A simple idea- using empty and unproductive spaces to grow food- has inspired people in Todmorden and beyond to reconsider where their food comes from and how simple moves can transform public space.
The idea driving Incredible a Edible is simple: if you eat, you're in! Incredible Edible was founded in 2008 by a group of individuals in Todmorden concerned by the changing economy and climate change. The idea is to use unproductive spaces to grow edible plants- from window boxes to roundabouts to canal embankments. Incredible Edible is a community-led project delivering action through strong leadership that aims to focus community, learning and business on the production and consumption of locally grown food.
The first propaganda gardens, as the team call their beds, were made on 'in your face' sites around the town where they were obvious. Made without permission, the gardens became a part of their place and despite initial reservations the 'pick your own' concept has evolved and been accepted by the town.
Derelict land, public spaces and leftover corners have become areas for cultivation: vegetables sit alongside ornamental plants in public planters and flower beds; 200 fruit trees have been planted in the town centre, along with 500 fruit trees in a community orchard; raised beds have been planted around the town; and schools have developed growing areas and access to bee hives and poly tunnels. Projects have been created on a shoestring; for example, timber for early raised beds was sourced for free from building sites.
Results have included a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, improved relationships between the community and the police, food education in schools and new ways of looking at space. A simple idea has led to a variety of offshoot projects: new horticulture and agriculture based college courses, projects with housing associations, a new permaculture centre and even vegetable based tourist routes around the town! The aim by 2018 is to make Todmoden self sufficient in vegetables, eggs and orchard fruit and to enable the town to source as much else as possible from the local area.
The idea has caught the public imagination and has extended from Todmorden, across Yorkshire to the rest of the UK and beyond; there are now 37 further Incredible Edible towns in the UK.