A vegetable-powered revitalization rebellion in a post-industrial Yorkshire town

Anyone who has been to one of my (Storm Cunningham) workshops in the past half-dozen years has probably heard me at least mention the Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) program in the old mill town of Todmorden, Yorkshire, England.

Or maybe you’ve seen Pam Warhurst‘s wonderful TEDx talk on IET’s fascinating genesis.

It’s a wonderful example of citizen-led community greening and revitalization. The Guardian had a recent article by Naomi Larssen on how the concept is now being adopted in communities around the world. A few excerpts appear here:

20 volunteers from the Yorkshire town who have gathered together armed with spades, trowels and litter pickers. Instructions of which patch to attack are distributed, while children as young as three are given high-vis jackets with the name Incredible Edible printed on the back.

These are Todmorden’s radical gardeners, a group of food freedom fighters who’ve been planting in this town for a decade.

IET now has approximately 70 sites around the town, from vegetable patches outside the police station to herb planters at the train station.

Incredible Edible is driven by the attitude that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

Any IET signs nailed to walls around town were done without permission from the council, benches emblazoned with their logo were installed without asking.

Even the beds outside the police station were put together and maintained without formal permission.

You can do nothing and obey the rules, or you can say ‘I’m going to make a difference regardless’. And, you know, the prisons are full. They’ve got enough on without getting a load of grannies for cleaning up,” says Mary Clear, a founding member of IET.

IET has brought an influx of people to the struggling, post-industrial town. It’s perhaps the only place known for vegetable tourism. But local businesses are doing better as a result: a 2017 survey of residents found more than half of respondents (54%) buy local food at least once a week, compared with 41% of consumers across the UK. A 2013 study also found 57% had begun to grow their own food due to IET.

They’ve had calls and visitors from New Zealand and Japan, to France and Germany, and there are now as many as 500 community food growing groups across the world using the Incredible Edible name.

In France, the movement has taken root as Les Incroyables Comestibles, with 300 groups around the country. There are sister groups in Israel, Palestine, Colombia and Brazil – all growing food to share with others.

Featured photo (and the one directly above) by Naomi Cherie. All other photos courtesy of IET.

See Incredible Edible Todmorden website.

See Guardian article by Naomi Larssen.

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