Article written

  • on 04.03.2011
  • at 09:48 AM
  • by Wendy

We are ALL Urban Homesteaders 5


This is a characteristically late response to the Urban Homesteaders brouhaha. I was outside transplanting some seedlings, and I wanted to write about the plants but I just couldn’t let this go. I had to stake my claim to the right to use a term I’ve been using for over 20 years.

On their blog, the Dervaes family says:

Path to Freedom, Urban Homestead, Urban Homesteading, Grow the Future, Homegrown Revolution (and trowel/fist logo) are registered ® trademarks of Dervaes Institute.

Really, Dervaeses?

In looking at their site, initially I would think I would be behind what they’re doing. They seem very productive and committed to their journey, and I’m impressed by what they’ve been able to accomplish in Los Angeles. Their site(s) are pretty slick. But for an organization that says they’re committed to “growing community,” they choose a funny way of showing it. By sending warning letters and asking facebook to take down pages from small organizations using these terms, they are sowing divisiveness. These pages are created by like-minded organizations, like Oakland’s Institute of Urban Homesteading. The term “urban homesteaders” belongs to all of us.

Unfortunately, facebook complied with their request, and a lot of pages were taken down.

Then the Electronic Frontier Foundation got involved in the controversy, and sent a letter on behalf of three of the Dervaes targets, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, authors of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, and their publisher, Process Media.

As explained in this letter, the term “urban homesteading” is commonly understood to refer to a popular movement and related set of practices. As established by precedent, trademark  law should  not be used to “deprive  commercial speakers  of the  ordinary utility of descriptive words.”

When I first got excited about urban homesteading it was in the early days of Mother Earth News. This is dating me, but I remember my excitement when I first heard the term. The first time I picked up a shovel and pickaxe was in People’s Park in Berkeley, and I’ll never forget the feeling of planting in community there, or those first calluses I got.

The fact that someone could try to trademark something that’s been used in so many places for so long in such a righteous way makes me feel angry and jaded. The world that Devo warned us about has come to pass.

I enjoyed the book The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by the Coynes, and am looking forward to reading the new Urban Homesteading book by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume. It looks like, because of this controversy, they’ll get a lot more attention for their efforts.

The important story here is how the Dervaes action has catalyzed the community of urban farmers and all of us who are trying to live a more self-reliant life in the city.

The Urban Homesteaders Day of Action event and Take Down Urban Homesteading facebook pages are a testimonial to the real power of community.

And I’ve gotten to check out a whole mess o’ blogs and urban farms I might not have known about otherwise. They are an inspiration to me in my attempt to stay connected to the soil and my food in the city.

Here’s a quote from a blog post that fired me up, from the Havenscourt homestead:

That’s right! I said it. I am an Urban Homesteader! I practice Urban Homesteading on MY Urban Homestead in Oakland, California.  And no self-righteous egotistical arrogant bastard down in Pasadena is going to take that from me. This is the lifestyle I have chosen to live. And I did so long before I ever heard of you or your little homestead or paid any attention to your PR machine.


I just discovered another blog that I LOVE, The Itty Bitty Farm in the City, right here in SF.  SO COOL:

Let’s see; In the city of San Francisco, I raise goats for all things dairy, chickens for eggs, grow as much of our produce as I can, knit, sew, preserve, build (love my drill gun), cook most things from scratch, re-use, re-purpose, recycle, act as my own accountant, make my own toiletries (soap, deodorant, hand creams), produce energy (with solar panels), make my own music, and a whole bunch of other things that I’m sure I’m forgetting. I learned the majority of these skills from my super crafty, homesteady (and they didn’t even know it) parents. They learned to knit, sew, preserve, bake, build, and raise livestock from their parents. Life used to work that way and I am extremely fortunate that my parents felt these skills were important enough to pass on.


And this one, Party Valley Heights, which is from Los Angeles:

For me gardening is a new skill that I’m trying to master, but for many of my neighbors it is the way that they’ve always lived their lives. To try to argue that urban homesteading is a new idea discounts a whole community of people that have quietly been doing it for generations.

The Wikipedia entry for homesteading says:

Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency.

I am learning so much by hearing from others about how they define their self-sufficiency, and finding what resonates with my own. There are so many more inspiring posts, but my fingers and my grammar bones are wearing thin. Tomorrow I’ll go out and figure out how to fix the irrigation I put a pitchfork through, and try not to get too intimidated by how much other people have accomplished. So this post, which began as a rant, actually became a point of inspiration.

Here is a list of more related blog posts from Crunchy Chicken’s (putting the mental in environmental)  Blog like a Pirate Action Day.

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There are 5 comments for this post

  1. linda says:

    thanks for posting…. at this point i don’t believe we can have too many posts on this issue….

  2. marc says:

    You might be an urban homesteader and I do sympathize. But as a ‘Suburban Homesteader’ I guess I can never truly understand.

  3. admin says:

    Yeah, I guess you have to love city livin’ to persevere in the face of some urban challenges. I do often wish I had more space, but sometimes the fact that my garden is necessarily contained makes it a little more manageable. In theory, I’m close enough to visit many gardens/resources that are nearby in the city, but am still hampered by the biggest limitation, time.

  4. StacySix says:

    Better late than never! Seedlings can be pretty demanding in the spring. It’s been awe-inspiring to watch our diverse and wide-spread community unite over this attempted theft of our common language.

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