If you’ve been to our farm, you know that the headline isn’t exactly true. We’re more accurately described as rural homesteaders, if you go by our rural residential zoning, or possibly suburban homesteaders, if you look at the large 24 home subdivision across the road. But a peculiar thing happened in the homesteading universe this past week, one that makes you want to stand up, join a virtual arm-in-arm with other homesteaders out there — so many in number, and so many, that until this week, we never even speculated existed — and proclaim, “I am an Urban Homesteader!”
If you don’t know what I’m talking about yet, here it is in a nutshell: A family in California, The Dervaes, who admittedly have been at this homesteading thing for a while, decided to trademark the term “Urban Homestead” and “Urban Homesteader,” along with a bunch of other terms that related to the work they have been doing for the past 25 years on their plot in Pasadena. In the past few weeks, they’ve sent several cease and desist letters to websites, and had several Facebook pages taken down, for use of the term “Urban Homestead” or “Urban Homesteader.” The backlash on the internet has been remarkable. A Facebook page called Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) was created as part of this uprising, and if you visit there you’ll find links to much more information about their legal actions and the outcry. You can visit the Dervaes’ own website as well, if you’re curious.
The amazing thing to me is how far this latest homesteading movement–whatever term or name you place on it–has come in such a short amount of time. When we left New York eight years ago with our dream of goats and farming and living a life more connected to the source of our food, it was hard to find anyone in the city that didn’t think we were at least a little bit crazy (although admittedly our plan did include a cross-country trip encompassing all things goat). Even though we kept a small garden in our backyard in Brooklyn, it never occurred to us to attempt to pursue even a little part of our dream of self-sustainability and animal husbandry while remaining in the city. We didn’t want to do it that way, but maybe that’s–at least in part–because it didn’t even seem like an option. But in a relatively short amount of time, that’s exactly what people are doing. People are raising chickens and goats in urban backyards, planting rooftop gardens, worm composting in their apartments, and fermenting and pickling in tiny kitchens in cities across America.
Whatever you want to call what you do, in whatever setting you are doing it, as homesteaders we are all connected by a conscious choice to live closer to the land. We choose to tend animals, to grow, gather and preserve our gardens, and to combine self-sufficiency with a spirit of community. You can’t put a trademark on that.