URBAN HOMESTEADING: The Dervaes family’s sustainable path to freedom

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. Mohandas Gandhi

URBAN HOMESTEADING: The Dervaes family’s sustainable path to freedom (via Union Weekly)
Interview and photos by Chelsea Rosenthal

Jules Dervaes, the pioneer of the homesteading movement in downtown Pasadena, believes there are two types of hard.  There is a meaningful hard and a meaningless hard,” says Dervaes, “I know what I do is difficult,but I have a purpose and I can see a future.”

Forty years ago, Dervaes sought a more natural and a low-impact lifestyle.  Today, he and his family have become self-sufficient celebrities, dubbing their urban lot “Path to Freedom.”  They tend to over 350  different types of vegetables, fruits and herbs on just 1/10 of an acre, producing roughly 6,000 pounds of produce every year.  I got  the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Dervaes in their Pasadena home, after helping with morning  farm chores, of course.

Union Weekly: What inspired you to want  to lead a self-sufficient lifestyle?

Jules Dervaes: We had pollution problems like acid rain and DDT, and no one was doing anything about it. It was the beginning of the “Me Generation” and I didn’t think society had what it took to raise a good family.   I was sampling what was happening and I didn’t like the taste, so I left–started searching for some country roots.

UW: What would you say to those who believe that taking steps to to living a low-impact lifestyle is too difficult?

JD: Heck, I think going on the freeway is too difficult.  And I definitely wouldn’t want to work for a corporation in this economic climate.  Hard is a good thing if you have a purpose.  And there’s always a prupose in the natural system, not the artificial.

UW: The local and slow food movements have recently become more mainstream.  Do you think it’s a fad or does the cultural shift towards sustainability mean it is actually picking  up steam?

JD: Yes and no.  At least the awareness level has increased..  But we tend to treat things as fads.It’s become cool!  People in our neighborhood used to not talk to us, but now we’re cool.  I’m afraid of what is going to happen when it’s uncool again.  And the whole “Green” thing is marketing scheme, it’s for the rich.  There are green stunts happening, but not green lifestyles because real green changes are made when there is no applause.

UW: What tips would you give to a college student who wants to make environmentally conscious changes in their life?

JD: Well, I know that they are in a tight situation and they are busy, but you can always look around and see what you have.  Ride your bike more, take a composting class, or find a group of like-minded people.Everything has always been led by the students.  You’re in college to find a better way of life, not pass tests and get jobs.

The lengths at which the Dervaes family attempts self-sufficiency can be daunting.  But you don’t have to start brewing your own bio-diesel or installing an outdoor shower to make some positive change sin your own life. “Start taking small steps, says Dervaes, “because you don’t know where they are going to go.”

For more information and inspiration from the Dervaes family, visit their website at http://www.pathtofreedom.com

Coming Up –Around the World in Four Posts!

With the holidays and new year coming up (um, I am getting a little freaked about writing 20…1….0),  going to take a little break from posting dispatches from the urban homestead.

Instead, going to feature highlights from trips taken this year as family become urban homestead ambassadors in a marathon posting blitz with photos.  After the blitz it’ll be back to urban homestead happenings!

Wishing everyone safe travels and happy holidays.

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