Revolutionary Family Shows True Meaning of Self-Reliance

Think you can't grow much food in an urban area? Think again. One family's 4,000 square foot farm in Pasadena, California "not only feeds a family but revolutionizes the idea of what can be done in a very unlikely place—the middle of a city." KCET reporter Val Zavala gives us a glimpse into the Dervaes family's Path to Freedom Urban Homestead. "I brought the country to the city rather than having to go out to the country," said Jules Dervaes, who created the farm with his three adult children, Justin, Anais and Jordanne.

This urban homestead produces 6,000 pounds of food a year.

They grow almost all of the food they need. Ninety percent of their all-organic, vegetarian diet comes from their garden. The operation involves 400 varieties of vegetables, fruits and edible flowers, which is 6,000 pounds of food a year. They raise eight chickens, four ducks and two goats, which provide them with eggs and milk. Chefs from high-end restaurants come directly to their house to buy their excess.

When asked if he had any doubts in the beginning, Jules admits he did. "I kept thinking this place was too small. There's no way that we are going to be able to feed ourselves, plus I never thought we'd be able to grow the vegetables for the market," he said. Dervaes decided to embark on this endeavor because he was concerned about what was in his and his children's food. He wanted them to eat organic, GMO-free food, and he knew the best way to ensure that was to grow it himself.

The Dervaes' say they love their homesteading lifestyle and couldn't imagine it any other way.

The family has a solar panel on the roof that provides all of their electricity. Not that they use much. Most of their "gizmos," says Anais, "are hand-powered" like their hand-crank smoothie maker. That puts their electricity bill at about $12 per month. Their car runs on biodiesel, which they make from vegetable waste that restaurants drop off at their house for free. These people have all the hook ups.

But it's not all sunshine and flowers (though they have plenty of both). The Dervaes' work very hard, make roughly $20,000 a year and have to deal with weather-related disasters, pests, disease and now climate change. Justin said, "we've been gardening so long that you can sense things are off. We have this little bug, the Junebug, that comes out in June, but now it doesn't come out until July, August and September—so something is off." Water is also a serious issue. With the drought in California, Jules has relied on clay pot irrigation, an ancient form of irrigation, to conserve water.

All that hard work is well worth it when the family sits down to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

By growing all of their food themselves, except staples such as wheat, rice and oats, they are able to eat fresh and delicious, organic food for $2 a day per person. They have attracted a lot of attention since they began homesteading in the mid 1980s. Many homesteaders have emulated their model. They offer workshops and events on their farm, and they even have a blog. They are proof of the bounty you can grow on one-tenth of an acre.

Watch here as KCET's Zavala reports on this revolutionary family:


Grow Food Year Round With Radically Sustainable Passive Solar Greenhouse

10 Most Important Things We Can Do to Change the Food System

Finding Solutions That Nourish Ourselves and Protect the Planet

Show Comments ()

Trump Administration Offers 77 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to Oil Industry

The Trump administration is holding the biggest offshore oil and gas lease auction in U.S. history Wednesday, offering all 77 million acres of unleased, available federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sale comes as administration officials seek to rescind drilling safety rules approved after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, reduce royalties paid by oil companies, and expand offshore drilling into every ocean in the country.

Keep reading... Show less
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Mitchell Resnick

Pruitt to Restrict Use of Scientific Data in EPA Policymaking

In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.

The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.

Keep reading... Show less
Mity / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

20% of U.S. Diets Responsible for Almost Half of Country’s Food-Related Emissions, Study Finds

If you've been deliberating about going vegetarian, a study published Tuesday in Environmental Letters might give you the final push.

Keep reading... Show less
Sea Shepherd small boat assists the Liberian Coast Guard to chase down the F/V Hai Lung. Sea Shepherd

Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd

A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.

Keep reading... Show less

7 Must-See Films at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Fest

It's that time, again!

EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full.' EU Commission Twitter

EU Approves Controversial Bayer-Monsanto Merger

The European Union approved Bayer's takeover of Monsanto, a major hurdle in the $66 billion merger that would create the world's largest integrated seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."

Keep reading... Show less
Todd Porter & Diane Cu

How Much Daily Activity You Need to Burn off 9 Healthy (But High-Calorie) Foods

By Luke Doyle

A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. But some of these foods come with high calorie counts and the "healthy" label doesn't mean it's okay to consume unlimited amounts of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Marine debris laden beach in Hawaii. NOAA Marine Debris Program / Flickr

Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years

If we don't act now, plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years, according to a startling new report.

The Future of the Sea report, released Wednesday for the UK government, found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!