Urban restoration projects are definitely the new agrarian frontier, as city dwellers rethink the possibilities for crop production in zones formerly deemed barren or simply too gritty. One can no longer be oblivious to the mediocre quality of fruits and vegetables, the costly trucking of fresh produce, or the senseless, landfill-bound packaging involved. It is high time that food production solutions sprout up in one’s own backyard or on windowsills or rooftops that can also patch together a vibrant community. During the summer of 2009, the public art project, Sharecropper, aims to create a united system of agricultural production in the heart of NYC via a fresh interpretation of the landowner tenant agreement. This micro-farming initiative by artist Leah Gauthier might inspire New Yorkers to view wild edibles as agents of change, thanks to the parcel owners who have donated their unorthodox growing spaces for the greening of their real estates.

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Agri-artist Leah Gauthier is a true believer in the ‘roll-up-your-sleeve’ effectiveness of art farming and food prep outreach. We loved Leah’s micro-farming Sow-In Project at Eyebeam last year, so it is exciting to see new shoots of her work manifested in this community wide undertaking. For Sharecropper Summer ’09, Leah will be using organic growing methods to plant rare and endangered heirloom vegetables and herbs on 17 parcels of donated land or plots located in each of NYC’s five boroughs. A portion of this harvest will be shared with local soup kitchens, and series of public programs (urban farming panel discussions, art happenings, and cooking performances) around the city. The 17 growing sites extend from the Bowery to the Upper West Side and from Brooklyn to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanic Garden in Staten Island.

“This is a personal journey exploring agricultural plant matter and wild edibles as sculptural material, community building through growing and cooking food, re-imagining land use, and re-incorporating agrarian sensibilities and simplicity into modern life.” – Leah Gauthier

If you are in NYC this summer and want to get in on the current wave of urban greening, Sharecropper is currently looking for volunteers for their June plantings. Sign up details are available on the Sharecropper site.

+ Sharecropper
+ Leah Gauthier
+ Sharecropper on Facebook
+ Sow-In Project at Eyebeam on Inhabitat