Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Am an Urban Homesteader

I wasn't sure I was going to engage with this fracas, but in the end I feel it's necessary.  The Dervaes family of Pasadena, California have apparently trademarked the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading.  They dress up this action as an attempt to protect these terms from use by evil corporations. And yet it is the Dervaeses themselves who are now sending what are in effect cease and desist letters to public libraries, bloggers, and other organizations who have used these terms, even without attempting to profit from them.  They have privatized part of the commons and are now wasting no time trying to assert their exclusive legal rights.  This despite the fact that there are previously published books, magazines, public service organizations and innumerable blogs that use exactly these words in their titles.  At least one of them has already had their page shut down thanks to the Dervaeses.

There are many things I find despicable about these actions of the Dervaes family.  Their behavior is exactly what one would expect from an evil corporation.  Monsanto, anyone?  It would be one thing to trademark these generic terms and then turn them over to the Creative Commons for all non-evil uses.  That is not what they are doing.  It would be one thing to take these actions and then actively listen to those people who have formerly supported and admired their work.  That is not what they have done.  Instead they have, one by one, shut down their social media pages and several of the eight websites they maintain.  Recent posts on their main blog (I'm not going to link it here.) have closed comments.  They didn't like what they were hearing; it didn't support their worldview.  So they refuse to listen.  This is a family that has solicited donations, boldly and repeatedly, for years.  And yet this family of four able-bodied adults somehow manages to find the spare time to trawl the internet looking for people who have "infringed" on their newly acquired legal rights.  It sickens me to think of all the monetary donations given in goodwill that are now paying for the Dervaeses to act like a corporate goon squad. Wise people recognize when they have made mistakes, admit them, and correct them.  That is not the path the Dervaeses are pursuing.

I was initially only profoundly disappointed with the Dervaeses.  Now I'm angry.  I have in the past mentioned and linked to the Dervaes family here on my own blog.  I can assure you that I will never do so again.  I have removed the links that I was able to find.  The food production they have managed to accomplish on a tiny amount of land is truly impressive, and by rights it should stand as a shining example of what can be done if one is determined to produce food at home.  But this high-handedness over concepts they did not originate and have no moral claim to is unacceptable.  They are doing damage to a cause and a way of life that should never be the property of one person, or one family.  We need as many people as possible growing food in backyards large and small.  That the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" are now legally restricted does no service to that cause, and may indeed mean that fewer people pursue the goal of home food production.  That is wrong, whatever the law may say about it.

I'm not on Facebook, but there's a group making an effort to reclaim the term urban homesteading.  Check it out if you use Facebook.  If you've ever linked to, publicly praised, or financially supported the Dervaes family, I would urge you to weigh in on this matter, either on your own blog, or by sending a message to the Dervaeses.  I think it pays to be civil, no matter how much you may disagree with someone, so I recommend you keep it polite.  Rudeness and name-calling only make it that much easier for people who disagree with you to dismiss what you say out of hand.

58 comments:

Michelle said...

Thank you for this post, Kate. Very eye opening & very, very disappointing.

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Unfortunate, to say the least.

Grace said...

I'm disappointed, too. They feel like they have been unfairly criticized, but I think, as you have pointed out here, that their hearts are in the wrong place on this issue. Maybe they have grown a little too big for their britches? It is time for the Dervaes family to admit they they have made an error and to apologize and move on. They have done a lot of good, shared a lot of information, and provided guidance to a lot of people, but they certainly did not originate these trademarked concepts and their behavior here is embarrassing and ridiculous. I would really love to see them man up, own their mistake, and do something to put this right. I hope they will.

Hazel said...

No, I am an Urban Homesteader!

Actually, I'm not, more semi-rural, but I'll be blowed if someone is going to tell me what I can call myself...

I'm really disappointed too. I think like many people I'd become increasingly uncomfortable with their 'outreach' (odd term to use, at least to a Brit) and constant links to their shop and hadn't followed their blog for a while.

Unfortunately, this often seems to happen. Alternative communities evolve but gradually take on the characteristics of the society/business/world view they originally set up to get away from.

