A floating farm on a barge docked at Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal offers locals a slice of nature in the concrete jungle by allowing them to freely pick fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Fans of fresh produce have flocked to Swale each weekend since it opened on the waterfront last month, according to its founding artist, who urged locals to come visit before it sails away on July 1.
“It’s completely free — people go there and pick fresh fruits and tour through the space on the weekends,” said Mary Mattingly, who lives in Gowanus.
The barge welcomes school groups for tours and workshops during the week, and on the weekends Brooklynites can come enjoy the sweet scent of flowers while harvesting lettuce, peppermint, oregano, kale, arugula, thyme, strawberries, and bok choy — all for free. Plus, grapes, yams, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and plums will sprout within the next few weeks, according to Mattingly, who said that her team is passionate about considering how to help people harness the power of plants.
“That’s what we’re thinking about — how can plants be used for wellness purposes and nourishment in eating?” she said.
The barge previously docked at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park last summer, before shipping off to a park in the distant borough of the Bronx through last fall. Its stay at the Brooklyn Army Terminal is funded by the terminal and grocer Whole Foods’s Five Percent Days, a program through which the chain donates five percent of its profits to local organizations, Mattingly said.
When Swale permanently closes up shop on July 1, its organizers will transplant the green things onto land at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and elsewhere in the city, and begin to think about how to achieve the floating food forest’s mission of making healthy eating accessible on solid ground — especially since research shows access to fresh fruits and vegetables is dependent on socioeconomic status and the neighborhood in which one lives, factors which Mattingly said Swale can help change.
“It’s kind of been our mission to start places like Swale on land that are commons-like, that anyone can pick through,” she said. “We found a lot of people are big fans of it and are in need of having something like this more permanently.”
Swale at Pier Four at the Brooklyn Army Terminal (140 58th St. at First Avenue in Sunset Park, www.swale