Artist creates urban farm on a barge in the Bronx

Lauren Glassberg Image
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Artist creates urban farm on barge in the Bronx
Lauren Glassberg has the latest details.

HUNTS POINT, Bronx (WABC) -- There is a barge docked in the Bronx River that is loaded with food.

It's part art, and part political message, set to travel throughout New York.

The goal is not simply filling stomachs, but also opening eyes to a lack of healthy food options in certain parts of the city.

Mary Mattingly is tending to her garden, which happens to be on a barge docked along the Bronx River in Hunts Point.

"This is ecanacea right here, day lilies, and peppers, yep, peppers..lots of herbs up here," said Mary.

Everything on board is edible and she's actually not a gardener or a farmer but an artist.

A 130 foot by 40 foot barge is her canvas, where's she's harvesting a political message through living work called Swale.

"It's a utopic idea for a place like New York City, where it's still illegal to grow public food on public land," she said.

It's docked at the Concrete Plant Park in the South Bronx for a couple of reasons.

Mary did a prior art installation here, and she was asked to return by Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

The non-profit organization helped get this urban oasis created five years ago.

This floating food forest can get the conversation going about how this neighborhood is a food desert despite the fact that it's home to the massive Hunts Point food distribution center.

"It allows us to talk about various health issues in our neighborhood, it allows us to talk about food equity and justice in our neighborhood, so we're really excited to bring this unique project to our park," said David Shuffler, executive director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

The barge will remain at Concrete Plant Park for a month and then will travel south to Governor's Island where it will also stay for a month. After that it heads to the Brooklyn waterfront.

"My hope is that we'll be able to continue the project into next year and definitely hit all five boroughs and perhaps up the Hudson River to various villages up there," said Amanda McDonald Crowley of Swale.

And the public will be able to come on board Swale beginning Saturday.