I used to work for a company who sold washable nappies. Attending washable nappy events, it became clear that as companies grew, they began to outsource the manufacture and generally behave like the disposable nappy manufacturers we purported to detest. Maybe it's inevitable, maybe it's human nature but you'd think they'd see what it looks like from the outside, whatever their motivation. (I'm not on FB either, so the details elude me).

I'll have a word with you if you ever try to TM 'Frugal Life'...

Wendy said...

I find this whole situation so sad, because I have been one of those who has publicly and privately (much to my husband's continued chagrin - as he has never shared my enthusiasm for the family and what they've done) admired and praised the work the Dervaeses have accomplished.

When I wanted to homestead my quarter acre and people said it couldn't be done, I would have believed, had it not been for that Pasedena family. They were *the* pinnacle to which all we small-holding homesteaders aspired.

Such a shame to have it all come crashing so violently down.

Chile said...

Well said, Kate. As a fellow non-Facebook user, I have nonetheless been following the front end of the "wall" there publicly visible to anyone. It's been a fascinating look into how social media works and can gather force. Links to blog posts and news articles about this are being put up there for those interested in continuing to follow the story. I think they are going to find they receive a great deal of negative press over this choice.

Chile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who feels discerning about what they've done. I have had a problem with their shameless please for financial support for a while now. I also never understood why they didn't do more giveaways...in the spirit of giving and generosity and thanks for the support they DO get. Instead they have pathetic "specials" of 10% off or something else lame, IF you make a purchase of over a certain amount. I don't know...if it were me I'd be more generous...which i think would make people more inclined to then go and purchase. I have always felt that they were being greedy...and not out to share with the public...but more to gain glory for themselves. Not good...thank you for sharing your thoughts. You're not alone...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this posting Kate. One thing commentors have not expressed is the shameless mentality of our government/judicial system that approved this nonsense. Does this mean that Pennsylvania will have to change the name of a tax law called the "Homestead Act"? Will all those publishing houses and authors (many now deceased) need to rewrite their books/articles and eliminate those terms or risk being sued ? Many authors throughout time have used these very same words. Personally, I will continue to refer to myself as a urban homesteader and I will keep all those wonderful books in my library to pass on to my granddaughter so she will know true history. I don't do any social media, not even a cell phone. I will also continue to let those wonderful folks I know who are of the same persuasion about this travesty. Marion in G'ville

teekaroo said...

It's so sad when someone you look up to disappoints you so completely

pelenaka said...

Really ? Seriously ?
I'm at a loss ... not because I was disillusioned by those homesteaders from Pasadena but that their copyright was approved.
Wow.
Really.

May I link to your post ?

Building A Better Life said...

In a word: yes. Yes, people who have used this term prior to trademarking can face a lawsuit. It apparently is a nuance of the law that can allow unscrupulous people to take a common term/symbol and trademark or copyright it - even if it is not their original idea - and then they will stand to make money off honest people. Can you imagine if someone trademarked a square? (Although, I think if anyone tried THAT they might be laughed out of court or fined for the frivolity.)

The Dervaes family can now be compared with Madoff: they asked people for money to support their idea, then used that money to support attorneys and a trademark process to potentially make a dishonest income off not only their supporters, but now also many other people.

While I think the way the Dervaes family has has used their land is great, it cannot be done everywhere, and they are not the holy grail of "urban homesteaders." It takes more than just one family in different scenarios and regions to come together and put their ideas in a melting pot for others to learn from. This action they have taken is despicable and shows the ultimate greed and selfishness of their nature.

On a side note, I have never been a big fan of the family itself, as they always seemed to be in it for money.

Jennifer Montero said...

Gosh, I had no idea. Thank you so much for the info. I had not heard of the Devaeses but I think I will give them a wide berth.

If there's that much negative backlash it sounds as if they may have undermined their own overall brand (if that's what they were building). One would hope, anyway.

Do they believe they invented urban homesteading? That's a big claim to make. I wonder why they don't just patent a logo and leave the phrase for eveyone.

Satchel and Tea said...

Thanks for the post! I was the 11th person to join the Facebook group yesterday, and today we have over 1400 people. It's blowing me away how everyone is circling the wagons and coming together to support each other. While we're all upset over what the Dervaes family has done, the unintended consequence has been to create a huge sense of community among urban homesteaders!

