Top

news

Stories

 

A fight over "urban homesteading" could wipe city farmers off Facebook

There were some ruffled feathers," admits James Bertini, the attorney/urban farm advocate who's been working for years to get the city to allow chickens in Denver yards. "But there aren't now." Not in this city, at least. Bertini has already filed a ballot initiative that would allow Denverites to keep up to six chickens — but some city officials are proposing to allow even bigger flocks, and unless their effort lays an egg, Bertini won't need to push that initiative in November.

Besides, he has other things to keep him occupied, including a major fight with Facebook, which on February 14 disabled the page for Denver Urban Homesteading — the year-round indoor farmers' market that Bertini owns with his wife — saying that the page violated copyright law. That same day, Facebook pages and blogs across the United States that used the phrase "urban homesteading" or "urban homestead" were also shut down.

Turns out that Jules Dervaes and his family in Pasadena, California, have trademarked the phrases "urban homesteading" and "urban homestead." The family's operations are incorporated as a church, the Dervaes Institute, with Jules listed as a minister of urban homesteading. "A group of us across the country who have small businesses involving urban homesteading and authors of books on this subject are working together to decide how to challenge this situation," says Bertini. "Urban homesteading is a concept that describes city dwellers getting in touch with the soil, learning to garden and raise chickens and teaching their children where food comes from, and the notion that this can be trademarked and that those who discuss it must acknowledge or pay a family church in Pasadena is preposterous."

Bertini isn't the only one putting up a fight. Adam Parfrey, whose Feral House has published everything from the writings of Ted Kaczynski to American Hardcore, also puts out more mainstream books through Process Media, including The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. That was enough to earn Parfrey a cease-and-desist letter last week from the Dervaes Institute. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken up his cause, sending a stern letter to the institute demanding that it stop its trademark campaign and giving it until Friday to atone for its sins. "In addition," warned Corynne McSherry, the EFF's intellectual property director, "I strongly urge you to take similar steps with regard to the myriad other organizations and persons who have also been the targets of this misguided campaign. Please be aware that while we are hopeful that this issue can be resolved promptly and amicably, we reserve the right to pursue all legal remedies as necessary."

In other words, the actions of the Dervaes Institute are chickenshit.

Scene and herd: Last week's Off Limits list of a half-dozen great Denver hoaxes brought forth several suggestions from readers. Among them: the cayman in Washington Park, the terrorists who were going to blow up the Dillon Dam, the employee of the Edgewater Blockbuster who stabbed himself to avoid going to work (and netted Denver national press in the process)...and the 2011 Denver Broncos!

 
My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
Theresa Nielsen
Theresa Nielsen

This sort of thing does happen; however is best to focus on the intent of all concerned and that is to help visitors and residents alike find great homestead like from days of our ancestors history wholesome homestead products. There are ways to also give the name geography which might be even better by stating Denver Urban Homestading, or "Colorado Urban Homesteading" etc. and in the world of business similar names could be not always a minus but a plus since its called "evangilizing the concept of a product or service in this case homesteading. I sure hope to visit in the near future and check out your great products and services to our community.

Brent Terrazas
Brent Terrazas

I can't believe i only just now came across this issue. I've only lived in Colorado for 2 years now, before that I lived/worked in Atlanta.... however i was born and raised in Pasadena, CA.

Keep in mind it's also the home to other quake that enjoy taking the loopholes still present in california state law regarding tax & grant benefits by being a registered "church." I.e. Ambassador College. Luckily for you these guys are so tiny/busch league it isn't even funny. I can't imagine why they'd even try to go after trademarking an industry term, that'd be like me trying to trademark "social media."

From first hand knowledge i know a) they're a sham, and b) this is most likely how they get their primary source of income - via frivolous lawsuits. It's quite common in the southern california area... and trust me when i say it disgusts everyone, not just those from out of state.

I'm going to send you an email with some contact information for some local Pasadena groups/legal firms who deal with this type of stuff on a weekly basis, pro-bono for situations like this. For instance right now they're going after a guy out in the Valley who has registered over 200+ lawsuits claiming disability discrimination against business owners in addition to having been pretty much caught on eyewitness news jogging with his dogs even though his 'disability' was supposedly the final/last stage of emphysema. Yeah, before you even reach that stage you typically have a hard time even just breathing, let along doing anything even as simple as walking across the room. Most of the cases get thrown out of court immediately, they know that so what they're quite literally banking on is that they cause such a scene/annoyance that you end up paying them off just to get out of your life so you can resume/continue your business without some fraud who's playing the system as a means of making an income. In the case i just mentioned when i last heard (about a week ago), out of the 200 initial fillings he'd submitted, 90% were either thrown out immediately or eventually were settled out of court so that the business owner wouldn't have to suffer the toil (not to mention economic burden) of going to court. This guy also always use to file for having his court fees waived due to his disabilities... luckily he'd been denied 100% of the time. I'm sure this guy will realize he's barking up the wrong tree, especially now that the EFF is involved (they've got a legal staff that rivals top NYC/Chicago/LA firms.... mainly because a lot of their members work at those types of firms as their 'day job.' )

Btw, in both dallas (where i went to undergrad), and in atlanta, ga (where i lived downtown), there were live animals always within at least one block if not on the same block from any place i'd move to. Each state has their own rules, but usually it's just in regards to the # of animals and the required distance their coup/living area has to be in comparison to your neighbors property line. Having grown up with a friend that had practically their own farm in the backyard (in Pasadena, CA), I can assure you that he's just looking for some quick $ as unlike the stereotype Hollywood/LA has of everyone being jerks who only care about themselves, it's really full of some phenomenal people/communities that folks like this jerk prey on. Btw, if you haven't heard of the Ambassador College, it's because they were the biggest, most well funded scam of an un-accredited university as well as church in the history of the state. Eventually they were run out of the state and claim Texas to be their main headquarters even though they've lost just about everything and are still in the middle of lawsuits that have to do with their actions from the 60s through to even today.

