“I’m all about simplicity.”
Nick Ager is reconnecting people to the food system.
Nick first started his journey as an educator after joining the Back to Eden farm, where he now lives. He describes Paul, founder of Back to Eden, as a “world famous gardener,” who has changed the tune of what constitutes good agricultural practices. Now, he spends his time cultivating the theology behind the Back to Eden garden, by sharing the simplicity of the system.
Since starting at a young age, Nick continues to encourage new gardeners to try their hand at producing their own food. “Growing up, I would go and pick seeds out in our neighbors garden; I was always doing something outside, all of the time. That was a passion that I never gave up…now I do it because it’s a way of life.”
“As I got more and more interested in this Paul Gautschi and Back to Eden deal, I started to realize so many people out there online, they didn’t understand the whole concept behind Back to Eden… so I started my Instagram page, and used that as a teaching tool, to inspire and teach people how to grow a garden, how to grow a Back to Eden garden successfully, and that took off.”
The Back to Eden theology utilizes wood chips, sawdust, and mulch to improve overall soil health for better plant growth. This no-till, sheet composting style is applied to suppress weed growth, maintain soil moisture, increase soil nutrient quality, and incorporate organic matter, among many other benefits.
While Nick was already utilizing wood chips in his garden before he heard about Paul and Back to Eden, with Paul’s system, he had found a more concrete proof of concept. “I was already using wood chips in the garden…using wood chips is sustainable, it’s the best way for building your soil, retaining water, and reducing weed pressure in a garden. It was just the perfect example.” However, even with these simple ingredients, people still seemed hesitant to give it a try.
“People try and complicate things…they think they need to know the science behind things, and when I do a consultation, I make it so simple. People make everything so complicated, by nature, so they are so stressed and overwhelmed by gardening in general. Its not as hard as people make it seem….People either getting into gardening or farming, and they are not enjoying it like they should be, because they have made it complicated.”
Part of what drives him is reconnecting people with the quality and origins of their food. “People are so disconnected from their food system…I try and promote the everyday person to grow a garden.” Starting small, and staying in touch with local ecosystems are the best ways ensure success. To put it simply, he says, “Buy heirloom. Save seed.”
“I would also encourage them to learn how to save your own seeds…saving your own seeds from your best plants each year…the best plant that thrives in your garden, save the seed from that and the next year, plant that seed. It was grown in your garden, so it will do better in your garden.”
For Nick, there are pretty much no excuses, “Depending on where you are, kale will grow straight through the winter, and will actually be at its best. Right now, I’m looking out the window and I’ve got parsley cilantro, kale beets, potatoes still out there. There is so much that you can keep going in a garden, throughout the winter to feed you.”
No excuses that is, unless you suggest to him growing corn. “If you’re gonna do it for fun, definitely, if you’re going to do it to lower your food bill, don’t waste time growing corn. If you’ve got kids, inspiring them to get in the garden, and this will get them to do it, great. In reality, I garden for my health, I garden just to be healthy and eat real food.”
His best advice? “Don’t think about it, just do it…it doesn’t have to be a homestead, or anything elaborate, but I like to encourage people to just grow a garden, even if it’s just a couple pots out on the balcony of an apartment. No matter what, I think everybody should have some sort of garden.”
“Get yourself some wood chips, put some newspaper down on top of the grass, dont till it, add 3-4 inches of wood chips on top of the newspaper, and do all that in the fall. Then in the spring, you’re good. Move the chips aside, plant in the soil, once plants come up, move the chips back, and you’re set. There’s your garden, it will thrive, I guarantee it.”
When it come to gardening, the more the merrier. “There are a lot of people who are brand new to it, and I love that. Keeping it small, like, small scale, that’s even more of what I’m about.” However, at the end of the day, he insists, “I’m all about simplicity.”
To explore how to make a homestead or small farm more sustainable, tune into his new YouTube channel that includes informational videos, or find him on Instagram at @growingbacktoeden