Paula said...

Oh crap. Here I was thinking I gotta be careful when I post on my blog not to libel anybody and now I have to worry about trademark infringements, too.

Maureen said...

"It sickens me to think of all the monetary donations given in goodwill that are now paying for the Dervaeses to act like a corporate goon squad."

Hear hear....great post!
We've become disillusioned with the Dervais this past year as their website evolved into a constant stream of self-promotion and product pushing. There are MANY other websites that offer scads more helpful information...yours included:)

Anonymous said...

I'll remain anon since I dont know much about whats going on yet, but I do appreciate the Dervaes efforts and anyone in the urban homesteading enviro. Here is my 2 cents...

I did a little bit of research on them a year or two ago. Nothing too in depth, but I realized that the Dervaes Institute is a non profit organization. You need to understand this as it does pertain to things. Being a non profit allows them access to all sorts of government money like grants (and anyone can become a nonprofit). Whether they have taken advantage of those sorts of benefits is unknown. They are also entitled to tax breaks and other benefits being a non profit. They are in business to make money as is most people. I cannot fault them for that. Becoming a nonprofit was their ruote they chose. Im sure being a non profit, their lawyers may have requested certain terms they use often like "urban homestead" or "freedom gardens" be registered trademarks. Being a non profit also puts a buffer between them and their endeavors similar to the way corporations do, protecting them from lawsuits and other problems. Its a business decision they made, maybe now with the Internets, they are learning it wasnt the best choice. I dont know. Non profits have all sorts of benefits, like the executor writing fat checks to themselves. I could go on, but you get the point.

That said, there are also negatives to operating a non profit. One of the main ones (for me personally) would be taking orders from the government and tip toeing around on what they can and cannot say (for fear of losing their non profit status). They remain silent about the extremely hazardous fluoride in the water supply, they dont talk about the chemtrails in the air that fill the sky and are not normal. Things you and I can freely talk about on our blogs.

You may or may not know this, but most all churches in America are registered with the government as non profits. From Catholic, to Protestant, to Lutheran, Baptist, Jewish... you name it, if it has more than a few people its probably a non profit. A couple years back there was a GOV initiative to preach to the followers to just hand in peoples guns if the GOV declares martial law. To just give up. Like what happened in Katrina. Just do what the gov says. Hand in your guns and everything will be fine. The Gov even supplied preachers with pertinent bible quotes about doing what the government tells them. All sorts of crap. The points is, the GOV can mandate any non-profit what to say or what not to say. And it looms over registered nonprofits heads always with a threat of taking away their status. The Dervaes family will always talk down about Monsanto because Monsanto is a business, but I bet you Dervaes will never question the government openly and freely like I like to do :) Corporations, yes. The government, no.

I do notice Dervaes speaking the governments mantra of climate change and now calling it something else... climate weirding. There is climate change on all the planets right now, from mercury to mars to pluto... earth being no different. Im 100% sure we are not having an effect on pluto. But anything the gov can do to force us into more taxes, the better. And a government controlled non profit will hark the same mantra as the government.

All in all, I refuse to take sides in this. I like the Dervaes for their efforts and for teaching people a better and healthier way of life. They can do quite well without being a nonprofit. I really dont understand their NP status frankly. Plus, they would be able to speak openly about real problems that are facing humans like fluoride and chemtrails. Im going to focus my efforts on praying for them, not being angry at them. There is already so much hate in this world. maybe they are just misguided.

Anonymous said...

Although most of us are looking at the Negatives this controversary has sparked, I do see a Positive side. Given it has hit the social media, it just may make more people aware and out of curiosity they will not only look at the Dervaes site but also other websites and bloggers sites. This curiosity just might spark an effort to look at their own lives and make changes that will enrich them through taking responsibility and becoming more self sustainable. With our current world turmoil re religious ideaology, wars and economics if only a few make the change it will be beneficial for all. Marion in G'ville

becky3086 said...

Wow, I wish the above person had not posted anonymous. I really want to see YOUR blog! I thought your response was great. It is so important to be informed before you jump on the band wagon. Thanks and if you have a blog, I would love a link!

meemsnyc said...

It's sad. Truly is. i hope they man up to it and openly apologize as well. We shall see I guess.

meg- grow & resist said...