I hope everything works out, if not just file a counter-suit when it's proven that even though they make claim to have the trademark, they still can have their funding pulled/credentials + tax benefits that you get by being a registered church pulled. The city won't/can't handle another incident that even smells remotely like what happened 20-30 years ago so i also wouldn't be surprised if they step in too on your side.

good luck-b

Neomartha
Neomartha

Just get back to the soil, and get over yourselves!

Alistairandrewbane
Alistairandrewbane

I have always beleived that sustainabilty and the green movement should be bonded with a beleif in basic human rights. Unfortunately, this organization has chosen a name that glorifies a part of American history that was all about land theft and the abuse of Indigenous people...namely, the Homesteading act. I am Eastern Shawnee, a Nation deeply affected by the horrors of the Homesteading act, and living here in Denver, I find it offensive every time I have to drive past "Denver Urban Homesteading". It only reminds me that through the homesteading act, our lands were stolen and later poluted by the petrol chemical and industrial farming complexes in Oklahoma. Why choose a name that glorifies the abuses of Indigenous people as well as the abuses of land? Chicken rights for denver...nice...but what about human rights? To my sensibilities, "being green" or "sustainable" is merely a hollow trend rather than a way of life, unless it is understood that respect for ALL people is part of that. Until this organization changes their name to something that does not glorify genocide, they have no crediblity with me.

Lise
Lise

I think I'll trademark the word "I" so anytime anyone uses it they have to pay me. Oh, and I'll get a patent on all apples so if anyone grows them , they'll have to pay me as well. Now. let's see, what about air . . .

Wildreign
Wildreign

First of all people move to the city because they don't want to be in the country around farm animals and whatever. I'm not saying people don't have a right to grow food because I am interested in tomatoes, herbs and the like on my porch, but what I am saying is if you want a farm with animals you need to raise, the city isn't for you!!! Everything the Government does is not about taking away our power, but keeping order. A lot of people have kids they don't keep track of, can you imagine animals getting out, running into the street, the smell, the noise. While the thought interests some of you, think about this: Everyone doesn't live the same with the same hygiene and manners, or knowledge of animal care. Go find a farm way out and raise whatever you want, but leave the city to people who don't want this life!

NeoMartha
NeoMartha

Seriously? We are taking about a couple chickens...not a herd of goats. Furthermore, I grew up on an organic, freerange chicken farm and never once had to chace after them down the road, unlike most of my neighbors and their socially accepable dogs.

CityFarmer
CityFarmer

You sound like an idiot, and I bet you are.

Locke1682
Locke1682

The beauty of city life is, unlike the rural world, you are able to ignore the backyard activities of your neighbors and keep your property in any way you see fit. Whats more, Denver is unique, that is correct, Unique, amongst major metropolitan areas in forbidding a reasonable amount of livestock within city limits. Sophisticated metropoli such as New York, Chicago, and LA all allow a flock of up to 6 chickens to be kept. So, it seems either the people within the city of New York are not truly urbanites, or keeping chickens in your yard is an urban activity, and you would be out of the urban norm for disdaining it. Not to mention the economic and environmental benefits, and public health for everyone. In many cases for a poor family it is the difference between processed foods that will lead to medical bills attached to obesity and diabetes or a good, affordable food source. It breaks down food monopolies like Monsanto, and small grocers are more able to prosper. No one is advocating cattle, roosters, or hogs. Just some quite little chickens and some horticulture. I would much rather my tax money go to supporting home farms than subsidies and a health care system to support an obesity epidemic.

Raggna529
Raggna529

All People on the face of this earth should be allowed to GROW their own food on matter what the reason. God gave us this life, and the knowlege on how to servive, and No state or Government should take away what GOD gave us Period....

Samphx2006
Samphx2006

So you wouldn't have a problem if your neighbor decided to raise a couple cows, a few pigs, and a goat or two? Get a grip.

Westwind5050
Westwind5050

No I wouldn't Samp...as long as they kept it clean. But anyone with half a brain knows you can't keep two cows and a few pigs on a city size lot...

Jackg
Jackg

I'd want cheap beef, bacon and goats milk. I'd love it if I could have a few animals in my yard. I plan to sell my city house to get a country one as soon as I get a bidder on it.

Tom
Tom

my neighbor had a henhouse in socal. It wasn't loud and we got all the free eggs we could carry whenever we wanted. Free food for you and your neighbors is a bad thing? You get a grip chief.

 
Loading...