Eventually, they want to find it a permanent home
Swale was docked at Verplanck for the winter, the same place they built the food forest originally -- and where Strongbow helped the team rebuild Swale this past winter. This summer, it will be docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 through June 30. Then it sets sail for the Bronx's Concrete Plant Park until September 5, before watching summer turn to autumn at another dock still to be determined.
Eventually, Mattingly wants to find Swale a permanent home, and bring the food forest concept on land.
Right now, foraging in any NYC park is actually illegal. That could change though, as the Parks Department, along with the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, are already in discussions about creating a “foodway” in the Bronx. Thanks in large part to Swale.
The Hunts Point area of the Bronx is actually home to the largest food distribution center in the world, and is where most commercial grocery stores get their food. However, the area surrounding the distribution area is actually a food desert -- meaning that residents don’t have adequate access to healthy, whole foods. A public foodway could help change that, says Dariella Rodriquez, director of community organizing and outreach for YMPJ. She, along with the people at YMPJ, helped build Swale and program it with Mattingly.
“All our food, all our supermarkets in the tristate area, comes from Hunts Point food market,” she says. "We have this enormous food distribution center, it’s enormously dedicated to large whole food, but none of it makes the way to the community directly.”
Rodriquez worked with Mattingly and youth at YMPJ to lead tours on Swale, to set up events, and to educate the community about the food forest and the importance of good nutrition last year.
“A lot of people in the beginning were confused and amazed and curious,” she says of Swale, including some of the youth docents. Ingredients like bok choy or tomatillos, which grow on Swale, were something they had never encountered.
“We had to tell them: Go ahead, pick it. Taste it,” she says. “We learned that we liked foods that we were never introduced to before.”
If you can’t get out to Brooklyn or the Bronx this summer, Strongbow will be handing out seed coasters at events across the country. Basil seeds are embedded into the coaster, which is completely biodegradable. All you need to do is plant it in some soil, then keep it watered and sunny to bring a tiny piece of nature into your place, no matter where that is.