Califarmia Food Truck Brings the Best of the Farm to the People By Chris Chamberlain
Over the past decade, food trucks in Middle Tennessee have evolved from novelty to ubiquity. So how does one particular truck distinguish itself from the rest of the crowded field? In the case of the Califarmia truck, Zach Hartnell and his crew have concentrated on creating fresh seasonal food featuring locally sourced ingredients. Hartnell recognizes that their truck isnâ€TMt the only one operating within this niche. “I want to tip a hat to the pioneer food trucks that started the culture here in Nashville. They sort of changed the perceptions for this city that street food can be clean and connected to the ground, and that it can even be profitable to source locally,” he says. A dedication to farming is in Califarmiaâ€TMs blood. Hartnell explains, “For us our story begins in the ground. Hopewell Farms is a local farm in Old Hickory ( ) that is part of the not-for-profit Global Outreach Developments International. My brother is the farm manager there, and most of us began by volunteering in their garden—a space focused on educating farmers desiring to serve in the developing world. The idea to start a food truck began as a means of integrating forward into the actual preparation of the food.” Califarmiaâ€TMs concept comes from the roots of some of their chefs and their backgrounds cooking in the Golden State. “We felt there was a niche that was somewhat missing: a fusion of Asian and Latin food. Our inspirations come from nostalgia for comfort foods we miss from California mixed with some Southern food. Our version of hot chicken has an avocado base on the bottom—kind of an ode to the pickle in a West Coast-style. We try to be innovative at incorporating some of the South and make it both near and far in the presentation.” Most importantly, Califarmia strives to source locally whenever possible, buying produce from Hopewell Farms and the vendors at the Franklin Farmersâ€TM Market, where you can find one of their three trucks every Saturday. Most of their meats are sourced from Porter Road Butcher, meaning that the animals usually come from within 100 miles of Nashville. While freshness and seasonality are important to Hartnell, the connection to his purveyors goes deeper than that. “For us, itâ€TMs about getting to know the farmer. Itâ€TMs important for us to have these relationships. The more we can foster these connections, the better we feel about what weâ€TMre doing and contributing to more broadly.” Califarmia often appears at events at their partner farms, such as Green Door Gourmet or Bloomsbury Farm. “Thatâ€TMs what gets us excited,” says Hartnell. “And thatâ€TMs what keeps us connected with whatâ€TMs happening in Nashville.” Califarmia employees still spend a couple days each week working in the garden at Hopewell Farms to maintain a bond to the earth, and they are always looking for new ways to share the bounty of the land with their customers. “Our menu is always changing and improving—whether thatâ€TMs imagining a new dish for a catering client or making minor adjustments to our classic dishes. We absolutely love making our staple Latin- and Asian-influenced favorites, but are equally passionate designing seasonal, clean menus for our clients based on the produce coming out of the garden. Our dishes are constantly growing and changing and evolving, and thatâ€TMs how we want it to be!” If youâ€TMd like to see whatâ€TMs new on the menu or discover where to find the Califarmia truck next, visit their website at