A Family Farm in the Midst of Suburbia

From homemade fuel to an outdoor shower, a family makes an impact on the earth.

ByABC News
May 15, 2008, 1:25 PM

May 15, 2008— -- Is it neat, or is it slightly odd that in this Los Angeles community -- it's called Pasadena -- a suburban mix of nice restaurants and well-tended front lawns, there is a home wedged in with the other houses where the entire front yard is edible?

It's true. At 631 Cypress Avenue, there is not one thing that cannot be eaten. Nothing. Kale, chives, pepper, pinapple, guava, Swiss chard, even edible flowers along the side of the house, and into the back yard.

It is Jules Dervaes' fifth of an acre. His little family farm, in the midst of American suburbia, his way of breaking free without really going anywhere.

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

The "we" he speaks of are his kids, who grew up on the farm. Three out of four of them have stayed on into their 20's and 30's, and they don't have other jobs either because what they don't eat, they sell.

Not that it was easy for them when they were little, and their dad, to save money, stopped watering the front lawn and started preparing to plant crops there.

"We had a rough go in the neighborhood," said Dervaes, chuckling. "My children had issues with other children wanting to know, what's up with your dad?"

He is able to laugh now partly because his property became quite beautiful, but also perhaps because of the independence it gives him.

"The world has become more dependent on supermarkets, on corporations, on the gasoline station, on government, and we're just trying to do it ourselves," said Dervaes. "We're trying to make ends meet -- we're trying to put food on our table just like pioneers did in the old-fashioned west not so long ago."

Dervaes isn't an anarchist. And he doesn't hate money. What he hates is working 9 to 5 for someone else and being a slave to paying bills.