Permaculture Garden Produces 7000 Pounds of Organic Food Per Year on a Tenth of an Acre

Family grows 7000 pounds of organic food per year on a tenth of an acre, supplying 90 percent of their diet… They spend less than $2 per day per person on other kitchen staples and make over $20,000 a year selling excess produce

Fifteen minutes from downtown Los Angeles, just 100 feet away from a major freeway, a small city lot was transformed into a mini paradise.

A fifth acre lot, minus the house, garage and driveway, the family has converted the remaining tenth of an acre into a tiny food forest that produces 7000 pounds of food per year with no synthetic fertilizers.

What’s the secret to their abundance? Permaculture methods that mimic Mother Nature to create nutrient-and-bacteria-rich soil.

Conventional agriculture methods strip nutrients from the soil until the land becomes barren and desertified.

Permaculture not only does not strip the soil, it regenerates it, says permaculture guru Toby Hemenway.

When Jules Dervaes moved to his Pasadena home in the 1985, there was no soil, only adobe-like clay.

He and his family spent years bringing the earth back to life with rock dust, chicken and goat manure, fermented compost and effective microorganisms.

The Dervaes’s haven’t used organic NPK fertilizers since 2007, and have never used synthetic NPK.

They make the most of their small space with a modified version of square foot gardening they call square inch gardening.”

In square-inch gardening plants are packed as closely together as possible to prevent evaporation from the soil and save water.

The Darvaes believe soil should never be bare and exposed to the elements. They ignore the spacing recommendations on seed packages and sew them as close together as possible in symbiotic arrangements.

“Bigger vegetables like broccoli or peppers are planted with a carpet of greens – lettuce, arugula, etc., underneath … the green carpet acts like a living mulch, preventing weeds and keeping the soil moist,” it says on their website

Not only does this make the most efficient use of space, it requires less maintenance. As the Darvaes’ write “no rows, no hoes.” Everything is done by hand, except for one of their favorite tools, a soil-block maker. This allows them to get new seedlings started in blocks of soil, ready to replace annual crops as soon as their season is up.

Path to Freedom founder Jules Dervaes said he knew he wanted to be a back-to-the-lander eversince the Vietnam War. He had no idea his revolution would begin in Pasadena, California. He didn’t intend to live in the fixer upper house he bought there forever but a severe drought in the 1990s triggered him to start the garden that kept him there.

His lawn was costing him too much water, too much money and too much time. He decided to take a stand by mulching his front lawn and planting “something useful.”

Darvaes says he was just “fiddling around” until he learned GMOs had entered the food supply in 2001. After that he “went a little crazy” and decided to find out just how much food his little plot could grow. He wanted acres, but couldn’t wait for that and decided to work with what he had.

“Dad started taking over every square inch, horizontal, vertical, the frontyard, the backyard and the driveway,” his daughters Anais and Jordanna say in a video.

There were no models to follow, we just did it,” said his son Justin Dervaes.

“I believe growing food is one of the most dangerous occupations on Earth, because you’re in danger of becoming free,” the now deceased Jules says.

The family also makes their own biodiesel and their home is almost entirely solar powered.


59 responses to “Permaculture Garden Produces 7000 Pounds of Organic Food Per Year on a Tenth of an Acre”

  1. Maria Avatar

    I will love to have more information about the kind of compost they use

    1. Gary MacDougall Avatar
      Gary MacDougall

      They use goat and chicken manure.

      1. Mark Campos Avatar
        Mark Campos

        Probably sends all unused green waste and coffee ground to a compost pile then uses this is part of the system. This will also create a good earth worm family that will supply a lot of worm castings for the soil. Worm castings can also be used to make worm tea to be used as fertilizer.

        1. Billy Bob Smith Avatar

          MMm… nothing like a cup of nice warm worm tea in the morning.

      2. erg Avatar

        The myth surrounding vegetarianism. Soil needs rotting animals and their waste to be biodynamic.

