One time I planted an herb garden at my place of residence in Los Angeles. The whole thing was contained in one giant pot, and it went great until the basil turned into a bush and took over. I was so proud, and I still considered that herb garden proof that I can grow something/keep something alive. That was until today. When I came across an article about a family that grows 6,000 pounds of organic produce in their BACKYARD. That’s when I realized 4 plants in one pot does not constitute a garden.
The Dervaes family has accomplished what many Angelinos dream of, but few have even come close to accomplishing. While we all want to have fresh, organic produce to put on the table (and some of us may even want to grow our own), usually the best we can do is spend our life savings at Whole Foods.
Photo: The Urban Homestead.
Photo: The Urban Homestead.
Based in Pasadena, the Dervaes’ Urban Homestead produces all the produce they need for a year on just 1/10th an acre of land. The family’s patriarch, Jules, made the decision to create a backyard farmer over 30 years ago. He did so in an effort to take back control over his food. It’s amazing to think that even 30 years ago people were aware of the questionable practices of the food industry.
Since then, Jules and his three children, Justin, Anais, and Jordanne, have operated the homestead, covering each inch of the property with crops. The property can support up to 400 varieties of plants, but this number fluctuates greatly depending on season, drought conditions, the angle of the sun/shade, and various suburban wildlife.
What’s perhaps most impressive about the property, is that all the food is grown organically. Only natural fertilizers like fish, compost, and kelp are used, and the family rejects the use of any chemical sprays.
The homestead also carefully manages its water use. In fact, the property’s water bill for the entire year (including personal use) totals only to $600. That’s seriously impressive. In the garden, the family uses a variety of techniques to make the most of the water they use. Fruit trees are watered with greywater. Many plots are irrigated using the ancient clay pot technique. Otherwise vulnerable soil is covered with mulch. The techniques are both thoughtful and effective.
Photo: The Urban Homestead.
Photo: The Urban Homestead.
In 2004 the homestead installed solar panels, which allows the entire property to run on renewable energy. Although they use the grid as backup, they rely primarily on the energy captured by the sun.
Finally, the whole process is financially sustainable. Although the Dervaes have a relatively low cost of living considering the fact they grow most of their food and supply most of their own energy, extra produce is sold each year totaling to sales over $65,000. That’s pretty exceptional.
The Dervaes Family’s Urban Homestead is a reminder that location need not be a barrier. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can accomplish almost anything, almost anywhere.
You can learn more about the Dervaes family and their Urban Homestead here on their website.