Visit a floating food forest that's trying to reimagine how big cities eat - Brooklyn


Jul. 25, 2016 10:26 am

Visit a floating food forest that’s trying to reimagine how big cities eat

Mary Mattingly's Swale will float through Brooklyn this fall.
Visitors can walk through Swale, a floating food forest.

Visitors can walk through Swale, a floating food forest.

(Image via YouTube)

People don’t often think of it in these terms, but Mary Mattingly contends that water is the largest common space in New York City.

“The water is also the most collaborative space to work in. It demands collaboration. The more people are looking after the water, we believe, the more it will look after us,” she says in a video in support of her project, Swale.

Swale is a farm located on a barge which, as of last week, sits in the Bronx River. Visitors are able to explore the forest of edible, perennial plants. The idea is two-fold, to create a hugely collaborative project that brings together different communities working toward the same goal, and to provide a sort of minimum viable product for how to conceive of a greater system of locally-grown food in big cities.

“Swale brings us one step closer to transforming our city from dependence on large-scale supply chains with little accountability, to one that strives for community interdependence,” according to the project. “It’s a call to action, a vision of what a New York City of the future could be.”

The project (a swale is a marshy lowland, fyi) has been years in the making, and includes collaboration from dozens of organizations and, artists, students and activists. It is primarily the work of ecoartist Mattingly and is fiscally sponsored by Dumbo’s New York Foundation for the Arts, in addition to many other donors and a Kickstarter, where it raised $32,000.

Mattingly is no stranger to floating things with plants growing on them.

In 2009 she led a group project called WaterPod, in which five people lived and worked on a barge for six months, eating food from a collective garden, eggs from chickens and drank purified rain water. In 2014 she created WetLand, a floating ecosystem on the water in Philadelphia.


Currently at Concrete Plant Park, on the Bronx River in the Bronx, Swale comes to Brooklyn on Sept. 15, according to BLOUIN ARTINFO, when it will be moored at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. On Oct. 15, it will head downstream to Sunset Park.


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