        1. Mat Avatar

          they eat a vegetarian diet which consists of eggs and milk from goats. That means they have animals living on their property as do most permaculture set ups.
          How is this a myth? Vegan is different to vegetarian.

        2. gardengypsy Avatar

          You can have animals, and use their manure without eating them.

        3. Camilla Avatar

          You don’t need animal waste to keep a healthy soil. Manure contains a lot of useful bacterias which can speed up the process, but it’s not necessary. You can get all the nutrients and microorganisms from plant waste, rock dust, seaweeds etc. If you insist on using animal waste you can always use horse manure, or sample from wild animals. Or use your own toilet waste for that matter, if you follow certain hygienic principles. But I cannot see how this would contradict a vegan lifestyle.

          1. Alisa Keesey Avatar

            You can also use Humanure.

  2. Janis McElhaney Avatar
    Janis McElhaney

    Love this idea. May try it on a smaller scale.

  3. Dennis Avatar

    Awesome and inspiring!

  4. Randy Kessler Avatar

    Would uh be interested in trying a free sample of our pure organic Sweet Leaf Worm Castings? We’re OMRI certified.

    1. Lou Avatar

      I would love to to try it.

    2. Deborah Hemphill Avatar
      Deborah Hemphill

      I am very interested in trying a free sample our your pure organic Sweet Leaf Worm Castings! Please let me know how I can obtain the sample.

  5. Randy Avatar

    Kessler Worm Farms N320 Grand Ave. Neillsville, Wi 54456 715-937-5326

    1. britta Avatar

      love to try your worm castings. I used to live in the Driftless of Wisconsin. Now in the burbs of the Twin Cities. How can I get some? We have an organic garden that we built in boxes to take over the back yard. We love it and it provides food for us and others.

  6. Eric C Deweever Avatar
    Eric C Deweever

    Awesome article!!! Very motivating.

  7. Julio Berrio Avatar
    Julio Berrio

    excellent job.please send me more information about Permaculture at my email.

  8. Jtango Avatar

    Fantastic! I’ve always thought that lawns are a complete waste of water. I’m integrating vegetables into the landscaping but i’m not nearly as accomplished as the Darvae’s.

  9. Eileen Avatar

    Great article, Sarah. I loved the video. It made me want to do the same.

  10. Colleen Schaffhauser Avatar
    Colleen Schaffhauser

    This is awesome as we are putting in our organic edible jungle

    1. Rand Evins Avatar

      Interesting Colleen. Do you have a website showing this concept?


      1. connor burke Avatar
        connor burke

        permaculture at is the one i can remember

  11. Kevin Avatar

    Thanks Sara, love this story and many of your others! Keep up the good work!

  12. mulamba Peter lameka Avatar

    so nice to see such farming (kitchen garden) am also into gardening but i want more tips or knowledge about permculture farming. nice for the great work done.

  13. Sheri Avatar

    I love this article.

  14. mike Avatar

    inspirational thank you

  15. Joe Avatar

    Can I come visit your place with my teens to incourage them to turn our backyard into paradise like yours.

  16. Helena Avatar

    Just what we need at the beginning of the gardening season, thank you!

  17. MeMe Avatar

    Ok I’m In

  18. Becky Avatar

    Fantastic! How do you get started? I see you have raised beds, what kind of wood did you use to make them? I would want something that would last and not rot but I wouldn’t want the chemicals of treated lumber. What do you suggest?

    1. r2 (name withheld to minimize Jewish death threats I've received) Avatar
      r2 (name withheld to minimize Jewish death threats I’ve received)

      From observing ants making nests on the backsides of pressure-treated plywood I’ve concluded the chemicals don’t affect soil that much. If it takes pressure to drive the chemicals into the wood it might take pressure to drive it out.

  19. Lucy Avatar

    I would like to try it. I have land n the desert.

