Incredible Edible: The Start of a Self-Sufficient British Town

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In West Yorkshire, England there is a quaint town called Todmorden. A few years ago they started a program called Incredible Edible with a unique mission. They plan to be a self-sufficient town, growing their fruits and vegetables, as well as keeping their own livestock, by 2018.

Incredible Edible was co-founded by Mary Clear and Pam Warhurst in 2008. They felt that growing and sharing food throughout the town was an encouraging way to bring the community together. They also hoped to reduce their carbon footprint, since fewer amounts of food would have to be transported into town. Clear simply lowered the front wall in her garden to encourage passersby to take what they like and they held a public meeting at Warhurst’s little café. Their meeting attracted 60 participants and the enthusiasm soon spread to the other 15,000 residents of Todmorden.

How Did Todmorden Start?

This project essentially began as a rebel gardening movement. The plants were unofficially planted by activists in public or neglected places. Fortunately, so far everyone has welcomed the Incredible Edible project. Now there are gardens plots in over 70 public spaces. They have carrots and onions outside the police station, lettuce near the fire station, cherries in car parks, mint and rosemary at the health center, and even a vegetable patch near their cemetery.

Citizens of the town can grab what they like for free. No one picks more food than they need and they often volunteer to help take care of the plots as well. The locals aren’t just growing in public spaces either. Citizens are swapping seeds and plants and growing their own gardens. Incredible Edible has held classes about pickling and preserving and they’ve introduced new beehives to the area to help with pollination.

Since it’s the town’s goal to be self-sufficient by 2018 and they are also investing in raising t livestock too. The town’s citizens are demanding more locally raised meat. A local school started a fish farm to provide skills and food for the locals. Incredible Edible has also started a new program called Every Egg Matters, with the hopes of being self-sufficient in eggs (producing 30,000 egg per week) by 2018. And so far the town has 600 free-range chickens.

A New Kind of Rebel Gardening Movement

From the community orchards to the free-range eggs, this movement has transformed the town. People truly respect the public spaces in the town now that they are covered with gardens and the police have reported less graffiti, litter, and damage crimes. This movement has also inspired other towns in countries like Canada, Germany, and Spain to follow in their example. Learn more about the Incredible Edible in Todmorden here.