The Movie "Homegrown" Fulfills Urban Fantasy of Having a Farm

I have a fantasy scenario that plays out in my head each spring as the dingy snow melts; through the musky, warm summer evenings; during the crisp and bountiful weeks of autumn harvest – frankly, just about year round. My husband and I move our family to a healthy plot of land in the country where we grow our own food, make our own cheese, and watch our children frolic with goats, the sheep and the chickens. All is peaceful and pastoral. Admit it, if you're visiting this website, chances are good that you've had a similar fantasy yourself.
So what, besides a will and a way, is standing in our way? For one, my husband is a scientist, which means, at least for the time being, he can only get work in urban centers. Also, I'd miss having neighbors and museums and theater and coffee shops within walking distance. It would be hard to leave the concrete jungle where we now make our home. How's an urban girl to reconcile her rural longings?

The Devraes Family has the answer, and it’s been documented by producer and director Robert McFalls, in his film Homegrown. Led by Jules, the intrepid father of three grown children who still live with him, the Devraeses grow some 6,000 pounds of food each year on their 1/5 of an acre lot in the heart of urban Pasedena that's almost entirely “off the grid.” They make their own bio fuel, use solar panels, eat with the seasons, and maintain a blog that gets 4,000 hits a day. For a little income, they sell some of their bounty to local restaurants, but other than that, they simply recycle used goods or just do without. They have big hopes for expanding their community outreach beyond their website and the school visits to their homestead.

Of course, every Eden has its serpent, and in this case, the Devraes offspring are lured by the temptation of accepting paid advertising on their website. Right now, they offer information for free but by the son's estimates, they could earn $10,000 of “easy money” if only they allowed ads on their site. It is Jules who is most reluctant to give in to such temptation.

Homegrown is a brief, but beautiful film the follows the daily life of this family. Set to a haunting soundtrack by Jay Unger and Molly Mason (who also did the music for The Civil War by Ken Burns), McFall's film combines meditative shots of the garden, the family working and eating together, interviews with each of the family members, and the sometimes comedic antics of the chickens, ducks and goats. He traces Jules’s journey to this simpler life.

Homegrown can inspire even the most urban of hopeful “live off the landers.” It might even convince my husband that we can have our urban plot and eat it too.

The film was screened as part of the Film and Food series at The Bell Museum. For a complete list of upcoming events, visit the website:

Simple Good and Tasty is pleased to welcome Rhena Tantisunthorn, a native of Washington, DC, where she grew up knocking back Shirley Temples and cultivating a love of food at the bar rail of her parents' restaurant. She's eaten her way through much of Southeast Asia when she lived in Thailand for three years. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives with her husband and daughter in South Minneapolis where she writes, edits and creates.