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An Intro to Urban Homesteading with the Dervaes Family

Last updated by on 9 Comments

Urban Homesteading? What the Heck is that?

Ever wondered what it would be like to grow all of your own food at home, be completely independent from economic recession, gas prices, not knowing what kind of pesticides or other crap is dumped on your food, and the stress of feeling that you have to work a 9-to-5 job in order to put food on the table? If you’ve wanted to make that dream a reality, then urban homesteading, aka urban farming, might be the path for you.

Meet the Dervaes Family

Jules Dervaes and his four children moved to Pasadena, California (a Los Angeles suburb) in 1986. Jules slowly turned his one-fifth acre lot into a completely self-sustaining farm and urban garden to feed his family of four and actually have enough yield left over to make a decent income selling his food to local restaurants.

In fact, he’s done such a great job at it, that three of his four children are still living with him (all into their twenties and thirties), and here’s the kicker – NONE of them have jobs! You heard that right. They are all able to live on the food and income (about $30k per year) that their little one-fifth acre lot farm generates. And they’ve created an exceptional blog to boot, called Path to Freedom.

Pictures, or videos, often speak louder than words, so here’s a story that ABC’s Nightline did on the Dervaes urban farming family:

What I Love About Urban Homesteading

The Dervaes family story is great for so many different reasons:

  • The family is very cohesive and happy doing what they are doing.
  • They have built a true community amongst their neighbors and at home.
  • At this point, they are probably carbon negative.
  • They sell product to local restaurants, cutting down on the restaurant’s carbon footprint.
  • They have learned skills that have been lost over the years.
  • They are recession proof. Neither food nor fuel prices affect them much at all (other than the price they can charge for their food going up if food prices increase).
  • They work for themselves. No stress of a full-time job.
  • They took a rather boring house and made it beautiful with food.
  • They know where all their food has come from and that it’s natural and healthy.

urban homesteading

The Challenges of Urban Homesteading:

Their lives sound like utopian bliss, but let’s get realistic. I’m sure they had to overcome a hell of a lot to get there.

The Dervaes family have built a garden of Eden within their own backyard, but that didn’t happen overnight. The skills that they learned took years to learn and develop and most likely a lot of trial and error. Doing what they are doing also probably also took a huge up front investment to be able to buy all of the equipment that they have (and I’m guessing they had paid off the home in full). Not to mention that there are very few climates where you could do what they do year round (and homes in California are not cheap).

However, you shouldn’t let those things hold you back from following your dreams. Start small, find mentors, and slowly get to the place that you want to be. You might not get all the way to where the Dervaes family has ended up, but you may just become an urban homesteading model example in your own town.

Urban Farming Discussion:

  • What’s your take on the Dervaes family and what they have created?
  • Do you see urban homesteading as something you are interested in?
  • What steps have you already taken to get there?

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9 Comments »
  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    If they are happy, then it’s awesome for them! More power to ‘em!

    I dislike gardening and manual labor in general, so this is my idea of a hellish existence. Now, if I can ever make a solid living off my blog, that’s my utopia. :-)

    What’s your idea of the great life? What’s your dream job?

  • Bree says:

    To me, this is amazing. There are a group of us that have contemplating buying some homes in the same area, and doing that on our own. By doing it, we would be able to support eachother in a healthier way, but we’d also be able to share our same beliefs, help watch after eachother’s children and animals.
    I am ALL about this!

  • Squirrelers says:

    Interesting topic. I have family that moved to California about ten years ago, and they have a garden which is massive and provides them with a substantial portion of their vegetable and fruit consumption. I have to say, after visiting, that its great for health to eat such fresh food. They are retired, and live in a nice subdivision but have what amounts to a full lot adjacent to their home serving as a mini farm. Truly seems like the best of worlds for them.

  • Natalie says:

    I am fascinated by self-sustainability. However, living in a city apartment most of my life has limited my options until now. I purchased my first home with a yard in the past year. We’ve already planted fruit trees and a small garden. With raised beds and tiered planters I’m sure we can eventually grow most of the vegetables for a family of three. I’m just starting and I’m making many mistakes, but I can’t wait to see what my home will look like in five years. There are many challenges, but even in my small duplex on 1/12 of an acre in the middle of the desert, I’m sure a lot can be accomplished.

  • iklych says:

    It is an absolutely unethical family. They use their volunteers to send requests to Facebook to shut down accounts of other homesteaders over the USA making false claim that their trademark registration for several common phrases like “urban homesteading”, “urban homestead” allows this family to have an exclusive rights of use for those common words and phrases. Trademark law doesn’t give such exclusivity to the type of trademark they own. This family caused damages to many groups when facebook and blogs were disabled because of their claims. They don’t want Urban homesteading movement to grow – they want to get royaly and benefits from trademark registration.

    • elizabeth macgaunn says:

      After viewing the video and reading the article about the Dervaes’s I was so impressed, until I read about the patent infringements and trademark problems. Please, if any of the Dervaes family reads this, give it more thought. Why can’t share your recipe for success at no charge? Do you want out? Do you want $$$$? Is that what sustainability has come down to for you? Too bad.

      • jamie says:

        do you not understand that people who have been successful and make their living off the land need to make a living too so why so should they share any info for free if others make money from a book /classes about the same thing/ if you want someone to consult with you it costs money==get real and wake up and don’t try to take advantage of people/ everyone else would be paid for whatever they have learned/ everyone makes money from one’s expertise. to give it away for free cheapens whatever the info is.

        • anitra says:

          Oh, someone who has brains! The rest of the derogatory comments I have read on the net sound so ignorant and not at all based on logic or proof! I think that the title says it all “Urban Homesteading? What the Heck is that?” meaning that,obviously, the Dervaes made the term popular as people don’t even know what the term means! They deserve to have it for their use.

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