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The Letter

The past 24 hours have been interesting to say the least.  I don’t have a recipe to share today or a cool place to go in Kansas City, but just some thoughts of mine regarding a letter I received yesterday from Jules Dervaes and the whirlwind of activity that has followed.  Yes, I actually received a letter.

I started this blog over one year ago as a place to record recipes and notes for a group of friends that wanted to learn more about healthy cooking.  I had to give it a name, so I started researching to describe exactly what it is that I do.  I don’t like the term “healthy” because it has preconceived baggage.  I mean, what would you call someone who lives in a subdivision in suburbia, works a full-time corporate job, has two kids (that she doesn’t homeschool!) and can afford a membership at an upscale Pilates studio?  But also grows organic food from seed in a raised garden bed in the backyard and buys the majority of the their food from local farmers she calls “friends” (including grains she grinds herself using a counter top grainmill),  preserves that food, makes everything from beyond scratch (including cheese, breads, and is working on cat food), has a mushroom log and a Kombucha brew, and the motivation to continue learning and growing towards a self-sufficient, sustainable life-style.  I had many philosophical conversations with myself about the contradiction of a full-time yuppie career women who acts sort of like a farm girl, because let me tell you it’s not easy to be both on a day to day basis.  In fact, it’s hard work.  I came across URBAN HOMESTEADING and something clicked.

At first I was concerned whether or not I technically qualify.  The extreme UHer’s have chicken coops in their backyards and their own little ecosystems fueled by, I don’t know, corncobs.  My subdivision doesn’t allow that.  That’s when I started looking at my practices as an evergreen process; a self inflicted challenge; an experiment.  The Urban Homestead Experiment was born.  I’m not claiming to be extreme.  I’m claiming to be as urban homestead as I can be within the boundaries of my life, which I chose.  As I said I was teaching my friends this way of living.  I still do that.  They’re not leaving their cozy jobs to start communes, but maybe they’ll go to a farmer’s market or grow an herb garden.  You have to start somewhere and have something to work towards.  It’s still focused on the cooking aspect — the teaching part that is — how to make stock, lacto-fermeted condiments, and the occasional tip for Kansas City readers looking for a local food outlet.  What draws me towards the urban homestead concept is that it is not all or nothing.  This is a modern world we live in and everyone has to have a balance.  Or so I thought.  I was corrected.

I got this letter from the Dervaes family, who have admittedly lived the hard core Urban Homestead life for over 25 years, and my fear of being accused of fraud was staring at me.  Or maybe not.  I’m not sure what their intent is to be honest. I guess I can have a blog that talks about urban homesteading, but just not have classes to teach people urban homesteading concepts? Or call them that?  The letter is vague and they have been on the defense to clarify their position since the letters were sent out.  By the way, they are saying they sent a total of 16 letters, so it’s kind of like “winning” the lottery that they even found me.

Many have expressed an interest in reading the letter and I posted it on the newly created Facebook page called Take Back Urban Home-steading(s).  I did it because there were a lot of rumors flying around regarding whether or not letters were even sent, what verbiage the letters did or did not contain and whether or not the letters were aimed towards bloggers.  The facts are all right here.

The Dervaes family had the words Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading trademarked.  How did this happen?  I can understand names that they should rightfully own, such as, Homegrown Revolution and Little Homestead in the City, but Urban Homesteading is a community concept.  According to their reckless press release, they feel like they have defined the terms through their real life way of living and want to preserve that.  They do not want to see the general public (like me) bastardize it.  Okay.  Shouldn’t they coin a different term then to set themselves apart?  Dervaes Urban Homestead, perhaps?  I mean, it’s not like they were the first to use it.  In fact, they attempted a trademark in 2008 on these terms, but were denied due to the volume of material already published on the subject.  So, again, how did this happen?

People are pissed.  Go to Facebook or Google “urban homestead trademark”.  Bloggers and homesteaders are uniting and want to take the Dervaes family down.  Here is what I think.  I think they crossed the line.  I equate it to the government defining what “organic” means, which I’m sure they have heartburn with themselves.  Most “beyond organic” farmers do.  If URBAN HOMESTEADING® includes being self-serving and hypocritical then I might have been mis-led on the concept and need to rethink my blog title.  Although the community of over 3000 homesteaders that have arose over the past 24 hours in the name of Urban Homesteading are different.  They are the ones I want to see prevail in this matter.  I don’t care if I have to refer to my classes as something other than “urban homesteading”.  Changing my blog name and URL is sort of inconvenient.  Three-thousand outraged homesteaders deserve better, though.  And an apology wouldn’t hurt either.

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