Thanks for writing about this also! I've been following twitter/facebook and now fellow bloggers and it is great to see all the different takes on the issue and how it comes together as collective outrage! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone could trademark the phrase "Dervaes Family".

Julie said...

I logged onto FB a little while ago to be confronted with a plethora of posts and links about this - and like you, I am shocked and deeply disappointed. It's not doing much for my cynicism of human nature I have to say, although I appreciate Anon's comments regarding non-profits and their probability of being under instruction from their solicitors... but then, it seesm to be more and more that everything we do these days is governed by the mandates of lawyers and insurance companies :-(

Kate said...

I just logged in to post about this and was heartened to see your title over there in the blogs that I follow! We will not go quietly into the night! ;) Oh and I think the Dervaes family just lost much of the respect I had for them previously. It was clearly respect that was mis-placed..my bad.

Hoffman's Haven said...

I am myself an "urban homesteader". We have just gotten started just this year. The Derveas family was my initial inspiration. I heard of them through the the survival podcast driven by Jack Spirko. I has no idea they were doing any of this. What a shame and just goes to show you what happens when heads get to big. I didn't use the term urban homesteader on any of our stuff but now maybe I will! I call my little homestead Hoffman's Haven. I am on youtube and facebook. I also have a blog here on blogger. Not much to us yet we just got started. I hope my head never expands to the point of being mean to others. Thank you for bringing this to light.

clairesgarden said...

I am an Urban Homsteader.
with a very small homestead...livestock consisting of three cats.....
may I put a link to this post in my blog?

patricialynn said...

I read your post and my jaw dropped to the desk. Unbelievable! I, too, am no longer going to visit their site, and since I am on facebook I'm going to join the group you linked to.

This is absolutely ridiculous!

Marie said...

Just making sure you know that you are incorrect. The Dervaes family is being falsely accused.

Donna Lynn said...

I, too, am an Urban Homesteader. Thank you for much for your very timely post.

I am very disappointed in this family, but also in those that would blindly follow and believe everything they say. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

@Marie,
Do better research. They are not being truthful on their website or in their press release. They sent "cease & desist" style letters to those organizations, authors, bloggers, and even a library that offer classes on urban homesteading. They are trying to claim they are the only ones who have ever taught urban homesteading and that is false. They are simply trying to eliminate any and all possible competition for their services and products.

This tact is backfiring on them because I doubt few will want their products or services anymore. Their teachings certainly won't be much in demand by the informed community.

Liberal Lucy said...

Excellent and ACCURATE post... much thanks for your mention of this. We need all of the support we can get.

Kate said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Those who want to link to my post are welcome to do so, and I remind you that permission is never needed to link to any website.

Hazel, you have my word of honor that I will never attempt to control the words "frugal life."

Anon#1 (Marion) I agree that the government office that issued these rights was way out of line. That doesn't take any responsibility off the Dervaeses though, imho.

Anon#2, I respect anyone who wants to wait until the facts are in to make a decision or judgment. And I respect anyone who follows your take-the-high-road approach. Good for you.

Marie, I would be most obliged if you would document which of my statements is incorrect. If anything I have written is factually wrong, I will certainly issue a correction and even go back on my word that I will never link to the Dervaeses' sites again. I believe in admitting when I've made a mistake, and correcting it. But you're going to have to do a little more than just "make sure [I] know [I'm] incorrect." Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Roasted Garlicious said...

thanks for your post... i have been to their site in the past and found them to be self absorbed in the 'we founded this' attitude.. umm wait a minute but my 'grandparents' were urban homesteaders!!! they lived in a small city, had chickens, gardens, pigs, goats... need i say more!!! cheers

Meg said...

Wow. They've always been pretty self-righteous but this is over the top even for them. I've been reading a lot about this over the past day, and it looks like they have a pretty big publicity nightmare on their hands. What a shame.

All the backpedaling they're attempting on their blog right now is going to make their bike blender explode.

El Gaucho said...

