Foodie Underground: Truck Farm

ColumnThe film “Truck Farm” proves that small scale urban farming efforts are part of the solution.

I’ve seen Truck Farm pop up around the web over the last year, in fact I remember when it was up for a NAU’s 2nd annual Grant for Change. But beyond some cool looking photos of a garden in the back of an old, black, Dodge truck – the kind of photos that make their way onto green and design blogs and give you a general feeling of goodness – I didn’t really have a grasp of what Truck Farm was. Until last week.

Packed into an auditorium with hundreds of other people at Mountainfilm in Telluride, I didn’t know what to expect. Can you really make a 48 minute film about growing a garden in the bed of a truck?

After a presentation on food the day before by the film’s directors, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, I knew that it would be smart and funny and most likely touch on some of the things in which I believe strongly. What transpired was one of the best films I have seen in awhile. Sewn into the story of a Brooklynite transforming the bed of his truck into a garden are glimpses into how we start changing our food policy, from the ground up.

Watch the trailer for Truck Farm here.

Truck Farm is quirky and humorous, yet it hits on the themes that we so often discuss when it comes to food: thinking about where our food comes from, the importance of reconnecting to what we eat, building community and being part of an underground movement that feels empowered to make change.

Along the way, the acclaimed Marion Nestle takes a bite of the Truck Farm‘s salad and smiles, gourmet chefs pay for truck grown herbs, even if the bounty is small, teens at a community garden donate a pepper plant to be put in the bed, and after taking the truck on a school tour, children are inspired to start building gardens in whatever objects they can find.

But Truck Farm itself is only the beginning.

There’s a point in the film when one of the chefs interviewed points out that he loves the concept, but he’s still not sure if it’s part of the global solution to food issues.

But what if it is the solution?

Since the success of the Brooklyn Truck Farm, individuals around the country have started their own versions. Even strolling through Telluride I saw one parked downtown, and in Denver you can buy Truck Farm produce at the farmers market. The number of urban farms and their capacity have increased exponentially. We may not be solving the problems of the global food supply with these efforts, but they’re certainly heartening.

Efforts like these prove that there is a group of people out there that are truly concerned with where their food comes from and honoring the connection to what they eat. Above that, they’re willing to think creatively about what it’s going to take to encourage entire communities to move in that direction.

Cheney and Ellis remind us that the demand is there; that in urban spaces, restaurants want locally grown goods, be it from a rooftop farm or the back of a truck. And if the demand is there, we need to start thinking about increasing the supply, from window gardens to planters of herbs.

With two food related films under their belts (Cheney and Ellis are also the brains behind King Corn), the duo knows the importance of educating and empowering food leaders. Enter their FoodCorps national service program, an initiative with visionary “volunteers for a yearlong term of public service in school food systems,” a place that we know desperately needs help. Run as an AmeriCorps program, in its first year Food Corps has placed leaders in ten states to start seriously working on building gardens, connecting kids to farmers and more.

As Ellis says, when it comes to changing the food movement, “gardens are such a powerful place to start.” Makes you want to go build a garden in your truck doesn’t it?

If we all take the steps to grow some of our own food, even if it’s a small amount, then we become part of the solution, and the more of us that do it, the bigger our movement becomes. And maybe then, we can start talking about this as being part of a global solution. After all, couldn’t we all use a little more “think globally, act locally”?

Images: The Tasty Buzz, Truck Farm


Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.