Saturday, 30 August 2014

Incredible Edible Todmorden

Imagine a village in South Bucks aiming for food self-sufficiency. It would take community vision and involvement, local government buy-in, somewhere to plant and lots of trust.

In Todmorden, West Yorkshire, a quiet revolution is underway. ‘Incredible Edible Todmorden’ is on the road to self-sufficiency with raised beds in the town centre, herb and physic gardens on railway platforms, hen-keeping projects, 1000 fruit trees planted, polytunnels, and (rather wonderfully) every school actively involved in growing food.

As their website explains:

‘It doesn’t take big things to create big changes. It takes small things that capture the imagination. A vegetable plot with a revolutionary sign: Help Yourself. Runner beans planted secretly outside a disused health centre. People talked about those beans. They helped themselves to vegetables. Then they started doing things themselves.’

So, it all started with some ‘guerrilla gardening’ - the idea that one plants quietly on disused or neglected land to make it productive or more beautiful. I am not advocating this (or at least, not in public), but am attracted to the idea when I notice unproductive pockets of land that could be transformed by the community.

In Chalfont St Peter, we have made a start producing community food, with two community orchards planted since 2010, and plans (and funding) for a nut grove. The haywardens have planted perennial herbs in the village centre displays; better than bedding plants that are planted then discarded in so many towns and villages across the country.

Of course, there is a distinction between community planting for harvesting by everyone and allotments whose produce is not for general consumption; although allotment holders would be hugely welcomed by an Incredible Edible movement for their knowledge and established community ethos.

So, how about it, everybody? Is this an impossible dream for South Bucks or could we enrich our community and our local environment?

I imagine that in Todmorden, things have moved on greatly from the small acorns of a new movement; in place of planning and a little bit of rule breaking, there must be a new sense of identity, pride and achievement. As they say in Todmorden, ‘We grow for anyone to pick and use. Go ahead, have some!’

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