Thursday in the City- Truck Farm


Our cities need more green spaces.   It helps keep our waters clean, the air we breathe clean, reduces heat island index, provides a habitat for animals and insects, and the list goes on.  Urban farming has been gainig popularity and it couldn’t be at a better time.   Food is a great way to reconnect people with the land and environment.  These two film makers , Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, have begun a new journey since their last doumentary “King Corn“.  This one, involves starting an urban farm in the back of an old truck!   Their story is a great one.  


Virginia Sole Smith gets a great interview (below) at Planet Green.  Please see the link for the original posting. 



PG: Hi Ian. What on earth inspired you to put a farm in the back of a pickup truck?


IC: After finishing KING CORN, a film about the roots of America’s burgeoning obesity epidemic, I had a real desire to grow something other than commodity corn. A garden, to be specific: vegetables! But when I moved to New York City two years ago, it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have any place to grow food. Setting my sights on the 5′ x 8′ bed of my Granddad’s old pickup, Truck Farm was born. I borrowed green roof technology to facilitate good drainage and hold the soil in place, planted a few rows of heirloom seeds and watched the garden grow!
PG: What’s the most challenging thing about truck farming? What’s the most fun?
IC: The most challenging thing is getting enough water for the truck, because the lightweight soil drains quite easily. Fortunately, that’s also the most fun: We drive up to an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood, hook up a hose to their spigot, hand over a little basil, and water away. Sometimes Fulvio, the owner, gives me a glass of wine with a flourish: “Water for the farm, wine for the farmer!”
PG: Nice trade. So you’ve got basil going. What else grows well for you?
IC: Truck Farm produces a shocking amount of salad greens, especially in spring and early fall. Last year we had a blowout crop of cherry tomatoes. We had so much that I caught a gas station attendant sneaking a few as he filled up the Dodge with regular unleaded. But in truth, everything grows quite well. I’ve been a lousy gardener all my life (I couldn’t even keep an aloe plant alive in college), but there’s something about the truck that gets those vegetables to grow…
PG: And since you’re harvesting so much, you’ve started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. How does that work?
IC: In principle, the CSA works like this: members give twenty bucks at the beginning of the spring, and then every month they get a little bag of greens, herbs, and vegetables delivered to their doorstep. In reality, most of the subscribers live in my neighborhood so I encourage them to just clip a few greens or pluck a few tomatoes on their way home from work. Saves gas! The range of produce this year is pretty big; we’ve got sugar snap peas, tomatoes, arugula, salad greens, chives, summer squash, parsley, basil, oregano, sage, broccoli, okra, hot peppers, and one rangy sunflower.
PG: So can I plant a farm in my Subaru Outback? Or in an old bathtub? What other things make good farm/garden vehicles (pun intended)?
IC: You bet! Plants like sun, water, and soil — but you can even get away without soil if you find a way to get the plants the nutrients they need. An old bathtub filled with compost and dirt makes a lovely place for a Tub Farm, although admittedly I’d be more excited to see one in the Subaru. In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if car companies started selling cars and trucks with built-in gardens? Picture the 2011 Dodge Truck Farm…an edible car!
PG: Message to Dodge: Get on that! Meanwhile, are other people doing this (planting gardens in non-traditional places) or are you hoping to start a trend? We’d love to know about any other guerilla farmers like yourselves…
IC: It’s been amazing to see the places where it’s possible to grow food. We’ve seen rooftop farms, barge farms, window farms, backyard Brooklyn chicken farms, and heard folks talk about growing food and raising animals in enormous sky scrapers. Recently we launched the Wicked Delicate Garden Contest, encouraging young people to think about the funniest place they could think of to grow food. Sure, crops planted in toilets or Dad’s sneaker won’t solve our biggest food problems, but it was exciting to see young people equate farming with fun.
PG. Plus, how practical for people who want to garden but don’t have any outdoor space! So how could this idea be adapted for different kinds of communities (schools, retirement centers, offices, etc)?
IC: Fresh, healthful food shouldn’t be a luxury — it should be everywhere. Fortunately, with a little imagination, a bit of good soil and a handful of seeds, you can grow food in the unlikeliest of places. Rooftops, vacant lots and front lawns are especially promising places for little raised-bed plots of greens and herbs. By actively re-engaging with the land, we not only get a bit more good food, we get a good dose of fun and satisfaction while growing it. I’ve watched enough people – young and old – lean on the old Dodge and smile to know that everybody loves a garden.
PG: We want more! What’s next for Truck Farm?

IC: We’re currently hard at work finishing Truck Farm the Film, a whimsical hour-long introduction to urban agriculture with the old Dodge as a guide. Also, this fall I’m going to experiment with growing saffron, but when that doesn’t work…maybe rabbits? Visit truck-farm.com to stay tuned!   

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