NYC Floating Barge Lets Citizens Pick Free Food From The Docks

The Swale project will dock at various New York City harbors this summer, offering free fruits and vegetables to residents in food deserts.

Credit: Swale

Credit: Swale


In urban environments like New York City, few people have the luxury or space to grow a garden. For this reason, an “edible forest” was created on an 80-foot barge. The aim of the project, designed by NYC-based artist Mary Mattingly, is to provide free food to the city’s residents.

Starting June 28th, the project called Swale will cruise around New York City. When it docks, people will be invited to board and pick their own fruits and vegetables for free.

Tech Insider reports that Swale is partly an art installation, but serves a functional purpose. The artist’s ultimate aim is to move NYC away from a dependence on large-scale distributors by showing people what urban gardening can accomplish. In addition, she hopes the project – which was sponsored by two nonprofits – the New York Foundation for the Arts and A Blade of Grass – challenges the idea that produce is a luxury item instead of a human right.

Said Mattingly:

“We want to show that healthy, fresh food can be a free public service, not just an expensive commodity, and something that for not much work and effort, a city could supply.”

The barge urban garden will use New York’s waterways to deliver food to the city’s food deserts, scheduling stops beforehand so people can set aside time to pick produce for their kitchens.


Credit: The Swale

The forest will feature more than 80 species of trees, herb plants, and flowers that grow apples, pears, scallions, rosemary, arugula, bok choy, and Chinese mountain yams. The full list is on Swale’s site, where the team will also publish a cookbook of recipes that use the foods from the barge.

As the ‘Food Is Free’ movement has grown, a number of people have begun collaborating to create urban gardens that can provide free food to all. In Los Angeles, for example, an activist named Ron Finely has worked hard to ensure that residents have the right to grow food on public land. In addition to homeless shelters and prisons turning to urban farming techniques to grow their own food, the future looks green indeed.

Will barge urban gardens become commonplace in the future? Please comment your thoughts below and share this news!

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