Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fighting amongst ourselves

The word on the computerized street is that a fairly well known group of individuals out of California has decided that they own the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading". This would be the Dervaes family that own and operate Path to Freedom Urban Homestead. I won't link them here, I don't want to help line their coffiers. In the course of their ten plus years of homesteading in the city they have had a good bit of success with an online store, local sales, and a movie.

They helped take what some of us city dwellers longed for and made it successful and recognized.

But they didn't create it out of thin air.

Urban homesteading is something that has been around a long time (remember Victory Gardens?). It is a movement, a state of mind, an action, intellectual property if you will. Yet, somehow the Dervaes trademarked the terms last October. The reason for all the current fuss is that they are now implementing their dominion on what so many of us use in everyday talk. They reason that they did this is because they have seen the terms slug fast and loose from the hips of Big Business, taking the virginity of them and defiling it so that the words loose their meaning. They become green washed, useless. Much like the terms "organic" and "natural".

I don't question that. I think that is a fine motive. But when actions become inconsistent with motive I start getting a queasy feeling in my stomach. My bullshit meter goes off and I have to step back and analyze that which I had once believed in. The first tingle something was amiss for me was when they wrote a blog post about agreeing to host a reality TV show and -while I appreciate the honesty- said it was only for the money. Their current trademarking actions of having Facebook shut down pages that use the terms is ridiculous. Their letters to non-profits telling them they have to cite the Dervaes whenever they use the terms is appaling. They use the excuse that when the world thinks "Urban Homestead" they immediately think "Dervaes" is egotistical and their drive to make the world cite or link to them when using terms that have been around for generations is nothing short of money-grubbing.

It's not so much owning them, it's what they're doing with it that is the issue.

According to them, every time I write URBAN HOMESTEAD® (it has to be written just like that) here on this very little known blog, I have to also say something somewhere near these words that this belongs to the Dervaes.  So, if I wanted to write about my friend's URBAN HOMESTEAD® I'd also have to tell you somewhere near the text that the Dervaes own those words. If I wanted to talk about my grandma who had a URBAN HOMESTEAD® back in the 1930's to help alliviate the food consuption of her children and her kids worked in her URBAN HOMESTEAD® over the summer and her URBAN HOMESTEADING® inspired her neighbor to start her own URBAN HOMESTEAD® as well as her daughter having a successful farmer's market stand because of her own URBAN HOMESTEAD® I would have to tell you that the Dervaes own those words even though my grandma did this all before they were born. *this is a fictitious story about my grandma to prove a point, she had a rural homestead.

Their website states this "In addition, more and more people began to use the term for profit..." but isn't that what they're doing? (besides mucking up my blog with all caps)

Currently, they have removed their own Facebook pages after being inundated with (mostly) politely asked questions about their motives. Their blog posts and twitter feed are defensive. They have issued a sort-of response on their website which basically just gives a copy of the letter they sent out but they have blocked any comments. There is now a Facebook group to take the terms back, bloggers -like me- are responding with their own feelings, and online editorials are being written. Before their personal and business pages were pulled people en masse were writing their objections, vowing to end support of the homesteaders both financially and socially. Their "like" numbers were dropping by the hundreds. All while, the Dervaes are pulling out of the spotlight, hopefully to regroup and apologize.

It's bad enough that we have to fight the government and big businesses to live simpler lives, have food that is healthy, and fulfill the dreams and desires we're being called upon to live out, but do we really need to fight amongst ourselves?


  1. Love it, Crystal. You said it beautifully. Much better than I did.

  2. I'd never even heard of these jokers until I was told about it by a fellow blogger this morning. It just goes to show, there are sheisters and carpetbaggers in every lifestyle. Be very careful who you give your money and support to. The entire purpose of "homesteading" is to be SELF SUFFICIENT, not to make money off others, in my opinion.

  3. This is just crazy. I can not believe they were allowed to trademark the term!

  4. You can trademark a slogan, which would prevent another product from being sold using the "No More Tears" phrase in the example I gave, but that doesn't mean I can get taken to court every time I try to get a kid to stop crying! Hopefully someone with enough resources will challenge this nonsense in court. It's about as ridiculous as Pepsi trademarking a color, and a dangerous precedent.

  5. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of.

  6. Absolutely ridiculous. Since I had never heard of them until I read YOUR blog, I guarantee that I didn't think of them whenever I heard the term U---- H------- Grrrrr Sounds mighty self-serving and a lot egocentric to me.

  7. Well said Crystal. I agree with all my heart!!!!