The Harvest Trail

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Project Team

Author: Josiah Brown

Institution: Harvard Graduate School of Design

Instructor: Amy Whitesides

Studio Coordinator: Danielle Choi

Studio: From Offshoring to Near Shore: Littoral Landscapes at Work; Graduate Landscape Architecture; Fall 2020

Project Description

The Harvest Trail is a 700-mile, multi-use trail that connects the northeast United States’ productive food landscapes, connecting farmers to workers, and ultimately, people to their food. This Green New Deal proposal will generate a new wave of interest and development in sustainable food production. In the spirit of Benton McKaye’s 1925 proposal for the Appalachian Trail, the Harvest Trail envisions a new model of labor in which work takes place in closer relationship to the land and to the populations it serves. This goal is accomplished through three primary interventions:

1. Construction of a long-distance trail system that provides physical connection between agricultural landscapes across the northeast.

2. Creation of a Work & Hike labor program that enables migrant workers to secure jobs and housing along the trail throughout the growing season, providing farmers with an accessible and affordable source of labor.

3. Cultivation of edible plants along the trail using permaculture techniques, increasing the productivity of wild and residual spaces while encouraging a culture of foraging.

Together, these interventions provide an estimated 1,750 green jobs while simultaneously increasing regional food production, combating climate change, boosting rural economies, and equipping the next generation with useful skills for the global change era.


Additional Links

Project on JSTOR

Studio Description

This studio will imagine alternative futures—in situ and ex situ—for productive landscapes in Massachusetts sited in coastal areas of chronic risk. The complex environmental and social interests of people at work in working landscapes will be explored through design from the regional scale to localized sites. New England’s socially productive landscapes—ports, forests, fields—have been displaced by colonization, relocated overseas, fragmented by urbanization, or restructured by market-oriented forces. The remnants of these technoecological landscapes that once supported everyday life and culture in the region have been romanticized, miniaturized, and historicized. Fossil capital has led directly to rising temperatures and decreased biodiversity—and the uneven distribution of cumulative effects on human populations. During the early 20th century, through the New Deal, the profession of landscape architecture undertook a broad range of projects funded by the National Works Program. During the1930s, landscape architects planned, designed, and executedwork across federal agencies as diverse as the Treasury Department, War Department, Tennessee Valley Authority, Federal Housing Administration, and the Department of the Interior (to list just a few examples), creating thousands of jobs for out-of-work Americans. A closer examination of this history reveals that amidst the celebrated public landscapes were also many projects of environmental absurdity, constructed through grueling manual labor, often by racially segregated work crews. Amidst the current economic crisis and calls for a Green New Deal, the discipline of landscape architecture has the potential to again create jobs—“green jobs”—in service of a decarbonized economy. But without compelling visions for the future, the discipline will be limited to projects of climate change resilience that stabilize the current rhythms of everyday life. This stability may seem reassuring in turbulent times, but it also represents the most pernicious form of “sustainability.” What is wet and what is dry are no longer reliably fixed in space; meaningful employment seems increasingly uncertain. As C.L.R. James observed of Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick, the ocean brutally exposes the entanglements of nature, culture, and technology that support human society. Captain Ahab instigates the whale hunt, but the survival of the ship depends on the creativity and ingenuity of the entire crew. This studio will investigate the relationships between landscape and labor on sites that defy the clear geographical displacements of “post-” landscapes (e.g. post-industrial, post-agricultural, post-carbon); we will imagine new hybrid landscapes for adaptation and transition.