Urban Farmers Plant Seeds Of Change

Dusting off the archives, just kidding.   But, seriously, this CBS story was actually shot back in June 2008 and then a small snipped again in August 2008 when Mr Whittaker actually come to shoot his stand up walking in the garden sound bite,

After 9 months and many false alarms, the piece FINALLY aired last night.

(CBS) Jules Dervaes and his three children are groundbreaking pioneers. CBS news correspondent Bill Whitaker reports they are at the forefront of a fast-growing movement in these hard economic times: getting rid of the sacred front lawn and replacing it with the urban farm.

“We turned ours into a garden in the front yard, and the side yards,” Dervaes said, where they grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, grapes and apples.

This veritable Eden is on a standard lot on an average street in Pasadena. In fact the whole lot would fit on the football field at the Rose Bowl down the street seven times.

“We are cultivating one-tenth of an acre and can grow up to 6,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables per year.

So much food, they started selling organic produce to upscale restaurants. They say they’re saving the earth, and they know they’re saving money. Daughter Anais says they spend a few hundred dollars a month on staples they can’t grow, like flour and rice.

“Everything else is homegrown,” Anais said.

Spending on vegetable gardening in the U.S. shot up a whopping 21 percent in just the last year. For the Dervaeses, it’s a full time job, but anybody can garden, they say.

“Most of this stuff was picked just this morning,” said Michael Fonti, showing off a bounty from his front lawn in suburban Los Angeles. Architect Fritz Haeg helped them transform their lawn.

“It happens to be one of the most wasteful, useless spaces,” Haeg said of lawns.

Eyeing some 30 million front lawns in America, he’s the Johnnie Appleseed of gardening, sowing his green revolution from California to Kansas, New Jersey, Baltimore, and even London.

“It’s such a natural thing, to grow your own food and yet, such a radical thing,” Haeg said.

It’s seeds of change, taking us back to the future.

Courtesy of CBS Evening News

A little history

We were first contacted by Fritz Haeg back in 2002 after hearing about our project he wanted to tour our garden.  We were then invited to show off our edible landscape, mini farm and urban homestead in 2004 at Haeg’s Garden Lab project at the Arts Center College of Design.

In 2005, inspired by our edible front yard Fritz Haeg launched the Edible Estate project.  Since then Haeg has moved on and we recently got this email from him

hello dervaes family,
i’ve been so happy to see so many stories about what you are up to these days! i think it is really encouraging the way the media and culture have finally come around to understanding what you have already doing for years.
i get a lot of emails from various local people interested in helping out in a garden project, being involved locally in some way, or taking a workshop….but i am not really around much any more, and am not sure what opportunities to direct them to. do you all ever need volunteers, or would you be interested in having some of these people forwarded to you?
happy ’09 & warmest regards,


  1. Ben says:

    Do you guys REALLY spend “a few hundred dollars” per month on staples? Rice and flour are pretty cheap… especially if you buy in bulk (which I imagine you do). I’d be surprised if you spend more than $100/mo for the 4 of you. A few hundred seems especially high.

    Can you clarify?

  2. Shirley says:

    Ben, they also buy organic dairy which was not mentioned.

    It is so good to see what Fritz is doing for others.

  3. Nick says:

    I discovered the Dervaes’ Urban Homestead at that show at the Art Center, and I’ve been checking this website ever since (and I toured the house during the Earth Day thing the city did a couple years ago). Still don’t do much on my Pasadena lot besides grow tomatoes, but at least I know it’s possible.

  4. Yanna says:

    As the media focuses increasingly on how Americans are beginning to grow more of their food (there’s also a special article in this month’s Countryside Magazine, for example), it’s interesting that food safety bills at both the state and federal levels are threatening to encroach heavily on small producers. It will be interesting to see how the future of U.S. food security develops.

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