Tag Archives: homegrown revolution

Urban Homesteaders Plant Ideas at Film Fest.

Jules Dervaes seeks his kid's input before answering a question from the audience after the film screening of "Homegrown Revolution", a short documentary of their urban homestead in Pasadena where they grow 6,000 pounds of produce on one tenth of an acre each year. Photo by Christopher.

Jules Dervaes seeks his kid's input before answering a question from the audience after the film screening of "Homegrown Revolution", a short documentary of their urban homestead in Pasadena where they grow 6,000 pounds of produce on one tenth of an acre each year. Photo by Christopher.

Watching Kerri gently raise her garden over the last few weeks has been quite a treat. The look she gets when something new has sprouted, and the sheer excitement that radiates from her as she checks in on the food landscape that is taking over our patio is inspiring. While I have borne witness to several new crops grown from seeds recently, what we saw today takes urban gardening to a whole new level.

Jules Dervaes and his three adult children have been growing their own food, and working to live off the grid for nearly a decade. Their urban homestead located in Pasadena is both a revolution in living and a model for self-sufficency. Their short film “Homegrown Revolution” was shown today as part of the Cottonwood Environmental Film Festival here in Encinitas, and the Dervaes family was present to answer questions and distribute information from a booth in the back of the room.

The short film documents how the Dervaes have transformed 1/10 of an acre, which used to include a driveway, into a 6,000 pound urban garden that offers up 350 types of useful and edible plants each year. They use every inch of space, which includes vertical gardening, and during the summer are able to provide up to 80 percent of their food needs. During the winter it’s about 50 percent. In contrast, their lawn growing neighbors have little to show for their own patches of earth just 130 feet from the freeway.

Overall, the Dervaes eat about 60 percent of what they grow, sell 30 percent to local chefs, and use the remaining 10 percent to feed to the small number of chickens, ducks and goats that help produce compost.

“The animals help complete the cycle,” Dervaes said as he answered a question from an audience member after the screening.

The few animals they have aren’t for eating, as the family maintains a near-vegetarian diet, but they do eat some of the eggs and milk produced by their furry and feathered friends. The youngest daughter, Jordanne, says they’re more like pets really and that each one has a name. She even takes the goats hiking.

Beyond the growing of food, the family also uses solar energy, human powered appliances (including a bike blender), a graywater system (including an outdoor shower) and would not dare using chemicals to keep away pests. Their nine different compost systems have put their land 18 inches above the plot next door.

This short film however was only a prologue to the feature length film “Fresh” that screened directly afterward.

For those of you who have read Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, this film could have very well been a companion to the section where Pollan is on the Salatin farm. While Pollan himself is interveiwed throughout, seeing Joel Salatin and the farm that Pollan works hard to describe in his book, is the best part of this film.

Filmmaker Ana Sofia Joanes has done a good job of weaving together a few different stories of where our food comes from, and in doing so allows viewers to see that another type of food system is possible, if we’re willing to get our hands dirty, or commit to supporting closed cycle farms that are looking to feed people instead of mono cropping corn and soy to process into other products.

Both films were inspiring, but I’m not convinced that the solutions proposed by either film are going to gain much traction with the majority of Americans who prize convenience above all else. My dad is not going to start a garden, and I’m pretty sure he’s not alone. However, a move in this direction is absolutely essential if we are going to survive as a species.

Unfortunately the one in nine Americans now receiving food stamps is less equipped to make such a radical transition, as many people are just trying to make it to the next paycheck (if they’re lucky enough to have a job – unemployment is now 9.4 percent). If you are paying attention, you know that the United States has reached a record level of federal assistance this week. More Americans than ever before are struggling to feed their families.

Over the last few days there were also several thought-provoking food tidbits to consider. Author Tom Standage was interviewed on National Public Radio about his book “An Edible History of Humanity”, and Jim Motavalli wrote a well reasoned opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine predicting the oncoming vegetarian revolution; he writes that it will come by force rather than choice, and the comments are also worth sifting through.

Until next week,

Christopher

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Real Time, Real Food, Real Change.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Kerri has had a birthday. As a surprise, her family has come down to visit for the weekend. Last night we had tickets to be part of the studio audience at CBS Television City in Hollywood for “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Not only was it neat to be on set in the same studio where “The Price is Right” was filmed for most of its’ television history, it was fantastic to see Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the micro-credit model. This is a man who has changed the world. He has worked tirelessly to bring people out of poverty, mainly through providing women with a way to be economically self-sufficient.

It was also great to see grammy nominated rapper M.I.A. speak out about what has been happening in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people (she escaped in 1984).

After the show we went around the block to eat at Real Food Daily, a wonderful restaurant in West Hollywood that serves organic vegan food that is both hearty and elegant. However, I fretted as the bill approached our table. This was the first meal that Kerri and I have eaten out since we finished our most recent experiment in the economics of eating. It was not cheap. For what we paid to eat, we could have bought groceries for two weeks. But it was her birthday, her family is visiting (which is rare), and the food was exquisite; a special occassion that let me justify the expense.

This morning while Kerri is making breakfast for all of us, McVegan Muffins, the herbivore’s equivalent of a fast-food legend, I found myself both exhiliarated and overwhelmed by the enormity of this conversation about food. When we started this journey, with the challenge of eating on a dollar a day, we had no idea that this dialogue would become our lives. We had no idea how changed we would be. The very rituals of our life have been re-shaped by our experiences.

Parts of this quest have been greatly enhanced by a few different factors. The first is the amount of reading that we have been doing. We read about food every day, and I finish a book on the subject once a week. As result, I would like to share with our readers a couple of blogs that I find helpful. The first is “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle (where I found today’s graphic), and the second is from Food First (an institute for food and development policy). Both are updated frequently with top notch information for those who find themselves strung-out on the ever changing menu of topics related to this subject.

In fact, as a result of the work done by Food First I would like to encourage you to click here to sign a petition that advocates for stripping the biotech research provisions component from bill SB 384. According to Food First, “This attachment to SB 384 is a stealth giveaway to agribusiness in the name of feeding the world’s poor. What it will really do is destroy the ability of poor farmers to feed themselves throughout the global south.”

Next week look forward to our take on a couple new films that will be screened at the Encinitas Environmental Film Festival. Both are about food. The first is called “Homegrown Revolution” and the second, by Sofia Joanes, is called “Fresh.” Thanks to one of our readers for the suggestion.

For now we’re off to the beach.

– Christopher

P.S. There was an interesting artcle in the New York Times today about college students who are headed off for organic summer jobs…

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