Growing Back To Eden • Nick Ager
Nick is only 18 - a fact that seems to surprise everyone but him. While much of the Junto got back to their passion after pursuing office careers, Nick skipped that chapter of quiet desperation and created a bio-dynamic homestead with the guidance of his mentor, Paul Gautschi's, principles of Back To Eden gardening.
Prior to speaking with Nick, I was unfamiliar with this "Back To Eden" approach. The premise is simple: in the fabled Garden of Eden, humans existed in perfect balance with nature. In returning to this paradigm of simple, productive organic gardening methods we can reverse the toxic imbalance endemic to modern agriculture, and cultivate a deeper connection with nature. In this sense, it's a psychological and spiritual perspective on the technical aspects of permaculture. Or, as Nick puts it: "You need to have faith that whatever your doing will work out and that all of your hard work will pay off in the long run!"
What’s the story behind where you are today?
For as long as I can remember I was always doing something that would give me the title of a "gardener" or even a "steward of the land". However it wasn't till just a few years back that my passion and love for growing food, and working WITH the land grew... And it grew fast!
My first real garden was simply just a two foot by fifty foot bed that ran the length of a backyard fence and followed Back to Eden gardening principles. That little garden grew a lot of stuff in it too! It was that very garden, well right next to Paul Gautschi's garden of course, that inspired me to teach and spread the word of BTE gardening!
At the end of I think the second season of growing in it, I decided to start up an Instagram page called @growingbacktoeden. Through that page I posted pics of my harvests and posts about how to start your own BTE garden and so much more! Well a few seasons go by and the page and the garden grew rapidly! But however things changed with the garden just last fall when I decided it was best for me to leave.
I left not knowing where exactly I'd start a new garden but I had faith that I'd find something that would work out. It wasn't even a week later that I was told I could start a garden on the farm I work on! So what did I do? After work each day I was out there putting together a roughly 1500 square foot Back To Eden garden! This season will be my first year growing in it and I'm extremely excited to see what it blesses me with! As much as I would love to grow in that space for years to come I still have a dream of moving away from the east coast of Maryland to the PNW in Washington! So hopefully one day I will be able to find a property where I can grow my garden have an amazing orchard, like my mentor Paul Gautschi's, and bring people out to teach them about gardening, homesteading, and living a simple and sustainable lifestyle!
What’s your Why?
People are always shocked when they hear that I'm only 18 and do all that I do, at such a young age! But when you are truly passionate about something, age is seriously just a number. Unlike the majority of kids my age, I'm excited to get up early each morning and go work, and then go work some more and spend time with the animals until it gets too dark to do anything else.
I enjoy having to go take care of things like a garden or livestock each day. In my opinion, it's cool to think that if I don't get up each morning to go take care of the animals and tend to the garden then they won't take care of me in return. I feed, and provide a happy and healthy living environment for the animals, and they (well the majority of them anyways) provide me with either eggs, meat, or even a free source of pest control.
What I do isn't just a hobby that takes a lot of work to keep up with, it's more of a lifestyle in my book. It's apart of who I am! So even when it's raining cats and dogs, or if there is 5 foot snow drifts in the driveway to the farm from the blizzard that came through the night before, you can guarantee that I'll still be trying to go feed the animals twice a day no matter what obstacles will be in the way that day!
What’s on the list for today? What’s next?
As much as I would love my 1500 square feet of heaven, I still have a dream of moving away from the east coast of Maryland to the PNW in Washington! So hopefully one day I will be able to find a property where I can grow my garden have an amazing orchard like my mentor Paul Gautschi's, and bring people out to teach them about gardening, homesteading, and living a simple and sustainable lifestyle!
What’s one thing that you’d like people to know?
When raising and growing your own food and living a self-sufficient lifestyle, it's not always going to be easy. As a matter of fact it will be hard most of the time. You will come across many obstacles, but the only way you can truly be successful is if: one, you obviously never give up and keep trying again until you get it right, and two, you have faith! You need to have faith that whatever your doing will work out and that all of your hard work will pay off in the long run!
If you're not faithful, and if you don't keep a positive outlook when even just growing a small garden or raising a few backyard chickens, then you will more than likely fail and have the worst experience. So listen, if you take anything away from reading this let it be that last sentence! It's not just for gardening and raising a few animals it's really for anything in life!