After learning that it was illegal to give away food grown on public land in New York City, Mary Mattingly came up with a loop-hole and in order to do just that.
Mattingly has taken to the water, creating a floating farm out of a 130×40 foot barge which has officially begun its tour down the Hudson River. The project, entitled Swale, is a forest garden containing both edible and medicinal plants. Visitors are welcome aboard to see the floating forest themselves, and pick freely the available produce grown such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and chamomile.
The project is essentially a “call to action” and sends a very clear visual message about the issues surrounding current food policies. The project aims to secure public food in public place, believing strongly that food is a basic human right.
Mattingly is herself an artist and sees this project as “part artwork, part communal resource”. The project is funded as a socially-engaged art project sponsored by A Blade of Grass as well as The New York Foundation for the Arts. Currently, Swale is partnering with Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice to partake in a month-long residency where the barge will be docked at Concrete Plant Park.
From August, the self-sustaining island can be found at Governor’s Island for two months before moving to Brooklyn Bridge Park until mid-October, and lastly Brooklyn Army Terminal until mid-November. The barge is chartered on a rent-to-buy basis, so as long as the project stays afloat long enough, there is the opportunity for the floating forest to become permanent.
Swale is open to the public for visitation, in addition to hosting several workshops and events. Check out their Facebook page for all the updates!