When I start feeling a little sorry for myself because I have only a tiny plot on which to plant my herbs and vegetables, I remember Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney. The Brooklyn-based filmmakers, whose wonderful documentary King Corn chronicled their planting of a bumper corn crop of corn on 1 square acre of land, are now touting their Truck Farm, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program that sprouted from one unlikely question: How do you grow your own food in the big city if you don’t have any land? The back of Ian’s grandfather’s 1986 Dodge pickup was the city dweller’s only option.
For about $200, Ellis and Cheney planted peppers, tomatoes, basil, broccoli, parsley, nasturtium, arugula and three different types of lettuce in lightweight GaiaSoil A nearby restaurant owner let them hook up their hose to irrigate (and also gave them wine) in exchange for fresh basil. Twenty CSA subscribers paid $20 a piece for a share of the small harvest, and the truck became a fixture in the community. Last summer one teenager couldn’t stop eating the fresh parsley, and neighbors left plastic farm animals and superhero figurines. “I really love that Truck Farm has that kind of changing dynamic,” Curt says. “It’s a public space where—whether we invite them to or not—people feel welcome to pull weeds or have a green tomato or leave behind a toy or something. That’s pretty cool.”
The truck also grabs attention when the farmers drive it in New York. A bodega owner said he loved the truck farm because it reminded him of his grandmother’s garden in Puerto Rico, and a delivery-truck driver rolled down his window to yell praises while idling next to the truck farm on Third Avenue. The urban farmers plan to bring the mobile garden to farmer’s markets, food pantries and homeless shelters this year.
“Anybody can grow food, no matter where they live,” Curt says. “We want people around the country to start growing food in window boxes, on their kitchen windowsills, on their rooftops, in the backs of their pickup trucks or their Toyota Celicas. We want to see more fresh food everywhere!”