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Incredible Edible: Supporting Food Independence in Todmorden, England

The residents of Todmorden in England are working together to fast-track the creation of a local food system—the town wants to declare food independence by 2018. Considering that only two years into the project, a third more of the residents were tending their own vegetable gardens and 15 times as many townspeople were keeping backyard chickens (part of the Every Egg Matters campaign), the town will probably meet its goals.

Incredible Edible gardeners, Sunday, May 2, 2010 via Incredible Edibles Pictures

The brainchild of Pam Warhurst, Incredible Edible started very small, with a few herb gardens and tree plantings. Warhurst and her volunteers allowed the program to expand organically, and as Warhurst told The Independent in 2009, focusing on making the initiative as inclusive as possible is how her vision differs from that of the Transition Town movement: “We are working with people who would find transition towns hard to identify with. Our project is all about finding the lowest common denominator, which is food, and then speaking in a language that everyone can understand. Plus we don't have strategies; we don't have visiting speakers; we don't have charters and documents. We just get on with things: this is all about action."

Hole bottom guerrilla garden, Friday, June 19, 2009 via Incredible Edibles Pictures

To win over council members and local institutions Incredible Edible used two main tactics, making and meeting small but noteworthy goals and engaging in a little guerrilla gardening to lead by example. The group seems to have found a winning formula because now most of the town’s major institutions are involved: The local council okayed the planting of 500 fruit trees near local recreation fields. The major housing authority started giving its tenants seed packets and gardening courses. Local schools have switched over to only using local produce in cafeterias, and each school has some sort of garden—at this writing, Incredible Edible was attempting to secure funding to build an aquaponics center at Todmorden High School.

Pear tree buds bursting, Saturday, April 3, 2010 via Incredible Edibles Pictures

Courses on foraging, making preserves, and killing and plucking all those chickens are just a few ways to the initiative is getting the community up to speed on its agricultural potential. If Todmorden High School gets its fish-farming center, it’ll most likely get another exciting addition: a diploma in environmental and land-based studies.

Food Hub proposal drawing for Todmorden High School via Incredible Edibles Pictures

The initiative’s website includes Google maps of all local producers and local assets: egg farms, orchards, beekeepers and community gardens (where residents are encouraged to help themselves to the vegetables and herbs). It also has a blog and a few pages of sage advice for communities that want to replicate its model.

Editor's Note: If you're interested in this topic, see also "Tales of the Self-Sufficient City" in the Worldchanging archives.

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Excellent work by the folks of Todmorden! They lead, but others need to follow.

Posted by: Helen G on 3 Jun 10

Awesome inspirational community/civic accomplishment.
How I would love to be part of your dream. Guess I will just have to inspire my village in Melbourne Oz to follow your lead.

Posted by: diana manning-squire on 8 Jun 10

It's a nice idea, but much of the food is planted right next to roads, and in car parks. It's grown in a constant spray of car exhaust. How can it possibly be safe to eat?

Posted by: Helen Highwater on 12 Jun 10

This is the only way a 100 mile diet will work at all. Congratulations to the town of Tod for their foresight. We all are heading towards a lifestyle of having far less oil to transport our food (among other commodities) and this is the only way we will be able to sustain the population. I hope the planners are also taking into account using heritage seeds. If someone would contact my email address, I would gladly begin to share and trade some of the North American seeds. Long range Seedy Saturdays! All the way to Canada!!!

Posted by: Barbara on 1 Jul 10

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