You say “homesteading” and people imagine the 19th century and wagon trains; families venturing west, battling weather, illness, transportation break-downs, and dwindling supplies as they head to unknown territory to set down new roots and live off the land.
And then, some people simply say, “What’s homesteading again?”
Homesteading in this year 2012 can be exemplified by the Dervaes family of Pasadena. They harvest 3 tons of organic food on a wee 1/10th of an acre lot (which somehow holds 50 raised beds) that’s situated right along the 710 freeway, next door to the New Horizon School. Here you can savor heirloom tomatoes, arugula, mizuna, and Swiss chard; basil, garlic chives, lemon verbena, mints, and sage; and from May to August, you can buy edible flowers like bachelor button, pansies, dianthus, and borage.
The Dervaes are made up of patriarch Jules, eldest daughter and customer service representative Anais, poultry-guru Jordanne, and gardening expert Justin. They’ve lived and worked here for twenty-five years, and have had their sellers permit for the last nineteen. Until the financial meltdown, they sold most of their vegetables and herbs to restaurants and caterers; two years ago, they began the Front Porch Farmstand.
This is not your everyday store. Anais explains that to purchase items, people must sign up on the website dervaesgarden.com to receive a list of what is available. Customers must then place their orders the night before as everything is picked fresh at 10 a.m. every morning (except Saturdays when they’re closed to observe the Sabbath). Orders are bagged, tagged, then await pick-up.
Products for sale on the porch, though, do not only come in the leafy-green variety. The Dervaes have cultivated relationships with various farmers and artisans in the area. Cold-pressed olive oil from a 100-year-old grove arrives once a year; a woman in Eaton Canyon calls when her plums are ripe and the Dervaes head over to harvest them; raw honey and almonds come from Bakersfield; a family friend and farmer, Sergio, contributes citrus; and one small business delivers breads, while another one supplies freshly roasted coffee. Oh, yes, and don’t forget the organic chocolate bars, Anais points out with a smile.
But that’s not all; they also supply seeds and homesteading supplies, and Jordanne has created a basic poultry feed supplement, bags of kelp to sprinkle on the feed, or the all-in-one Mineral Brewer’s Yeast Herbal Supplement. If you want healthy chickens and ducks, then these homemade goodies are for you. (Chicken and duck eggs are for sale by the dozen.)
People often call or come by seeking information about organic gardening, what to do about garden pests, or advice about caring for poultry. The Dervaes welcome one and all, eager to share their knowledge. They host “Film & Food” nights and email about “Surplus Sundays” when leftovers are available and offered at discounted prices. Additionally, Father Jules is often booked for speaking engagements; Jordanne has made a short film on urban agriculture that was viewed on Oprah; and Anais teaches food canning at the Westridge School. Life is rather non-stop for the Dervaes, but it seems that’s just the way they like it.
Anais relishes the community aspect of their shop. Notes are clipped to a stand on the porch indicating orders, even an I.O.U.
One day, a woman who’d had car trouble didn’t have the money she needed to pay for her order, so she said she would come back the following day and began to leave. Anais said, “Wait, here’s your bag.” The woman reiterated that she didn’t have the money. Anais said she understood, and that she should still take her produce now so she could enjoy it while it was still fresh. According to Anais, it took more than a couple of times to convince the woman to agree, but this is the sort of relationship and community connection Anais and the Dervaes relish and strive to foster.
In keeping with that idea, Anais encourages anyone with homemade teas, herbal mixes, creative foods, or beauty products (they sell homemade soap), to feel free to email her to see if their product would be appropriate for the Front Porch Farmstand: a local, organic, very unique “store.”
Front Porch Farmstand
The Urban Homestead, 631 Cypress Ave.
Open: Sun. – Fri., 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
For more info, visit DerVaes Gardens, or call 626.844.4586