Whether the Dervaes family is ultimately proven right nor wrong doesn't really even matter at this point. They've completely fomented public opinion against them and are going to have a very difficult time re-establishing any credibility in the urban homesteading arena. Even if they were doing the right thing (I can't see how, but am trying to be open minded), they went about it poorly and did an even poorer job of communicating their intentions and actions. I do thank them for causing the creation of the FB Take Back Urban Homesetading page and leading me this awesome blog and other like it.

Chile said...

I'm so glad I wasn't drinking my coffee when I read that about the bike blender, Meg! LOL!

We've got a pedal-powered grain grinder (post is titled "Will Bike for Food"). Before we got it set up, I tried to use a photo of their bike blender on my blog, with proper attribution, but they kept blocking. I've taken down that post.

On another note, I found it distressing at that time that they had NO how-to information on their bike blender. Luckily, we found multiple other sources online with complete instructions posted for how to do all sorts of pedal-powered items (including a washing machine!)

Anonymous said...

I'm deeply saddened by their actions. Although, I've always thought it a little odd that they give very little specific info on the "how to" aspect. Down to Earth blog is so open about sharing her methods. But I guess they must be gearing up to make money off their info. Also, I read that they are NP because they organized as a church. If you search JD's name it's a little scary to read some of his religious writings.
I hope they see that what they did is wrong!

dave said...

Im the Anon guy with the long post here about non profits :)

Lets make 2011 a great year in Urban Homesteading since we are all Urban Homesteaders!

1916home.net

Anonymous said...

What about all those pictures on their blog they use that are not theirs? Old canning posters and pictures, pictures of Little House on the Prairie, and many others. That's copyright issues there. I hope the true owners of those pictures find them on their site without the proper credit, acknowledgment, or permission to use them on their blog.

dave said...

I had asked Dervaes on their FB pages if they planned to sue anyone. The did reply to that this morn and said "no" they dont plan to. I have also asked them at the same time if they could explain their whole non-profit reasoning and they have yet to reply to that and I doubt they will. Months ago i had sent a personal email and a blog post on their Freedom Gardens site asking them to explain their non profit status and I also never received a reply.

We have all heard about how big non profits only have a small % going to actually helping the specific cause, the rest goes to "administrative" fees. While there is nothing illegal about that per se, we can all choose where we want our donations go to.

Locking their blog from allowing comments is also an odd decision IMO. All of it smells as if they have something to hide. Maybe Im jumping the gun, I dont know.

Lastly, if some imbecile volunteer of theirs is the one who sent out the letters (what, without Dervaes knowledge?) Then they should be immediately coming out explaining that and canning her. Well, not canning in an Urban Homestead way :) You know what I mean!

There is no Path to Freedom when you are under government control!

-1916home

Leon said...

Except for boldness (stupidity?) of the act - not really unexpected though. It seems that a lot of people kinda fall into the same pattern as they grow big (famous, etc.) just like the others here said. People we bought our first 5 sheep from (many years ago) were truly green and sustainable waaay before it became trendy - fighters, teachers and pioneers. Now I wouldn't eat anything from their farm - that's how much their way of doing things changed. Sad, sure. Than again - why do we think networks built by people are exempt from the laws of the succession theory?

I first looked at Dervaes' website a couple of years ago and there was definitely a smell of snake oil in the air - something didn't add up in the land area, pounds of food produced and so on. I guess, I caught them on the stage where they already heavily relied on donations and such.

All of which is not the reason I'm writing, actually :) Just wanted to say that your blog is great (been lurking for a while). Keep up the good work! :)

OhioVeggies said...

Its absolute horse crap what they are doing. If you go to their site the daughter posted a copy of the letter being sent out. They suggest that you use a term like 'modern homesteading' or something of that sort unless you are quoting from them. Im so disappointed that they have done this, there is a lot of backpedalling going on on their twitter and website. Looks like their heads got a bit too big.

Hazel said...

Kate, you do know I was joking, don't you?

The trouble with typing is that what I mean seems clear when I write it...

Despite the fact I only write (long) comments on your blog my children refer to you as Mum's friend in America (as opposed to Mum's friend on Cape Cod- DS is impressed with the google map of that area!) and I think I 'know' enough of you to never seriously believe you'd do that.

Donna said...

While I don't follow the Dervaes,I do find it disappointing that they would try to trademark a term that many,many people use. It seems rather ballsy of them to think they are the only people worthy of calling themselves "Urban Homesteaders". Seems like perhaps they may have gotten too big for their britches.

