The growing interest in urban gardening has been sweeping the nation, and more and more small-space gardening ideas have been popping up in the most unexpected places. In the new short documentary Truck Farm, the filmmakers follow the progress of a New York City urban gardener who plants a mobile vegetable garden in the back of his pickup truck.
The film was produced by the makers of King Corn, a well-received documentary about food industry giants in America. Now they have branched out in the opposite direction, looking at organic farming at the individual level. As the “Truck Farm” cruises its way around The Big Apple, the producers find and befriend a plethora of innovative urban gardeners growing their own veggies in whatever open spaces they can find. From rooftop farms to a sustainable boat-house garden, cleverly engineered vertical window farms, and even a community garden built on top of an old baseball diamond, Truck Farm is just loaded with great ideas for the urban gardener.
The entire film is a whimsical journey through urban gardening, narrated with an original folk/country score played by the producers themselves. Campy and fun animated sequences pop up throughout the film, providing musical explanations of a process, historical context, or sometimes just a comical break between scenes. As the Truck Farm grows and prospers, the characters grow along with their tomatoes, taking advice from the people they meet and modifying the truck bed as they go. The Truck Farm even faces the harsh realities of urban gardening, such as theft.
When watching this film, I was impressed by the innovative use of available resources to convert the truck into a garden. The ladder rack became a removable greenhouse, the soil was amended with recycled materials and compost, and the truck bed itself was lined with porous and protective materials designed for rooftop gardens, allowing for proper moisture retention and drainage without rusting out the truck itself.
I was surprised that the producers did not think to use Square Foot Gardening techniques to get the most produce out of the small space. When you think about it, an old full-size pickup truck is quite literally a perfect 4x8ʼ raised bed, so the basis for a square foot cuisine garden is already there. It was clear from the film that the Truck Farm, which was planted in four long rows, was not producing a whole lot of food. What was grown in the Truck Farm looked delicious, but it would have made more sense for the producers grow and eat a meal for themselves, instead of trying to sell it to local restaurants and vendors as they did in the film.
Overall, Truck Farm is a quirky and inspirational look at the ways people have found to grow their own food without a yard or balcony. I hope the message gets out to all of those city-dwellers with an unused rooftop or broken down pickup truck that there is more than one way to turn your property into a prosperous garden.
Visit www.truck-farm.com/ for more information or to buy a dvd.
Melissa Allard is a Boston-based filmmaker. She has been gardening her whole life, and now makes instructional videos for Garden Girl TV. She graduated from Emerson College, and currently works for Filmshack and The Boston Globe.
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