Arts / Environment / Food and drink

A food forest floats in Brooklyn

Swale, an art project/boat, has arrived at Brooklyn Bridge Park after a stint in the Bronx this summer.

Visitors can walk through Swale, a floating food forest. (Image via YouTube)

In a project that combines urban farming and urban planning, a 5,000-square-foot barge with a forest and farm growing out of it is parked in Brooklyn for the rest of the month.
It’s called Swale and, as we reported in July, it’s the work of artist and activist Mary Mattingly. Swale is free and open to the public Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. each week. 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 grow food locally in big cities.

“Food forests are a way to diversify plant life through supportive planting; each plant building, supporting, and sustaining the next, each plant an important part of its created ecosystem,” an explanation of Swale states. “Food forests build soil fertility by intercropping, this locks carbon into the soil. Fertilizers aren’t necessary, which also reduces the need for fossil fuels. The system being built through food forests extends to our community as well. This form of gardening puts us back into direct contact with our needed resources, invites us to care for these resources that will in turn care for us, for our communities.”
The project (a swale is a marshy lowland, fyi) has been years in the making, and includes collaboration from dozens of organizations, artists, students and activists. It 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.
Swale will be docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park through Oct. 15 and then will float downstream to Sunset Park for the rest of October.


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