An Intro to Urban Homesteading with the Dervaes Family

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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