Farm Truck offers mobile access to local food and art

If there’s one characteristic indispensable to anyone in the food business, it’s patience. Eliot Coven and Kris Pepper, owners of the food truck/mobile art gallery Farm Truck, know that all too well. The duo is often up into the early hours of the morning prepping locally ingredients sourced from Common Market and Weavers Way Co-op, like herb-roasted tomatoes for their Artichoke Pesto Mozzarella Sandwich and jalapeno cream cheese to pair with a fresh-baked LeBus bagel. The hours clocked are well worth it as their menu of homemade soups, sandwiches and salads boast a delicious sampling of what’s in season.

Coven and Pepper, both Philadelphia University graduates, are equally thoughtful about their truck’s carbon footprint. Their food is served in recyclable or biodegradable food containers, and a recycling bin travels with the truck. During the warmer months, expect their sustainability initiatives to go one step further — the truck will become a mobile farmers market, selling the same produce Coven and Pepper use in their dishes. But that’s not all. In addition to being a kitchen for their own creations, the truck, which was painted by artist Gabe Felice, is also a gallery for local artists. Grid caught up with the chefs on Farm Truck’s one-month anniversary to see how their patience has paid off. To keep tabs on where the truck will be parked, check out Farm Truck’s Facebook and Twitter (@Farm_Truck).

Grid: Both of you have backgrounds in industrial design, so where did the desire to start a food truck come from?

Kris Pepper: I guess we’ve both been avid cooks our whole lives, so this has been an opportunity to turn a hobby and a passion into a company. I’d say that our industrial design background definitely does play into the design of the truck in a lot of ways, also into the overall development of the company. Industrial design is very heavy on branding and brand recognition and cultivating an overall feel, so it comes in very handy there. There are also a lot of features on the truck that we built ourselves, like our drink bin was all handmade.

Grid: Do you feel limited in only having access to in-season ingredients?

Pepper: I wouldn’t say it limits us in a bad way. Sometimes we have to get creative with what we can get, but it also creates opportunities so we can change our menu every season and offer something new and exciting. Our sandwiches, we consider them craft sandwiches. Everything that goes into it is all made by hand from our rosemary honey mustard to our homemade artichoke pesto and our herb-roasted tomatoes. Being able to make your own ingredients really allows you a lot more freedom with the sandwich, so you can sort of create the whole feel of the item.

A view of the Farm Truck, which was painted by local artist Gabe Felice. | Image via tumblr.comGrid: Can you tell me more about how the mobile farmers market?

Eliot Coven: It’s going to be interesting. It’s a lot of produce to bring in and we’ve never done it before so it’s going to be totally brand new to us. We’re calling it a boutique farmers market. We’re going to have very selective products. What we’ll do is cook with most of the products we sell and the whole intention is to inspire people to cook for themselves when they see what somebody else can do with produce. We want to do it so you say, “Ok, I can eat this sandwich with squash in it and now I can go buy the squash and try to do it for myself.”

Grid: How does the mobile art gallery work? And why did you decide to add this art dimension to the truck?

Coven: Living in our area, it’s so obvious that it’s a huge art community and we both come from design backgrounds so it was a pretty simple transition into that. Plus, our truck is kind of a piece of art. So, that’s our big goal now. We’re calling it the Tailgate Gallery now and the whole idea is to provide affordable, good food and affordable, good art at the same time. We’re looking to get artists that are maybe a little bit less known. Everything we do is to benefit the artist. It’s just another thing to make our truck more of an experience. You can go to a food truck anywhere and get good food, for us we want to offer a little bit more.

Grid: What in Farm Truck’s future?

Pepper: The short-term goal is to make the truck self-sustaining. I think we both kind of see ourselves as food activists in the way that we do our part to actually bring real food that’s all natural, organic and locally sourced, to actually bring that into the city, which is something that’s really hard to do. Pretty much if we can get the truck to sustain itself, while we can pursue our greener goals, then it will be successful. 

MISSY STEINBERG is freelance writer and copy editor studying journalism and environmental studies at Temple University.