Before and after. Radical transformation! Backyard plot in 1985 organically transformed early 1990’s to an urban micro farm producing over 6,000 lbs of vegetables, fruit and herbs. Small is beautiful and productive.
The recent NY Times video piece focused on our family’s urban farming and homesteading lifestyle. It was seven years ago that we first published our journey towards urban self sufficiency online and have seen in the last year or so a growing movement of city folks who are starting to rip out lawns and grow food.
“Cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous and independant citizens.” – Thomas Jefferson
In 1995 Dervaes Gardens was born out of Jules Dervaes’ commitment in growing his families food with additional income to boot. Taking skills and knowledge he acquired in a rural setting with an urban twist and what better occupation than to till the earth and right here in the city.
It all started back in the early 1990’s when Jules Dervaes was fed up with caring for a front lawn that he thought to be a waste of time and money. From that radical act a homegrown business sprouted and is still growing strong. Our small urban plot provides us not only with produce but income and with that we consider that we are directly and indirectly self sufficient. The crops that we can’t grow are purchased with the money received from the produce we sell. The NY Times video reported that our .10 (1/10th) acre plot provides our family with an average income of $25,000. Not a fortune, but enough. And “enough” is enough.
We don’t spend much (well, expect for the procuring PTF expenses — website, outreach, etc). Our food bill is drastically reduced by all the fresh produce, fruit and herbs that we grow with a monthly bill of about ~$500 for a family of four and volunteers. The household utility bills are less than $40 month (including taxes and user fees) and we are careful about conserving our resources. Also, we are blessed with home ownership (traded 10 acres in Florida for this fixer upper in 1985) and for our daily needs we live relatively simply – second hand clothes, making do or doing without. We are not want of much and by pooling our resources we are able to live a comfortable life. We like to think of our project as “the little homestead that could – doing more with less”
Now back to our homegrown business aspect of the urban homestead. One of our clients is featuring our homegrown salad mix and homeraised eggs on the menu!
We all were very pleased to see our name in print. Chef Onil says that the salad greens and eggs are a huge hit (of course, we aren’t surprised) – the customers can’t get over the incredible taste. He normally orders once a week. But within a few days he called up, asking for more because customers liked it so much that he had run out.
TODAY’S SPECIAL (sample from menu)
Onion and gruyere tart with house dried cherry tomatoes, anchovies, Nicoise olives, and Dervaes garden greens…$13 (Salads served with white balsamic vinaigrette and foccacia roll)
Organic Egg Salad
With Dervaes’ chicken and duck eggs, house dried cherry tomatoes on EuroPane rye bread…$10
For over a decade we have slowly transformed our urban plot into a viable (& beautiful) working micro farm. Proving that one no need to move to the country to be self sufficient. We’ve shown by doing that urbanites can grow their own food and turn traditional gardens into market gardens not only to feed themselves but to provide a substantial income.