A Medford man who has channeled his passion for plants into a half-million YouTube views is among six finalists in a national gardening competition.
Enoch Graham, who's garnered close to 11,000 subscribers as “the Urban Gardener” on YouTube demonstrating how he grows hundreds of pounds of organic food from his small backyard garden, will spend the next eight months competing with five other gardeners after Graham was named as a finalist in the Johnny Appleseed Organic Invitational.
The contest presented by Mother Earth News boasts a grand prize that gives the winner a choice of roughly $50,000 in prizes such as an electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup, a Kubota tractor, cash, or five acres of farmland in Georgia with a restricted deed.
For Graham, the exposure that the national competition has given him is a prize in and of itself.
“Even being picked to be part of this contest, I’ve already won,” Graham said. “I can’t wait to see where it goes.”
Graham was picked out of about 50 applicants who submitted a short video, personal statement and their photograph, according to Lynsey Ruml, Johnny Appleseed Organic engagement manager.
Between now and late October, Graham will face competitors from Alabama, Georgia, New Mexico, New York and Ohio — each with their own followings on Instagram and TikTok, among other platforms — in seasonal events such as heaviest tomato, hottest pepper, heaviest sweet potato and heaviest squash, according to the contest page.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what they bring and what they grow,” Graham said.
Graham says he enjoys growing peppers, but he’s particularly looking forward to the squash challenge. Last year, Graham said he and his daughter grew a pumpkin that weighed 137 pounds.
“It took both of us to move it,” Graham said.
A friend of his from the state of Washington grew a pumpkin that weighed 2,000 pounds that was “the size of several human beings stacked up on each other.”
Graham uploaded his first YouTube video March 20, 2017, and has since uploaded 175 more videos about such topics as how he transplants pepper seedlings, and tips for keeping old buckets or paper towel rolls out of the landfill and repurposing them in the garden.
Graham’s interest in plants began in childhood with a house plant. He has a pothos plant that he’s had for 25 years after rescuing it from a restaurant that was disposing of its plants.
His first real taste of gardening was about 11-1/2 years ago. He was living in the Seattle area, and a friend gave him a cucumber plant that flourished on his apartment balcony.
He moved to Southern Oregon 10 years ago. He now has a paved back patio, a couple of in-ground spots, and plants growing in containers made out of buckets in a nearby alleyway.
A neighbor showed Graham how to garden in the alleyway, and it inspired him.
“He’d been doing that for 20 years, many years before I even came here,” Graham said.
He started watching less TV and more YouTube tutorials with gardening tips, and documentaries about the health benefits of avoiding processed food.
“Everything kind of exploded from there,” Graham said. “I really kinda nerded out on it.”
His friends kept asking about his garden. Eventually he decided to use the video production skills he’d learned in high school — back when the process involved tapes — and share it online.
“When I moved into YouTube, everything got bigger,” Graham said.
A major moment in the journey came in 2019 at the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, where a British woman told him she watched him all the time.
“I was just a little tiny channel,” Graham said, calling the moment one of “those little rewards.”
At roughly 10,900 subscribers, Graham isn’t quite able to do YouTube full time, but he has already seen some fruits of his labor. He’s been able to meet some of the garden YouTubers who got him started, such as Los Angeles gardener John Kohler.
Produce at a grocery store, Graham said, is primarily grown with a shelf life in mind. With a garden, he learned he could become his own grocery store.
“It’s your own grocery store, but you get to change the variety,” Graham said. “You’re getting the opportunity to grow the best.”
Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.