DFW TRUCK FARM
Photo by Amy Ramirez
By Ellen Ritscher Sackett
If you see two women wearing wide-brimmed floppy hats, driving in the slow lane along a North Texas highway with vines peeking out from beneath the tarp-covered bed of an older-model Dodge pickup, you may have spotted the DFW Truck Farm owned by Marilyn Simmons and her daughter, Donelle, from Waxahachie. It is one of a fleet of 25 mini-farms-on-wheels in 25 cities across the U.S. and is the first – and so far, the only one of its kind – in Texas.
“It’s similar to rooftop gardening,” said Donelle, “but it has an additional perk: it travels.” Huffington Post described the truck farm concept as “the coolest urban agriculture project around.” Its goal is to take the rural experience into urban environments and to demonstrate how to grow food in small spaces.
The original truck farm was born in the spring of 2009 in Brooklyn, NY. Ian Cheney, co-creator of the 2007 film, King Corn, transformed his granddad’s half-ton pickup into a mobile vegetable garden. He and collaborator Curtis Ellis filmed every step of the process to create the documentary Truck Farm, which premiered last January at the same time the nationwide fleet launched.
Marilyn and Donelle, who come from a long history of farming, were selected in April to join the team. They own and operate Garden Inspirations, which offers gardening and canning classes, landscape design, freshly brewed compost tea and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), providing fresh vegetables to its members. Both women also have backgrounds in early childhood education.
They recently began to take the DFW Truck Farm into the community, offering programs for both children and adults at schools, community gardens, restaurants, clubs and senior centers. The truck was included in the Texas Discovery Gardens exhibit at the Texas State Fair in October and participated in Food Day at Company Café in Dallas.
“I love that we can take a garden into the community and talk about food,” Donelle said. In her outreach she o ften sees “a true disconnect” with food. “It breaks my heart to hear someone say that the potatoes they are eating came from the store without a second thought to how the potatoes got to the store, where they came from, who planted them, and why they decided to purchase that potato from the store in the first place.”
As with most gardens, the plantings are seasonal. Onboard vegetables may include lettuce, broccoli, mustard greens, climbing beans, squash, collards, turnips, carrots, onions, chives and Swiss chard, as well as herbs like rosemary and mint.
At the moment, the mother-daughter team fills their truck bed with plant containers and an old gas grill that has been converted into planter. Come January, they’ll fill the truck bed with soil.
“There’s something about being out there in the dirt,” said Donelle. “We want the truck farm to be an experience that plants the seed.”
TOFGA ANNUAL CONFERENCE
The 2012 annual conference of the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) will be held in North Texas at the Mesquite Convention Center on February 17-19.
TOFGA’s mission is to provide education and networking opportunities for people who produce food using organic methods. Conference workshops will cover all aspects of organic growing, covering topics that apply to both large growers as well as small family farms. Classes will be given on such topics as vegetable growing, pastured meat production, soil health and product marketing. A special Saturday workshop will be geared to home gardeners who are raising their own food in yards or community plots.
Through education, TOFGA hopes to encourage growing and production practices that are organic, natural and sustainable. Communities can achieve this goal by creating viable systems that help preserve the integrity of the environment while providing safeguards for human and animal health.
To register for the conference, go to the TOFGA website: www.tofga.org. Fees for the full conference are $135 for members and $185 for non-members. A pass to Saturday’s Backyard Gardener workshop or any one-day pass is $70.