering I watch everything about your homestead, this was a nice piece. I own Homegrown Revolution and re-watch it periodically to pause/freeze frame all of your “goings on” as I like to call it (tiered plantings, biointensive plantings, companion plantings, how many ollas in a certain style bed, etc. The DVD is worth so worth it!

        It’s frustrating to read they were there for two days and then see images (that I had never seen) flying by so fast!!! Never saw the sink set-up outside before! Ironically, we just had hot/cold potable faucet hooked up so I can work outside and not be in/out to use my kitchen sink. Then I briefly see your sink set-up outside! How coolio is that, but we barely got to see it!
        Maybe in another post?

        It’s a shame you can’t get your hands on the footage they took, edit it and offer it for sale on your website.
        Anyway, great piece always inspiring!

        • Anais says:

          @Chris: Glad to hear it, we really should do more little clips but haven’t the time. We could easily do some 5 min instructional pieces but it’s really no fun to film and edit ourselves. You think being in TV land somebody would help us out so we could share more but sadly not the case. Yep, there’s A LOT to see here the UH and there could easily be hours of footage and sadly too those never get seen. One of these days!

  3. Jeni says:

    Your family is such an inspiration to my husband and I thank you so much for that! We recently lost our garden this year to a sever hail storm followed by night after night of freezing temps. so I know just how Justin feels now. Nevertheless I love seeing all your updates on your garden and I plan on hitting the farmers market to get some canning goodies. Your family is amazing and you are making such a difference more and more each day! Thank You Again!

    • Anais says:

      @Jeni: Oh man sorry to hear about your garden. Thank you for the positive comments and all the best to you

  4. Energy Crisis and HOA's says:

    […] few years ago I stumbled across this Path to Freedom website. I have always been intrigued by this family who has been working towards self sufficiency on 1/10 of an acre! It is amazing all the small, […]

  5. Citysister says:

    Your family is such an inspiration! Currently, we have neighbors that think we are nuts for having chickens, and think that gardens are for flowers…oh well they beg us for the eggs, and think the berries are wonderful, but still don’t get it.

    • Anais says:

      @Citysister: LOL Well at least they have you as neighbors who share! Perhaps one day they will “GET IT” 😉

  6. Joanna @ Starving Student Survivor says:

    Wow! Very cool and very inspiring. I loved the video, although I thought it was kind of funny how they made it look like Michelle Obama invented backyard vegetable gardening. 🙂

  7. Julie says:

    Love the video. It was nice to see video of your Urban Homestead. We are trying to also take our garden to a new level next year. We have a 1/8 acre lot. I hope it is successful as yours.

    • Anais says:

      @Julie: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Wishing you all the best on your urban homesteading journey

  8. Holly says:

    Kia ora (Hello!) from Holly in New Zealand,

    Wow, I have just stumbled across your amazing story and it will be a tag on my favourite websites to visit. I have been wondering whether i had enough space at home to try a similar project and you have all inspired me to get cracking today. Thank you so much for taking the time and having the vision to show others the way forward for our planet!

    Arohanui (Blessings to you)

    • Anais says:

      @Holly: Kia ora! So nice to hear from a fellow Kiwi. Yep, I was born in NZ (Hokitika) and just was back there in June with my family to visit the old homestead where I was born. So what part of NZ do you live in? Such a beautiful country, I felt as if I was traveling thru “Middle Earth” Thanks for commenting, hoping we can keep in touch!

      • Holly says:

        That’s awesome Anais, I’m living in Hamilton now and have been telling my relatives about your website. My husband is keen to give it a go now that he has seen what you have done too. Love to keep in touch…hope you are all well there and Happy Holidays to you.


        • Anais says:

          @Holly: Are you on Facebook? You can find/friend me by searching my name Anais Dervaes

  9. Dave says:

    Hi how are you folks doing today?? I have a question for you?? Do you folks eat only a vegetarian diet or do you supplement into your diet as well?? I noticed on your site that you have chickens and rabbits. I currently live in a small town in Canada and have grown my own potatoes onions, and other simple greens and root vegetables. In the near future I plan on buying a twenty to thirty acre parcel to set up on. I’ve been balancing alot of options chickens being one of them for food. I do understand that a living chicken will lay an egg or so a day and a butchered one is only two days worth of food. My question is do you feel that a chicken is worth it’s weight to feed for the rewards off of it ex:eggs and meat or do you find that it costs more to feed them than what they can provide in food? Well I do thank you for your time. Have a good day.

    • Anais says:

      @Dave: Thanks for your question. We are vegetarians and do eat dairy and sometimes fish. Right now, we don’t feel the need to kill our laying hens; however that doesn’t mean that if the situation should change (more land) that we’d have to use wisely all that our land provides in ways of food. There are also two types of chickens… laying hens and meat birds. I know folks who raise both for such purposes, so you might want to look into that. Hope I helped, perhaps some of our readers can weigh in too.

      • Dave says:

        Thank you for your input, it is most appreciated. Happy holidays.

        • Anais says:

          @Dave: Sure, you too!

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