NYACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — As the story goes, Sir Isaac Newton had his eureka moment about gravity under an apple tree.
For Suzanne Barish, her epiphany occurred under a peach tree, where the fruit was just falling to the ground, going to waste behind a fence.
“The peaches weren’t being picked because there was this fence around the peach tree,” Barish, of Nyack, said. “I thought it’s such a shame that there are so many people who walk past this peach tree, who are hungry who need food… and the food is off limits because of this fence.”
Barish came up with the idea to break down the fences and grow food along the sidewalk, making fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs available and free for everyone in the community.
“We have a lot of wasted land and yards. If we could each use a tiny strip of front yard to grow just five vegetables plants, we would have a patchwork farm around a community that could feed all of us,” Barish said. “It just takes a tiny garden to feed a family.”
She calls it the Please Pick Project.
“There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be able to access kale and tomatoes just because they’re too expensive at the grocery store,” Barish said. “We all deserve equal access to it.”
In the first year, about 20 families planted open gardens featuring radishes, beets, lettuces, arugula, kale, carrots, spinach, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
“People love the idea; people pick the food, people actually did their grocery shopping right from the soil,” Barish said.
Nyack Mayor Jennifer Laird White initially had some concerns.
“I thought it was a wonderful, magical idea and all the logistics made me very nervous,” White said, but “there was not one report of any bad interaction, anybody unhappy in their yard. I think it worked very well.”
Barish’s concept is spreading to South Orangetown, Hastings-on-Hudson, Sleepy Hollow and Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
“I envision this becoming a new cultural shift,” Barish said.