Have the warmer temperatures we’ve been experiencing this week in New York City given you a hankering for some summer produce fresh from the source?
Starting Saturday, you’ll get your chance to pluck fruits, vegetables, herbs and more right from the garden when Swale, a floating food forest atop a 5,000-square-foot barge, returns to New York City for the summer.
Founded by city-based artist Mary Mattingly in 2016, Swale will be docked at Brooklyn Army Terminal until July 1 and will offer New Yorkers sustainable foods, public programming such as edible and medicinal plant tours, water filtration labs and other educational workshops on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.
“It’s been evolving, and the main purpose of it in 2016 was to address public food in New York City and be a test space — sort of an architectural folly on the water — to think about how this could work on public lands in New York City,” Mattingly said.
There are 30,000 acres of public parkland across the city, and Mattingly hopes Swale can be a food-justice model to bring perennial landscaping to some of that acreage for communities who do not have regular access to fresh food.
While Swale has previously sailed to different locations in the city, including Concrete Plant Park in the South Bronx, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island, Brooklyn Army Terminal will be its sole home this year.
“The Brooklyn Army Terminal is one of the most innovative industrial campuses in the country. It’s a place where New Yorkers are redefining the limits of manufacturing, a place for modern jobs, a place for learning,” said James Patchett, president and CEO of the NYC Economic Development Corporation. “Swale will add to the energy on campus, growing food and herbs, teaching new skills and floating alongside over 100 local companies, all growing in their own right.”
Mattingly hopes the blossoming barge will have a permanent home one day.
“We’d love for the barge to stay in one location and for us to focus on land-based sites at the same time,” she said.
A longtime gardener herself, Mattingly’s favorite part of Swale is being on the barge and talking to her fellow New York green thumbs.
“Being able to talk to people about what plants they grow, what they want to grow, we learn a lot more from the people who come on and talk to us,” she shared. “We definitely hope they take food away, but we also hope they want to be inspired about public food and push that message forward to our politicians and community groups already working in those areas.”
To learn more about Swale, visit swaleny.org.
Fast facts about Swale
What: Swale, a floating food forest atop a 5,000-square-foot barge
When: May 5-July 1
Where: Brooklyn Army Terminal (140 58th St., Sunset Park)
Since its founding in 2016, Swale has:
• been visited by 200,000 New Yorkers
• hosted 800 guided tours
• held 75 school field trips
• offered 50 free public programs