Where Are Tree And Julia Heim From The Garden Now?

Nowadays, even remote, off-the-grid agrarian communes can't escape the prying eyes of the internet and its snide, unasked-for opinions (unless those communes are actually cults, in which case, pry away). The sad and strange story of the Lafayette, Tennessee commune The Garden portrays this exact setup, centered around what seems like characters in fiction but are actually real people recording TikToks about things like using pee to grow crops and showering using a DIY rain bucket-and-hose method.

The Liverpool, U.K.-born young man in those videos — who goes by "Tree" but should otherwise remain anonymous out of concern about harassment — joined The Garden and let folks know about it via TikTok starting January 2021, as Inverse describes. In short order, overinvolved internet sleuths decried The Garden as a cult and spread destructive gossip about it. Some claims seemed horrifying on the surface, but only when restricted to Twitter-length under-explanations like, "They killed and ate a cat" — an act done to protect the commune's food source (chickens) and also not waste a killed animal. 

Ultimately, The Garden's "grand experiment in truth" — as hacker and former member David Guthrie called it on Inverse — collapsed under outside scrutiny. Members received death threats, the commune closed to the public, and Tree was accused of abusing the American visa system. Nonetheless, Tree and his partner Julia Heim have seemingly moved on with no trouble. As their YouTube channel shows, they've simply continued traveling and living around the U.S. off-grid. 

No regrets about their temporary home

Tree and Julia arrived at The Garden in January 2021, when Tree started posting Tik-Toks online to spread the word about their "off-grid intentional community," an ongoing agricultural project meets conservatist community that had existed for 12 years before Tree and Julia showed up, as Vice outlines. By March 26 The Garden announced on Facebook that it was closed. All it had taken was a couple months of snowballing attention, views, and finally threats of mob-and-pitchfork-style "burn it all down" attacks for The Garden to shutter for safety's sake. Two months later Vice interviewed Tree and Julia to see what they were doing at that point.

The two regretted how members of The Garden were forced to leave under threat of violence. But Julie admitted to Vice that they inadvertently contributed to The Garden's downfall by being "a little too trusting" when posting online. However, they didn't regret the decision to involve themselves in the community. Tree said that The Garden was "always a transitory space" for everyone, where various people went at certain times of the year, left when they pleased, and moved out of specific buildings within a year to prevent a sense of ownership from developing. True to this ideology, Tree and Julie had already moved on by the time of their Vice interview, but still remained involved in a variety of sustainable community projects, some with other former Garden members.

Traveling, living, teaching

At the time of their May 2021 Vice interview Tree and Julie had already gotten involved in teaching workshops about sustainable community living, aka "permaculture practices," via the Permaculture Mutual Aid Network. This organization is a collaborative effort across multiple communes involving artists and non-profits that pointedly involves itself in disaster aid relief, such as cleanup following August 2021's Hurricane Henri. Some of Tree and Julie's workshops from May 2021 exist in TikTok form, such as one showing how to use hay, clay, and sand to build a house. The Permaculture Mutual Aid Network also works with the Foundation for International Community, a non-profit focused on healing modernity's social woes, top to bottom, through the creation of integrated, close-knit, interdependent communities.

Besides working with organizations such as these, Tree and Julie's YouTube channel shows the story of their goings on in the years since they left The Garden. Videos include how-tos about DIY outdoor ovens, van living, and harvesting sweet potatoes. Others show them heading to the forested Rainbow Gathering in Colorado and stopping in northern Minnesota to protest the placement of the Line 3 oil pipeline. They even swung around back to The Garden. 

While Tree and Julie's YouTube travelogues have petered off, their latest TikTok as of this writing shows them doing the exact same thing they'd been doing, complete with a snazzy pink van. It's safe to assume that the two of them will continue on happily in this way for some time to come.