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Urban Homesteading Eliminates the Green Acres City vs Country Issue

September 15, 2009 Environment, Farmers' Markets, Media, Popular Culture 11 Comments

Forty-four years ago today the CBS TV series Green Acres was first broadcast.  I loved repeats of this series during the 1970s.  Part of me wanted to live in the urban penthouse while another part wanted to try the farming thing.  The show started with Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) crying over the prospect of leaving the city to follow her husband’s dream of farming the land:


So why am I talking about a campy 60s sitcom?  Last night I listened to Amanda Doyle interview a father (Jules Dervaes) and daughter (Anais Dervaes) on KDHX taking about their urban homestead in Pasadena California where they use their typical urban lot to grow food for themselves and sell the rest to others.

(click image above to view website)
(click image above to view website)

Lisa Douglas didn’t need to be dragged out of the city for Oliver Douglas to farm, a small plot of land in the city is sufficient.   Their website is http://www.pathtofreedom.com/.

The podcast of the interview should be posted on KDHX shortly and is usually available for a week or so.  The podcasts are also on iTunes.

Speaking of farms, today is “Fresh from the Family Farm, a restaurant event to benefit Farm Aid.  Participating restaurants will donate 20% of their September 15 profits to Farm Aid.”  I visited The Terrace View in Citygarden for lunch and will do another restaurant on the participant for dinner tonight.  Will be either Local Harvest Cafe, Stellina Pasta or Pi.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark says:

    I like the idea of the lot being used for food. Most yards are not put to their full potential. Planting something like Okra is a great idea, as it grows like a weed with little work.

    In regard to going out tonight, I would reconsider one of those options. I’ve heard some bad things about the business model and how they expand, not to mention what just transpired on twitter.



  2. anon says:

    Lots of vacant lots in the city could be converted into small gardens. First you have to dig out the underground rubble from previous demolitions which were collapsed into the basement.

    Doing so brings all the lead and asbestos to the surface, but there are ways to handle such situations.

    Farm prices are way down. But those are for the hundred-plus acre corporate farms. Would “farmland” in the city be worth more on a per acre basis?

    One advantage is the free water supply provided by the city. Or do they meter new connections? Hmmm…either way, there is a plentiful supply of low cost water to all city lots.

    The question is, is it financially feasible to bring out a big highlift tractor to excavate all the buried rubble and environmental contaminants in order to open a few thousand square feet of arable city land at a time?

    Consolidating these urban farming areas into larger lots would bring down the cost of cleaning up these sites for reuse.

    Why not do something like this as a stimulus project under President Obama’s economic recovery act. The effort could surely be made shovel ready within a matter of weeks.

  3. Jimmy Z says:

    What people do in their backyards should be pretty much left up to them, within boundaries ( http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/forestry_div/weeds.html ). The challenge with using the front yard for anything other than traditional turf and trees, and especially for vegetable gardening, is the impact on the larger neighborhood – not all (most?) of our neighbors will embrace this agrarian utopian vision. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it, but too many of my anal-retentive south city neighbors would!

  4. john w. says:

    Urban argriculture could also be incorporated into new commercial or housing projects… sharing the land and providing some anchorage to the site’s real estate value. There are many, many open expanses comprised of several contiguous lots that could be redrawn into common agricultural greens integrated into building projects that affront the street and provide appropriate neighborhood infill. This is a brand new concept, but I believe a great one.

  5. Jimmy Z says:

    A good resource: http://www.dug.org/

  6. barbara_on_19th says:

    This is all over the 5th Ward, it is what we do up here. One way to spark urban market gardens is to give a single family a grocery store monopoly and let them close the grocery store in a particular ward for 5 years. Voila! Gardens everywhere! Funny thing is, you kinda don’t go back. We can now get to Culinaria, but the 5 years means there are some nicely built out gardens up and down my street and I don’t need to buy produce all summer. The biggest garden around, New Roots, is is actually a farm, and sells at the North City farmer’s market. It is being blighted by McKee’s big project. I checked, the blight designation is “Overgrown Vegetation”.

  7. Adam says:

    ^ what? does New Roots own the property it farms? does the blight designation mean it’s a candidate for eminent domain? does mckee know it’s a small business and not “overgrown vegetation”?

    [slp — New Roots is fine. They are near many occupied buildings and near many new homes. The garden at the 22nd Street Interchange, however, will be history. But that was a known risk when it was started.]

  8. barbara_on_19th says:

    Nope, I am talking about New Roots Urban Farm at 1826 Hogan in St Louis Place neighborhood. Page 83 in the PDF linked below. Everything in the footprint is being condemned. Due to various legal cases, the developer has to do a blighting study where it shows 51% of the properties are blighted, with specific reasons. The specific reason for blighting the farm is “overgrown vegetation”. I am sure the development team knows that it is a farm that supplies fresh food to the neighborhood. That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be condemned. Once condemned, it is a candidate for eminent domain.


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