The field of sustainability appears to be sending up new shoots these days with the rise of skyscraper farming and floating solar barges as possible solutions for urban food production and efficient civic greening. Meanwhile reports on shortages in our global food supply are making front-page news along with evidence of climate change and steep fuel prices. Bands of urban citizens are digging in at the grassroots level, though, to consider the possibilities of seed sharing and seed swaps as a plan for reinvigorating and diversifying our food base. ‘Tending to one’s own backyard’ is vigorously taking on new dimensions with enviro-sculptor, Leah Gauthier’s Sow-In Project. Gauthier’s citywide micro-farming undertaking is one person’s initiative to tackle food supply issues as well as our ability to ‘grow collectively’ via creative urban agriculture.

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Leah Gauthier’s Sow-In Project, conducted at Chelsea’s Eyebeam Center here in NYC, was part eco-performance-art and part gardening-instructional in its effort to openly share hundreds of recycled paper seed pots with community gardeners across the city for transplant, care, harvest, and seed saving. Presented as part of Eyebeam’s Feedback Exhibit and (pre-Earth Day) Sustainability Action Day, Gauthier’s project has been digging deep to find new models for reversing the trend towards homogenized produce and under-utilized pockets of soil. Sow-In is a focused effort to re-invigorate seed supplies as well as demonstrate that delicious, nourishing food can be grown in patches or on windowsills that are currently overlooked or barren.

The American diet, as we know, is often lacking in real flavor and communal outlook, and Sow-In is an excellent example of how to reverse this trend via very simple and affordable methods. We also really love that Gauthier’s art draws attention to the use of ‘historically green’ materials like heirloom seeds from non-profits like Native Seeds Search and Seed Savers Exchange.

Gauthier has an impressive history of using cultivated vegetation in her installation and culinary performance pieces, but this latest project also serves as a momentum-builder for her 2009 Sharecropper Project. Conceived as a post-modern take on the sharecropper model, “Sharecropper, is a micro farming installation happening in New York City, summer of 2009. I am stitching together a working micro farm, (total size yet to be determined) for one growing season, from parcels of donated land or growing spaces, located in assorted environments in each of the five boroughs around the city. This work is a personal journey exploring agricultural plant matter, and wild edibles as sculptural material, community building through growing and cooking food, and ways of re-incorporating agrarian sensibilities and simplicity into modern life,” Gauthier states.

Stay tuned for future reports on the development of Leah’s Gauthier’s Sharecropper Project and check out her totally inspirational website for updates on the Sow-In Project. The seeds of sustainability and change are already circulating!

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