Watch California Heartland Video (5 mins)
Jules Dervaes and his three adult children all live and work together on their family farm in Pasadena, CA. They call themselves, “eco-pioneers.” They say it’s a homegrown revolution that’s taking place, a way for them to get back to a more natural, organic and better way of life. Their mission? To change the world one urban backyard at a time.
California Heartland’s Jennifer Quinonez visits the Dervaes’ home where at the helm is Jules, a man whose vision wasn’t so clear 23 years ago when he bought the 1917 California bungalow for his family. All he knew was that the cost of keeping of a green, but barely usable front yard, was a waste of money and resources. He began taking action and made a shift in the way he lives in an urban city. By clearing out the grass and planting an edible garden, the change began.
In 1991, Jules discovered a way to profit from his garden. Area teahouses were in need for his edible flowers, and that’s when he realized he could make money out of his hobby. But biggest change in his life happened in 2001. When buying organic food became too expensive and difficult to find, and genetically altered food started hitting the market, Jules took matters into his own hands and began “Path to Freedom.”
At this little urban homestead in the big city, the family produces 6,000 pounds of organic produce a year. It’s amazing that their home is on a 1/5 acre and their garden is only on 1/10 acre! The front yard is 95% edible and the rest of the main planters are in the backyard. Every corner is used to grow food. Jules says he doesn’t need more space; he just needs to be a smarter gardener. He looks to the Japanese and Europeans for guidance, those who for thousands of years have had to grow food in a small space. In his garden, or “micro-farm” as he prefers, you’ll find more than 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits, and berries.
In addition to planning crops, the family is truly living an eco friendly lifestyle. They are proud that their energy usage is only 6.5 kilowatt hours a day, and continues to decrease. They make their own biodiesel for their one truck and they also have an outdoor shower for summertime use.
This is now a full-time job for Jules and his three children, who sell their produce to area restaurants. They’ve also expanded into education outreach, started an online store to sell garden & eco-friendly materials and are making it their goal to get people to change their attitude about food. They say, “Food is power, the more we grow ourselves, the better.”
Read episode transcript