  20. Maria Roberson Avatar
    Maria Roberson

    I love the way that Permaculture has claimed this successful gardening model. I have followed this family from the beginning and I am pretty sure the garden was not built on Permaculture principles, just a man with a lot of common sense. Hands off Permies.

  21. MUKEZANGANGO Barnabe Avatar

    Please send me more about permaculture on my email

  22. Renee Avatar

    Do you every open your garden up for fieldtrips/workshops? We have a group if homeschool families that yo Learn more about permaculture!
    Email me.
    Thank You!

  23. Diana Detcheva Avatar
    Diana Detcheva

    I would love to volunteer in your farm. It will be like going back to my roots. I love earth, gardening, what I see on the pictures above is a picture of my dream. 🙂

  24. Lisa Maw Avatar
    Lisa Maw

    This should be widely advertised in Thailand too as some people greatly oppose this out there, not understanding the benefits of this kind of farming. My son bought land out there and tried but there was great opposition!

  25. Mwaka walter Avatar
    Mwaka walter

    The concept of this type of farming regenerative to the soil and best for fighting food insecurity

  26. N Mutasa Avatar
    N Mutasa

    I liked this project and I think it’s the way to go especially with urban dwellers.

  27. Ivan Avatar

    Send info how to get started

  28. Alec Avatar

    Anyone found a pdf of this book.

  29. Steve Avatar

    Really like how you leave no soil bare. This is key to replicating nature. A happy moist, weed free enviroment for plants.

  30. Peter Avatar

    Inspiring as this this, it isn’t happening in the subarctic, with its 7-month-long winters, and deep, deep subzero winter cold, and it’s not happening in the Cool Temperate Rainforest of the upper Northwest coast, either, with longer summers than mainland Alaska and Yukon, but much cooler summers, with many fewer growing-degree-days.

    You simply can’t beat latitude.

    1. Sharon Hadley Avatar
      Sharon Hadley

      Would a type of summer house” be doable.
      Not a green house exactly because of cost & snow load but a covering over most beds would keep in heat & help keep mild cold out

  31. Rowan Avatar

    I would be interested to know what foods you still buy?

  32. Cheryl Avatar

    I know he doesn’t use fertilizer but he can’t be organic if he is 100 feet from a major highway that is high in fluorocarbons. Just saying….

  33. Lisa Avatar

    I would like more information on organic pest management.

  34. Dennis Avatar

    What did Jules die from anyway?

  35. Badattitudevape.Com Avatar

    I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should alsxo visit this web site on regular basis to get updated from newest news update.

  36. lucy L. Avatar
    lucy L.

    Would love to know more about their irrigation methods and their water bill. Approx how many manhours per day is devoted to irrigation? Inspiring farm.

  37. Lorrie A Avatar
    Lorrie A

    We pulled 1000 lbs of produce last season with only 4 (large) raised beds using a similar premise. We had way more than 2 people could need and sold a good bit too. It does work, just takes some time and study to figure out what works well together. Planting close together kept the soil damp and cool this summer and reduced the water consumption to next to nothing.

  38. Heather J Mandap Avatar
    Heather J Mandap

    How in the world do you keep critters from eating your crops? Most of my veggies end up being eaten by rats, squirrels and bunnies. I would love advice!

  39. Patti Avatar

    A labor of love ❤️ How wonderful to see this

  40. beth casey Avatar
    beth casey

    My best to anyone who eats organic and likes to farm.. I’m retired now and having grown up on a farm appreciate good quality , whole food. Weather is everything if things grow or not so where I reside a green house is more advantageous . I also buy organic. It makes a BIG difference on how you feel long term.

  41. Krishna Raut Avatar
    Krishna Raut

    Very Inspirational and Good work,

  42. Deborah Avatar

    This gentleman died. I can only assume his three children are continuing his legacy since it was a joint venture.

  43. Valarie M Gaylord Avatar
    Valarie M Gaylord

    I find this amazing! I would like this book. Is it still in circulation?