Donna in NH
www.littlcottageinthecountry.blogspot.com
Do

Kate said...

In case any of you missed it, there's a brief update about this situation. The authors of the great book, The Urban Homestead, Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen, along with their publisher, are going to dispute the TMs assigned to the Dervaeses.

I first came across Kelly and Eric's blog when it was known as Homegrown Revolution. Because of "circumstances too ridiculous to describe" they changed the name two years ago to Homegrown Evolution. Just recently, they changed their blog name *again* to Root Simple. I may be wrong, but I read an interesting tale between those lines. Seems to me that Coyne and Knutzen have behaved with admirable restraint up to this point. I recommend their blog as a place to actually learn things of interest to homesteaders urban or otherwise.

Their blog:

http://www.rootsimple.com/

Their books:

http://www.rootsimple.com/p/books.html

The very brief summary of the planned dispute:

http://www.boingboing.net/2011/02/18/eff-is-representing.html

More details on Coyne's and Knutzen's challenge are apparently forthcoming on Monday. I await them with interest and hope.

patricialynn said...

Kate, that's wonderful news! I posted that link and the info to the facebook page and encouraged everyone to pick up a copy of The Urban Homesteader in support of the authors.

Wendy said...

I have the book you mention, Kate. They self-published through Lulu.com a few years ago, and their book is actually a pretty good 'how-to' for "urban homesteading" :).

I remember hearing rumblings about the situation you allude to that prompted Coyne and Knutzen to change from "Revolution" to "Evolution." It involves the same people who are splitting hairs over words now.

I second the recommendation of Root Simple and the book The Urban Homestead. There's far more of the stuff that will help to further the movement in a positive direction and Knutzen and Coyne actually seem to want to share what they know to "educate" the rest of us about we can do to get where they are. That's the hallmark of a true teacher - one who freely imparts information knowing that someday, his/her students will no longer need him/her, but that's as it should be.

The Urban Sustainable Living magazine is also an excellent resource.

Melynda said...

What started out (seemingly) as a good investment in time and evolved into "community" of spirit and how to, has now decided to go big business. Big business is only interested in protecting a "legally" acquired name, when big bucks are attached in some way. So it was all about the money all along, shame on them for the lie from the beginning.

Summersweet Farm said...

Oh, man. I am so unutterably disappointed in the Dervaes. I, too, have been a long-term admirer and supporter of theirs. How they could get so out of touch with the rest of their audience that they would pull what seems like a complete 180 just blows the mind. I'm so, so sad - I saw them as leaders, the example to live up to, the people that I referenced whenever I encountered negativity about my own chosen path (as in, "It can TOO be done - look at this family!"). This move seems greedy and selfish and completely at odds with the kind of lifestyle they're promoting - I won't ever provide them free advertising again.

Summersweet Farm said...

Oh, and PS: before I moved to a more rural area, I called my little townhouse my "urban homestead" and put it on all my product labels long before they did. So there.

Sure hope RootSimple wins their dispute.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Now, hang on.

The link you give to a site that has already been closed down seems to be live, and to still be using the phrase "urban homesteading."

The Dervaeses deny sending any cease and desist letters or threatening lawsuits. Can you link to something that indicates that they have been untruthful about this?

They do appear to have trademarked the term "urban homesteader," and I can only agree with the organizations and individuals contesting this. (Honestly, trademarking "Path to Freedom" seems even stupider to me.)

I'm not a Dervais fan--I think their site is awfully glitzy, and I do not link to them, while I do link to you--for a reason.

But I think this looks like a rumor panic, and it would be a good idea to be careful we've got all the facts before we rush to judge. One bone-headed attempt at trademarking--that will, I hope, be overturned--does not make them the Darth Vader family.

Unless I'm missing something here. But none of the links with this story suggest more to me.

Kate said...

Cat, as you'll see on that live page, Denver Urban Homesteading (basically a farmer's market) had their Facebook page taken town. This was their primary means of communicating with their 2000+ customers. The Dervaeses have on their own blog posted the letter they sent out to 16 organizations. You can find it on their own website, what little of it remains up. The fact that it does not contain the words "cease and desist" in no way obscures the clear message. Indeed, "cease and desist" is not a legally required phrase. The threat of legal action is there in the letter too. Polite, but there.

