Incredible Edible: How to Make Your Town Self-Sufficient

Woman tends public garden plants

Migrated Image Incredible Edible Blog

While citizens of the world turn their eyes to Copenhagen, awaiting leadership with dwindling hope, one town has taken matters into the hands of the people. An idea that started around a kitchen table has grown into a reality demonstrating wisdom not seen since Gandhi. Starting from just a few herb gardens, the "Incredible Edible" project grew organically, out of the energy of local people who sought no public funds because they wanted to do it their way. Now "their way" shows the way. Prepare to be inspired. In Todmorden in West Yorkshire, Great Britain, a grass-roots effort to put the land to work has grown into a project drawing national media attention, Incredible Edible. The brains and energy behind Incredible Edible is Pam Warhurst, who combines insight gained as a former leader of Calderdale Council with the commitment that comes from being involved in a just cause. The principle is simple: food unites us, all peoples regardless of social rank or means, can communicate in the language of food.

It is not a new idea. The local food movement is growing. Some are driven by dire predictions of global economic disarray in the wake of peak oil, climate change, terrorism, or another dreadful threat. Others want a simpler way of life, food grown for nutrients rather than products of an antibiotic- and pesticide-dependent industrial farming.

But even more people watch from the edges, not daring to step into the ring. Many people own no land on which a few vegetables could be grown. The skills of planting, tending and harvesting have atrophied. And who has the time?

Incredible Edible answers those questions, overcoming bureaucracy and uniting people with the common denominator, food. Following 17(ish) tips for getting things done in spite of red tape, Incredible Edible has spread food farming to public lands, gotten the local housing authority support, and spread the campaign to schools.

You just need land and the will to grow stuff on it.

Incredible Edible has planted two orchards and many veggie gardens. They work with authorities to use public space, like the fire stations and railway lands, for common gardens. Getting the social housing landlords involved reaches out to those who live in apartments without access to their own land.

School children in Todmorden eat locally grown meat and produce at every meal. Children learn from agricultural projects and participate in farms run by the schools. The Todmorden High School is now seeking funding for an aquaponics installation, which will grow fish and recycle the nutrient rich water for growing water-intensive plants, for scientific study of the environmentally-friendly food production options for the future.

It does not stop at growing food. Incredible Edible holds workshops, like how to kill and prep a chicken, how to forage for edible plants, and skills for canning and preserving. Blogs and a Twitter presence tell the ongoing story.

The Incredible Edible project is on track to meet their goal to make the town self-sufficient by 2018. A third more people grow their own vegetables, seventy percent buy locally grown produce at least once a week and 15 times more citizens tend their own chickens, compared with a year and a half ago.