Food To Go
Planting a farm in a pickup truck
By Tim Ghianni
Most truck farmers harvest their produce in the field, then load it up in their vehicle to transport to market. Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney approached the whole idea a little differently. These 29-year-old Yale grads went straight to the truck, creating a farm in the bed of a gray 1986 Dodge Ram pickup parked on Van Brunt Street in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.
The garden roams New York City, allowing folks to harvest sacks of edible greenery at their stoops for an annual fee of $20. Hey, the routine of alternative side of the street parking to make room for street sweepers means the truck has to be moved anyway, so why not bring the veggies to the city-dwelling masses?
Just as the American family farm is handed down through the generations, so too was this truck farm — or at least the Dodge Ram that carries 40 square feet of nature’s bounty.
“It was my grandfather’s pickup truck,” Cheney says. “He repairs and refurbishes antiques in Pennsylvania, so he used it to haul antiques. When I graduated from college he gave me the pickup, probably figuring it was time for me to do work that involved using a truck. I’m not sure this was what he had in mind.”
The two men are documenting the tale of their moveable feast via live-action sequences and time-lapse photography (a solar-powered camera shoots images of the crops every five minutes) for a film about urban farming.
Truck Farm will be the third film made by Cheney and Ellis. King of Corn followed them as they farmed and marketed an acre of corn in Iowa and The Greening of Southie explored rooftop gardening in South Boston.
Truck farmer wannabes should note there are steps to be taken in order to turn that old F-150 into a lush garden. Proper drainage and a light soil mixture are necessary to protect the truck and keep it mobile enough to carry arugula, broccoli, lettuce, herbs and tomato plants.
“We hope the film will not only be a fun and whimsical story about what to do with a 23-year-old Dodge pickup, but an educational tool for shedding light on urban agriculture,” says Cheney.
“With the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, it’s clear we need to eat more fruits and vegetables,” says Ellis. “We should all grow food in any space we can.”