It’s been a few years since the national food truck craze arrived in New Orleans, and now its next evolution has arrived — FAIT NOLA, a mobile nursery and greenhouse that a horticulturist mom and her two daughters hope will help spread their love of decorative succulents and ferns around the city.
“It’s like a food truck, but for plants,” explained Laura Joffrion at a launch party for the project Saturday night.
More specifically, FAIT NOLA is a plant design studio launched out of a retrofitted laundry truck that has been converted into a greenhouse. The two sisters, Laura Stirling Joffrion and Emily Fields Joffrion, and their mom, Kathleen Robinson, will take the truck to events around the city, selling plants, rocks, sand and glassware and teaching New Orleanians how to build a terrarium.
“The whole vision is that we want people to be able to get their hands dirty and really learn how to be creative using plants as that medium,” Emily Joffrion said. “We want people to feel comfortable playing around.”
While the two sisters have had careers in technology marketing and the arts that have taken them around the country, Robinson studied horticulture at LSU and later worked as a floral designer in Baton Rouge. After a subsequent career as a paralegal, Robinson returned to her horticultural training, and worked for a florist growing hotel-quality lilies and tulips in California.
All three proudly sport T-shirts that read “Plant Mom,” with “Mama knows best” written on the back.
“She is just a real creative genius,” Emily Joffrion said. “The way that she thinks about plants and creativity is really remarkable.”
The family commissioned the artists at Airlift NOLA — whose Music Box project has drawn national attention and acclaim — to build the truck, which is now fondly nicknamed “Axil Rose,” in a punning tribute to ’80s rock and plant anatomy. The wood interior is built from scraps of sunken cypress salvaged from the bottom of the Mississippi River.
One of the most important design attributes was replacing the truck’s flat roof with a pitched greenhouse roof, which — beyond the aesthetic considerations — helps with the heat flow through the truck, creates more room to move around inside, and keeps rain from pooling on top.
“It’s my first truck,” said artist Christian Repaal of Airlift NOLA. “We do a lot of mobile art, because we build our own art and take it around the country. It’s the first time I ever built anything in a step van, for sure. I’ve been wanting to do something like that.”
The spiky little plants all over the truck are not the normal staples of New Orleans lawns and gardens, but that too is by design.
“We wanted to bring something exotic and interesting to the market, something different,” Emily Joffrion said, noting that all three family members have lived in California and Florida. “We fell in love with bromeliads and those amazing tropical ferns, so we’re bringing some of those into terrarium design. Cacti and succulents are just amazing and they make really good indoor terrarium friends, because you can control the amount of water that you’re getting.”
FAIT NOLA launched Saturday (Aug. 18) with a party at the truck on Jefferson Avenue, and it already has a full schedule of events planned around the city in the coming months. First up is the Lower Garden District Association block party at the Henry Howard on Thursday (Aug. 23), followed by the NOLA on Tap beer festival Aug. 28 in City Park, the Farm-to-Table FAMboree on Sept. 7 and 8, as well as Art for Art’s Sake on Oct. 1 and the Gentilly Festival Oct 12 to 14.
That workshop component is the foundation of the business’s name based on the French verb “fait,” which means “he or she does,” Laura Joffrion said.
“The dream is that it is a platform to highlight and uplift local makers,” said Laura Joffrion. “The idea is that local makers will come in and perform workshops with us. … This is just such a plant-centric city. Every time I get on the phone with festivals, they say, “I just love plants. I want you there.'”