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Meet the Dervaes

November 18, 2009


I have lived in Southern California all my life with the exception of a few years spent in NorCal in the latter half of the 80s and in London in the early 90s. Yet I had never heard of The Dervaes, whom – since the mid-80s – have been doing something quite amazing, right in the heart of L.A. County.

I asked around my fellow Guidance Green team members and apparently, I am not the only one who’s never heard of them. So without further ado, meet the Dervaes.

In only a tenth of an acre, the Dervaes family has been able to create what many would consider impossible: an urban homestead. Living in Pasadena, Calif., Jules Dervaes and his three adult children (Justin, Anais and Jordanne) are surrounded by many of the typical things you’d see in an area like L.A. – cars, freeways, houses – and by some that are far less typical – goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and over 350 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries.

So how do they fit all of that into one-tenth of an acre? It wasn’t easy for the Dervaes but they were really determined to make it happen. And as if that wasn’t complex enough, they wanted to up their ante by doing everything in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. Here are some interesting facts about the day-to-day operations of their urban homestead:

  • Up to 6,000 pounds of produce are harvested annually on one-tenth of an acre.

  • The Dervaes family grows 99% of the produce they consume; the remaining food that the family consumes is either bought in bulk, organically-grown, locally-grown, and/or are fair-trade certified. The family has kept a vegetarian diet for over 17 years.

  • 12 solar panels provide two-thirds of the energy they consume (6 kWh per day), which is already 80-percent less energy than what the average American household consumes (29.2 kWh per day, according to the Department of Energy).

  • The family raises small stock like chickens, ducks, rabbits, and goats for eggs, milk and/or manure. In addition, the Dervaes are beekeepers for the extraction of unfiltered/unheated honey.

  • Some of the energy and water conservation efforts the family practices include using energy-efficient appliances and lighting (some are even non-electrical or hand-powered, like their stationary bike-blender kit), reusing laundry water, and using a low-flushing toilet along with a toilet lid sink.

  • Their diesel car runs on homebrewed biodiesel and is driven only 3 out of the 7 days of the week, for approximately 4,000 miles per year. That is 66-percent fewer miles than what the average American drives per year, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

  • Self-employed since 1974, the Dervaes sell their homegrown produce to local restaurants and caterers (through DervaesGardens.com), sell plant seeds through their own seed company (FreedomSeeds.org), and sell eco-friendly goods online (at PeddlersWagon.com).


Since 1999, the Dervaes have been documenting their efforts and sharing them online to help engage others interested in following their footsteps. To learn more about the Dervaes and how to turn your home into an urban homestead, visit their website at PathToFreedom.com.