Wheatfield – A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan.~ Agnes Denes.


One of my all time favourite works of art – even more relevant today than when it was originally presented to the world in 1982.

Two acres of wheat planted and harvested by the artist on the Battery Park landfill, Manhattan, Summer 1982.

After months of preparations, in May 1982, a 2-acre wheat field was planted on a landfill in lower Manhattan, two blocks from Wall Street and the World Trade Center, facing the Statue of Liberty. Two hundred truckload of dirt were brought in and 285 furrows were dug by hand and cleared of rocks and garbage. The seeds were sown by hand adn the furrows covered with soil. the field was maintained for four months, cleared of wheat smut, weeded, fertilized and sprayed against mildew fungus, and an irrigation system set up. the crop was harvested on August 16 and yielded over 1000 pounds of healthy, golden wheat.

Planting and harvesting a field of wheat on land worth $4.5 billion created a powerful paradox. Wheatfield was a symbol, a universal concept; it represented food, energy, commerce, world trade, and economics. It referred to mismanagement, waste, world hunger and ecological concerns. It called attention to our misplaced priorities. The harvested grain traveled to twenty-eight cities around the world in an exhibition called “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”, organized by the Minnesota Museum of Art (1987-90). The seeds were carried away by people who planted them in many parts of the globe.

The questionnaire was composed of existential questions concerning human values, the quality of life, and the future of humanity. The responses were primarily from university students in various countries where I spoke or had exhibitions of my work. Within the context of the time capsule the questionnaire functioned as an open system of communication, allowing our descendants to evaluate us not so much by the objects we created—as is customary in time capsules—but by the questions we asked and how we responded to them.

The microfilm was desiccated and placed in a steel capsule inside a heavy lead box in nine feet of concrete. A plaque marks the spot: at the edge of the Indian forest, surrounded by blackberry bushes. The time capsule is to be opened in 2979, in the 30th century, a thousand years from the time of the burial.

There are, still within the framework of this project, several time capsules planned on earth and in space, aimed at various time frames in the future.

Postscript: The above text that was written in 1982 has now added poignancy and relevance after 9/11/01


Pablo Neruda & Araucaria araucana nuts.

img_0272Subject of a poem by Pablo Neruda the Araucaria araucana trees hold their crowns way up high in the sky. So a recent trip with my fellow students to Castle Kennedy Gardens & Monreith provided us the perfect opportunity to sample nuts from these living relics that preceded dinosaurs in their native land of Patagonia.

IMG_0139.JPGOnce you manage to peel off the tough leathery outer armoury & papery inner skin a cream coloured floury textured nut awaits, similar to a pine nut but larger.

IMG_0140.JPGPacked full of goodness it was a staple food for the Native Indians of Chile.  The Pehuenche, People of the araucarias, revered this tree – it was central to their lives & used these beautiful large edible nuts or Piñones to make bread & a nutritious drink amongst other things.

IMG_0143.JPGSampling my first ever Araucaria araucana nut in Castle Kennedy Araucaria araucana Tree Avenue.

P1110920.JPGArucaria forest at Monreith. Photo credit Deák Gergő.

Further Reading/Related Links:

The Pehuenche, People of the araucarias

Auracaria forests

Pablo Neruda Oda a la araucaria araucana







Fareshare for all; relieving poverty in the Northwest of England

In the 1950s, it was felt that poverty in the UK was a thing of the past. However, in the first three months of 2012 the UK economy returned to recession, shrinking by an estimated 0.2%. The knock on effect of the Government’s austerity measures is affecting standards of living amongst most households, with some families struggling to pay the mortgage, nursery fees, fill the tank or even meet their most basic needs – the supermarket bill.
Over 4 million people in the UK live in food poverty, lacking access to healthy affordable food. FareShare is one of many charities which have stepped in to fill the gap, and indeed empty stomachs. The group, managed by volunteers, collects donations of food from large multi-national retailers, and redistributes it to 65 communities and organisations with immediate need to provide meals to people. At the same time, it reduces some of the annual 8.3 million tons of food waste in the UK.

Sebastien Serayat is the Project Manager for FareShare North West and explained how it works, “We serve approximately 70 organisations in Manchester and the North West with perfectly in date crates of food that is donated to FareShare. For example the outer packaging from a packet of muesli or tins of baked beans may have been missing. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also donated & stored in huge fridges and meat in freezers.”
Over fifty volunteers work at the North West branch of the charity, sorting food orders and loading up a refrigerated van for deliveries. Some of these volunteers are long term unemployed or have a lack of formal education. The organisation also offers work experience and training opportunities to get them back on the job ladder.

One volunteer, John, has benefitted from the charity. “FareShare changed my life. I was at the end of my tether; lost my job, home, everything. I was in a terrible way. FareShare provide food to people who have hit hard times like me and it made all the difference. They also offered me a training opportunity so that I could get back to work. I’m stronger now so want to give something back because I know what it’s like.”
The charity delivers food to some of the most deprived areas of Greater Manchester. One group which receives the food deliver is The Factory Youth Zone, a breakfast and lunch club in Harpurhey – a Manchester ward where more than half the children are living in poverty according to the M.E.N’s special report on child poverty. The club, which is opposite a fast food restaurant, provides up to 170 young people a week with a nutritious, affordable meal.