I never said they were suing anyone, so I will not defend that claim. It's unclear to me whether Coyne and Knutzen are about to bring a suit against the Dervaeses, or whether some other type of action will be pursued.

What I've noticed about the Dervaes' communications is that they deny very particular things. Such as, they aren't suing anyone, they haven't violated anyone's first amendment rights, and that they never sent out "cease and desist" letters, nor told anyone to "stop or pay up." What they don't deny is that they have taken action against urban homesteading organizations that "rival" them. (Google Dervaes + "rival us" for a transcript of the phone conversation during which Jules said this.) They don't deny that they sent that letter to a public library giving free classes on urban homesteading. They don't deny taking their proprietary claims to Facebook which promptly shut down several pages on the strength of the Dervaeses' claims.

Their reasoning for what they've done also shifts - a fact that doesn't, to my mind, speak in their favor. First, according to what they wrote on their blog, they TM'ed the terms to protect them from greenwash by evil corporations. Now they say they did it to protect their own interests from "rivals" such as the Santa Monica public library, and the Oakland Institute of Urban Homesteading. Do they sound corporate to you?

I don't perceive this as a rush to judgment. I've personally tried communicating with them - politely - via their Freedom Gardens website, and by email. They do not respond. Draw your own conclusions, of course. But based on what I've observed directly myself, and what I'm reading about the issue, I'm comfortable standing behind my claims. If you find otherwise, please do let me know.

Ronnie said...

Pure douche-baggery! I might have to drive up there and hold a sign on the sidewalk near their house now. I was really starting to think of the compactness of their garden as one of my inspirations....

Bureinato said...

While I do find the term homesteading problematic, well explained by a blogger here:
http://growandresist.com/2010/04/26/homestead-act-2-0/ it does not seem like a phrase that should be trademarked. And reading this post does explain the weird farmers market email I got from denver urban homestead. Which I wish would pick a better name.

Anonymous said...

I always thought there was too much snake oil in their "urban homestead". Anybody with a little determination can grow plants of all kinds in what amounts to the climate of the garden of eden in Pasadena. Big whoop. I'd like to see them do it in say, Reno, NV, or Minnesota. They must feel really inadequate if they need such a big stick...

The Howes Family said...

I have followed the family and their website for two years. Their liberal worldview always rubbed me the wrong way, but their productivity and knowledge kept me coming back.
Just like the corporate world that their ilk despise, they have taken up the very corporate behaviors that they rail against.
I'll continue to watch their site out of a curiosity for what happens, but my tolerance for this behavior is wearing thin.

beccaWA said...

I too, at first, visited the Dervaes family website on occasion. But, like some other posters here, found it a bit... slick and glossy.

I posted on another homestead website recently about the fact that it seems mighty strange to have 20 & 30-something kids STILL living with Daddy Dervaes...

THEN I did some googling, and found that Daddy Dervaes was a following of the kooky Armstrong's World Church of God:

http://givesgoodemail.com/2011/02/18/and-as-long-as-were-bashing-jules-dervae/

"Jules Dervae’s is just another garden-variety religious wingnut who was particularly fond of Herbert W. Armstrong, another religious wingnut that many of you will remember. For those who don’t know Mr. Armstrong, he was the founder of the World Church of God, but still had time to conduct a long-term sexual relationship with his daughter."

Now, I'm not SAYING that Jules is having "sexual relationships" with his daughters... although I do find it mighty curious that I posted it was "odd" these adult kids were still living at home BEFORE I ever found out the whacko religious connection....

"Controlling" springs to mind.

As for the trademarking of urban homestead(ing) -- ludicrous. I hope they get that repealed.

Bethany said...

Resurrecting this old post... BECCA that's very interesting! I guess I just assumed the kids lived with their dad because of some weird religious thing (isn't it usually?) but what you posted is interesting.

Incidentally, I am STILL simmering about this whole debacle. I just recently spoke with James at Denver Urban Homesteading and they are making progress with getting the copyright revoked, though it's pretty slow because the Dervaes' lawyer keeps stalling at every turn.