One of the most fun interviews I’ve done this year has been with King Corn filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney. I talked with these hilarious friends for our new issue of EatingWell Magazine about their new Truck Farm project: part political statement, part urban agriculture experiment and all-around great fodder for their next film, Truck Farm. The guys planted arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, hot peppers and more in the bed of the gray 1986 Dodge Ram that Cheney’s granddad gave him, the pair’s only vehicle (and the same ride they drove cross-country for their award-winning documentary King Corn).
If you live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, you may have seen these guys cruising around town with their garden planted in the back of the pickup. (If you don’t live in Brooklyn, you can see a video of the pair’s Truck Farm here. My favorite part? The tiny plastic "animals" on the farm. Watch closely and see if you can catch a glimpse of the cow on the trailer.)
"If we’re going to drive somewhere, we have to drive the farm," Ellis told me. If they drive over 40 mph, soil starts flying out of the back, so they stick to the back roads if they leave the city.
When I talked with Ellis and Cheney about their first year as truck farmers, it was clear that it’s a project they are having fun with—they’re taking this mobile garden project to community events and on a school tour up and down the Northeast this week to coincide with Earth Day. But they’re also using it as a springboard to get people thinking about how they can grow their own food, no matter where they live. (Get our tips for the easiest way to grow your own food—no garden required.)
How productive can a garden in the back of a truck be, you ask? Ellis told me they’ve been shockingly pleased. "We’ve been gardening for 10 years and this is the most abundant garden that either of us has ever grown," he told me. They had three full harvests of arugula, made 20 little jars of hot sauce using jalapeño and habanero peppers, and all in all got a couple shopping carts-full of produce. Pretty impressive, right? The guys started a CSA (community-supported agriculture) and fed 20 people from it. Shares cost $20. (Want to start your own garden? Get a super-simple garden plan and tips here.)
But money and growing lots of food aren’t their ultimate goals. Their project has political consequences too. Ellis and Cheney want to address the fact that many American neighborhoods are food deserts—places where people don’t have access to fresh foods—whether they’re urban neighborhoods that only have liquor stores or rural places with acres of corn, soybeans and livestock, but no other fresh food is being grown. Creative agriculture—and trying to inspire others to grow food their own food—is their response to that.
Inspired to start your own wacky garden? Through June 1, the pair are holding a garden contest for student groups across the country. Get more details at www.truck-farm.com.
What’s the most unusual garden you’ve ever seen or grown? Tell us what you think below.