Living a self-sufficient life conjures up images of packing a bag and heading into the middle of nowhere to live off the land. It is a dream that many people share but for many of us who work and live in cities, the idea of self-sufficiency plan is little more than a pipe dream. With the numbers of people living in cities continuing to increase, the possibility of growing your own food appears to be increasingly unlikely.
However, one family in Los Angeles is proving that it is possible to live self-sufficiently even in an urban environment. The Dervaes family, who live just 15 minutes from the heart of the city, have found an efficient way to turn their 400m2 garden into a flourishing farm.
The Dervaes’ Massive Garden Story
The Dervaes’ path to complete self-sufficiently began thirty years ago when Jules Dervaes, the brains behind the family operation, wanted to find a healthier way to feed his three children. The eureka moment came when he bought and ate a box of taco shells that were meant to have been withdrawn from shelves after evidence was found that some of the ingredients were genetically modified. It was at that moment that he realized that it was his responsibility to ensure that the food his children ate was entirely healthy, and the only way he could guarantee that was to grow it himself.
Over the past 30 years, he has converted their garden into a farm that produces 6,000 pounds of vegetables and edible flowers a year, from an astronomical 400 different species of plants. On top of this, they also raise bees, chickens, ducks and even pet goats, which contribute 25 lbs of honey, 900 eggs, 1000 eggs, and affection respectively.
The Dervaes have come a long way since the inception of their mini Eden in the city, a journey that Jules himself admits seemed unlikely at the start. ‘At the beginning, I really didn’t believe I could do it,’ he told SoCal Connected. ‘I had some doubts. I kept thinking this place was too small, that there’s no way we’re going to be able to feed ourselves and take vegetables to market.’
Jules’ earliest reservations have proven to be completely unfounded. The family makes as much as $20,000 a year, have award winning restaurants knocking at their door to buy fresh ingredients, and get six million hits a month or their Facebook page. This makes them enough money for all of the family to remain living together, enabling them to continue the upkeep and maintenance of the farm.
Environmental commitment and the future
Jules’ commitment to sustainable and self-sufficient living isn’t restricted to the food they eat. The house is kitted out with state of the art solar panels which keep their electricity bill down to just $12 a month.
An even greater show of their commitment to sustainability is seen when the family fills up their car. Rather than going to the gas station, they go to local restaurants and take their old frying grease off their hands for free. Then in their biodiesel brewing station, they can turn the fat into fuel for their cars!
For Jules, his own mini-farm is just a start, as he looks to a future where he can create his own homestead village, where his two daughters and his son can live with their own families alongside other like-minded people. He sees the growing of your own food as the start of living a freer life and protecting the planet.
‘Growing food yourself is a dangerous act because you’re in danger of becoming free,’ he muses. ‘We are all in the same boat, on the same planet, and there are people now asking deep questions about the future of the planet.’
Jules Dervaes and his family are a shining example to all of us that it is possible to live an entirely self-sufficient life without having to abandon human civilization. We may not all be able to start a thriving farm with the space at our disposal but starting to grow some of your own food is a very real possibility.