Some of the young people who I spoke to (but preferred to remain anonymous) regularly eat meals at The club saying; “it’s good that we are able to get the food which is thrown away even though there is nothing wrong with it” and “it’s good because we can try new things for free and get a meal for nearly nothing at all”

Loaves and Fishes, a homeless charity in Salford, also benefits from the donations. The busy canteen staff has served meals to 3,500 people this year that would otherwise be sleeping on the streets of Manchester. Audrey, one of the cooks explains, “With the support of FareShare we are able to provide healthier food to the men and women coming in for help.”

In the run up to Christmas, when pressure on finances can be at boiling point for some families, Fareshare will be at its busiest. Sebastien quote here, “We would be really interested in hearing from new volunteers, or other organisations who would be willing to supply food… etc.”

Notes to Editors
Families living in poverty*: 1140 (48%)
Children living in poverty*: 2170 (50%)
* Defined as living on less than 60% of average income. Extracted from M.E.N’s special report on child poverty. http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1588681_child-poverty-scandal-men-joins-frontline-in-battle-to-feed-manchesters-hungry-children



Growing Together; Interdependence in the shape of a Permaculture day at my community garden with Lucy’s Delicious cauliflower & peanut soup for lunch.

Permaculture; A much banded term that actually when it came down to it was quite straight forward and elegant in its simplicity, yet profoundly important; a food production system designed in an ecological and interdependent way where people recognise that they are a part of nature. Permaculture is an invitation to radically shift one’s relational values and philosophy from monoculture food production systems (Incidentally, Vandana Shiva has written an excellent book called Biopiracy on the subject of global monocultures. Highly recommended reading) to one of seasonal, local and pesticide-free methods of growing what we eat. The very act of eating becomes a political act, it carries the butterfly effect and is, I believe a strong example of chaos theory. For every time we choose what we eat we are making a variety of environmental, ecological, economical and political ripples in our globalised interdependent world.

I rent a small terraced house at the moment that has a back yard with some hanging baskets & 2 raised beds that are currently brimming with sweat peas, rose bushes and tomato plants. I also have a small selection of potted herbs. So, it’s wonderful getting involved with a local organisation called Emerge that run my community garden – it’s a decent size bit of land to really try out things and grow a diverse selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables, especially given the current austere economic climate. Here are some extracts from what I learnt on the day.

Permaculture design principles –
1. Observe & interact
2. Catch& store
3. Obtain a yield
4. Apply self-regulation & accept feedback
5. Use & Value renewable resources & services
6. Produce no waste
7. Design from patterns to details
8. Integrate rather than segregate
9. Use small & slow solutions
10. Use & value diversity
11. Use edges & value marginal
12. Creatively use & respond to change

So, the idea here is designing the space based on frequency of human use, plants and animal’s needs. If the zero zone is one’s house then place in zone 1 those things that are frequented often; herbs, salads, green house, polytunnel, wormery etc.
Zone 2 maybe populated with orchards, beehives, composters
Zone 3 could be for main crops like potatoes frequented once a week
Zone 4 in permaculture becomes the semi-wild area for foraging &harvesting wild food, flowers, timber.
Zone 5 becomes the wild area completely left to nature to do her thing 

Using vertical space to grow things. For example creating a canopy layer with fruit trees beneath which there are small shrubs and hedges and beneath this a layer of ground crops, therefore increasing the yield from the available land.

Considering the external factors that may impact a plot; for example, sun orientation, security, vandalism, wind noise, pollution and access to water.

Cauliflower and Peanut soup recipe!
Serves 4
1 medium Cauliflower (broken into florets)
1 medium onion Onion (chopped)
1 fresh chilli or some chilli powder,
2 cloves of Garlic
inch of Ginger root (grated)
1 tbsp Soya sauce
1 litre of Veg Stock/water – (enough to just cover the ingredients)
2 tbsp Peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
50 g grated creamed coconut

Sauté onions and chilli with the onion, garlic and ginger for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
Add cauliflower and soy sauce and sauté for a further 5 minutes.
Cover the vegetables with the stock & water mixture, bring to the boil and simmer until the cauliflower is soft 10-15 minutes depending on the cauli/size of florets).
Add the grated creamed coconut and the peanut butter – mix to incorporate and then liquidise.
Recipe originates from Phil, Misty’s Café, Manchester.

Rose Syrup Soda (Gulab ka Sherbat)

One of the food memories this drink evokes for me is the  classic Raj Kapoor film Sangam, where Radha (played by the stunning Vyjayanthimala) watches her mother prepare a pitcher of Gulab ka sherbat or rose syrup drink. Her face directly in front of the pitcher is infused with rose colour; a full-blooded lady in bloom courted by 2 suitors. Perhaps it was traditionally served taping into the aphrodisiac properties of roses;  their colour, fragrance, and sensuality expressing passion, love, poetry…being with the beloved forever no matter whether the path brings soft petals or thorns.

Rose Syrup soda (Gulab ka sherbat)

serves 2

• 6 tablespoons of rose syrup – I like an intense rose flavour hit so adjust to your taste as desired
• 1 lime
• 1 bottle sparkling mineral water, chilled
• Rose or any other edible petals to decorate

1. Add 3 tablespoons of rose syrup to each glass
2. Squeeze some lime juice or add a slice
3. Add ice
4. Top off with some sparkling water