A Family Farm in the Midst of Suburbia

And the real money-saver lately is their car. It's a diesel engine, but they never buy fuel. Instead, his son, Justin, makes it out of waste vegetable oil he collects from local restaurants. It costs them a dollar a gallon.

From Curious Neighbors to Eager Patrons

And at a certain point, the car, the crops, and their persistence made the family, rather than strange, into an interesting part of the community. Neighbors began dropping by to buy eggs and vegetables. Schoolchildren visit on field trips. They even have an Internet business selling earth-friendly farm tools and products. The family of four lives on $30,000 a year.

"We eat rich, I'm telling you," he said. "And the way we live -- it just seems like something you would dream of."

Late one afternoon, Justin gassed up the car with his home-brew fuel, and the Dervaes family made the rounds of restaurants they supply with fresh vegetables. One such eatery is Elements, a new restaurant with a superb chef named Onil Chibas, who loves their produce and names one of his salads after the family.

Branding Their Lifestyle

The Dervaes' lifestyle at this point depends on there being enough people who will pay 13 dollars for a salad. Otherwise, they don't have that market for their vegetables. They also depend on nature being nice to them. They need rain.

Then there are the social consequences of their profound frugality. How or where are these three young adults who are at home all day every day going to get to meet other people?

"We're looking for farmers," said Anias Dervaes. "I'm looking for a farmer, my sister is looking for another farmer. But farmers are hard to find in LA."

And so her dad who likes solutions has been organizing potluck dinners for like-minded folks, in part to expand the family's social horizons and of course the entertainment doesn't cost a dime, but more important, it's homemade, homegrown, practically a part of the garden.

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