Four years ago, at the beginning of March, I started this blog. At first I began tentatively, not sure who would ever read what I had to say, unsure of if I even had anything to say at all. Unsure of what my blog was about (I hadn’t even really read other blogs), I titled it “Journeys and Adventures” and just sort of typed whatever came to mind, the latest happenings in our lives, reviews of articles I read or documentaries I watched.
I quickly noticed a theme. I wanted to be a farmer. But I lived (live!) in a city. During my first month of writing I covered the garden or buying our first chicks in at least every-other post. I did not know anything about “urban homesteading” or that people called themselves this or that other people we like me at all – playing farmer on little patches of earth, where ever their feet had landed them in life.
There were lots of Monday morning posts chronicling the progress of our garden over the weekend or the construction of our chicken coop. And I began to understand that this was therapy – the gardening, the chickens, and the writing about it. I took more pictures, I squeezed more into the dirt we had. I found more dirt and eeked out more spaces to grow things. I dreamed of a bee hive. But this space remained a sort or personal journal.
One day, as Rick was reading, he asked why I didn’t make the blog public, since only friends and family had access to it at this point. I thought about it for a while and decided I was afraid to put myself out in the open to any and everyone. But he encouraged me to do it, convinced that people would like what I had to say, and enjoy reading about our crazy adventures in playing at urban farming. So I did, and I decided to change the name of the blog too, so that it would reflect more of what it was now about.
I thought about the name change for a long time, mulling over terms like green, dirt, crunchy, city, suburbs, farming, etc. Through lots of reading, I discovered the term urban homesteading and found it described what we were doing. I still thought we virtually were alone in doing it, but I knew the phrase was the right one for our family and our journey.
A search engine led a writer for the Denver Post to my blog, and he contacted me, wanting an interview for a story he was doing on urban homesteaders. Because I was skeptical (hey! I didn’t know this guy), I refused to be interviewed without Rick home, so I missed my chance. Timing was off and he couldn’t come on the day Rick could be here. But I was so excited when the article came out. I discovered we were NOT alone. There were people in my own neighborhood doing this. People all over Denver!
There is a reason I’m taking the time to write this trip down memory lane. It’s not because it was my blog-iversary. It’s because today is the third Day of Action for Urban Homesteaders across the internet.
Back in February of this year the Dervaes family of Pasadena, CA trademarked the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading.” I am not linking to who the Dervaes family is, but in short, they are a father and three grown children growing lots of food in a small area in California. They are a family church, with the father being the pastor and to my knowledge, the children are the members. A church of what is pretty unclear. From what little I know of them, they’ve done a lot with their space and many in the urban homesteading community admired them. I never really read much about them until now.
So the big deal? They sent out cease and desist letters to bloggers, businesses and organizations (even a library) who were using the two trademarked terms. They want credit with links every time the phrases are typed. I’ve seen the letters. They sent one to Denver Urban Homesteading, our local indoor farmers market, and had their Facebook page (and main marketing tool) shut down. Problem is they don’t have the legal grounds to do this. They didn’t invent the phrases, nor were they the first to use them. And their trademark does not give them the right to restrict the use of the English language in the way they claim. I know this because I know the owner of Denver Urban Homesteading. James, the person I worked with on Denver’s inaugural chicken coop tour (with the Denver Botanic Garden’s) last year, and the one I helped to make the Free the Chickens video with, also just happens to be a lawyer. Apparently the Derveas picked on the wrong homesteader.
Bloggers and urban homesteaders across the country have been outraged by the actions of people who were supposed to be leaders within our community. A Facebook page was created and quickly grew to over 6000 fans supporting the canceling of the trademarks and begging the Dervaes family to, at the very least, help us understand. There have even been claims that the Dervaes’ are plagiarizing others‘ work (some of it used to support their claim to the trademarked phrases?). But the D-family closed all the comments on their many blogs. They temporarily took down their facebook page. They refused to answer email and letters. The only communication was denial of any wrong doing and to claim they were being persecuted, they were under attack. They did not (and still don’t) approve of the fact their letters were put out in the open. A quick Google search will lead you to the letter if you want to read it.
Through all of this, over the last month-plus, I’ve stayed silent. All this uproar literally struck fear into my heart. I called my mom, nearly in tears. I told my BFF. I temporarily changed my blog name. I followed fellow bloggers as they posted and united in two previous Days of Action (read my favorite post on all of this here, from Northwest Edible Life). But I was afraid. This blog holds my heart. Like I said it is my therapy. And it’s my personal journal. And it holds videos of my boys’ first steps and first words. I don’t want to loose any of it. Not over words.
But I’ve collected my thoughts. I’ve decided I can’t be silent because all of this is too important to me.
So, today, on this Urban Homesteader’s third Day of Action, I’m asking for your help. Please go to Change.org and sign the online petition to Cancel Trademarks on Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading.
This petition is addressed to Jules Dervaes, and despite fears that he won’t listen to this community, the petition can be used to help support our cause in other ways. It is a petition, a protest, and a plea to the Dervaes family. Whether or not they listen, legal actions are also being taken. Because like all the others, I too, am an Urban Homesteader. Thanks.