(UR) New York, NY — For cities, having access to arable land is an issue — most of our food is produced in rural areas and then shipped into urban centers. This distance means that city-dwellers don’t often get to see where or how their food is grown. A new project in New York City hopes to change that by mixing art project and sustainable, urban agriculture, by creating a floating urban food forest.

Swale, the mobile, water-based food forest, is preparing to set sail in New York City this summer, bringing sustainable, urban agriculture to various communities in the Five Boroughs. Built on a repurposed barge, the floating forest has been designed with local food production in mind. Capable of producing a variety of vegetables and fruits, the tenth of an acre-sized platform is also an excellent example of using space effectively and sustainably — and is also an ingenious way to reach the public.

food forest

Image credit: Swale New York

Urban farms and gardens have been around for a while, and many cities have cultivated small food forests in public spaces across the U.S. and elsewhere. One of the problems with most permanent, land-based projects is that the people hoping to learn about urban agriculture need to find the time, motivation, and desire to visit these locations. This is where Swale-as-art-project can make a considerable difference.

By building a food forest on a barge, Swale is able to visit multiple locations around the New York area. This mobility allows the food forest to perform community outreach with schools and interested community groups in ways that land-based and immobile urban gardens cannot. It also has the ability to put food directly into the hands of people who might not be aware that urban agriculture is a sustainable, plausible idea.

With more and more urban centers looking for solutions to the problems of feeding growing metropolitan populations, installments like Swale take urban agriculture to the next level. Even if only through artistic outreach, Swale can literally bring awareness of the possibilities to a wharf near you, and that message is drastically important.

For many urbanites, understanding our food is a matter of going to the market. Seeing the value of land, and the labour required to produce what we eat, is an experience we cannot afford to miss.

This article (This Floating Urban Food Forest Will Change How You Think About Food) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Chris “Kikila” Perrin and UndergroundReporter.org. If you spot a typo, please email the error and the name of the article to undergroundreporter2016@gmail.com. Image credit: Swale New York