Food is one of the most basic of mankind’s needs, but can it also be art? Jennifer Zackin, who spearheaded the Re:Seed Saugerties project through a grant from Arts Mid Hudson, believes it can. In fact, the garden that is home to the multi-faceted project, located at 204 Washington Avenue, will be a stop on Saugerties Artist’s Studio Tour this weekend. Zackin says it will serve as her studio on those days, where she will host performance artists and a hands on seed sculpting lab.
Her real studio is above the nearby Inquiring Minds bookstore, making it a convenient location. She can easily walk to the space, as can students from the Boys and Girls Club, Cahill Elementary, and the Junior High and High School, making it a central location for residents of the village.
This accessibility to the community is a major part of Zackin’s intent for the project. She calls the project a “social sculpture.” Unlike traditional artists that build objects, her goal with this project was to build relationships throughout the community. She says the local community has embraced the project with open arms, from stopping by to ask questions in its nascent stages to enthusiastically attending the events hosted on the property, where she reports “everyone is happy.”
But what exactly is Re:Seed Saugerties, and how does it impact the community it proposes to build?
Preparing the soil was a large part of the experience. Zackin, and members of the Long Spoon Collective, as well as the Boys and Girls Club, practiced what is called sheet mulching. This technique of soil preparation requires no tilling and no fertilizer, but rather adds layers of organic matter to the soil to make it fertile. Zackin says those that attend these sheet mulching sessions and work in the garden are learning skills they can take to their own homes and families.
She hopes to incorporate skill shares into the project eventually, such as those conducted by the Long Spoon Collective. She notes that their members teach a technique to grind acorn into flour, aiming to change people’s perspectives on an object that could be otherwise seen as a nuisance.
Zackin also hopes to build relationships with local schools, as the Long Spoon Collective has, and points to school districts in California which incorporate their own gardens into both their curriculum and their cafeteria, something she would like to see in Saugerties.
Of course, what is the end result of a vegetable garden but food? Zackin says there are many vegetables growing out of a seed sculpture in the garden presently, including corn and radishes, as well as sunflowers. The project just hosted its first food share on July 23, which brought out approximately 30 people who traded vegetables from their gardens, recipes, and supplies.
She hopes that this location can become a food share garden in coming years, just as the others operated by the Long Spoon Collective. In the fall, she expects to meet with all the participants who have been involved to create the garden beds and discuss how it can serve to continue building relationships.
As an artist, Zackin is used to creating. This project is no different. After the soil had been prepared by sheet mulching, she created what she calls an “Earth Tattoo,” using grains of various colors to make a symbol. For this project, the symbol invoked the Iroquois legend of the Three Sisters. The three sisters refer to corn, squash and beans, which were growing in Saugerties when the Iroquois settled here.
Those who visit the garden, stop number 10 on the Artist’s Studio Tour, this weekend, will be able to see Zackin’s Earth Tattoo, as well as view the fruit, and vegetables, of the project’s labors.
More information about the project can be found at www.reseedsaugerties.com.