Incredible Edible Todmorden
Incredible Edible Todmorden is a community initiative founded in the former industrial town of Todmorden in Northern England by local residents Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear. By promoting public edible planting as a form of civic engagement the project has achieved significant and long-lasting environmental, economic and social impacts, and been adopted by communities elsewhere in the UK and internationally.
Incredible Edible began in 2007 in the former textile-producing town of Todmorden in Northern England as a community response to disenchantment with trends in diet and food production. Identifying food as an inclusive issue (captured by the slogan "If you eat - you're in"), a group of residents came together to pioneer a method now referred to as 'propaganda gardening'. By converting unused, abandoned and derelict land in and around the town centre into public growing spaces, a group of concerned residents sought to inspire a sense of civic responsibility and empowerment among a largely disenchanted local population. Raised beds containing vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers, an 'open source' community resource from which anyone is free to help themselves, and to help with maintenance, have become a familiar site in the town: on the platforms at the local railway station, along the side of roads and canals, outside shops and in the front yard of the local police station. The real achievements lie not in food growing, but in reinvigorating local identity and cultivating a sense of local pride.
An independent evaluation led by Adrian Morley at Manchester Metropolitan University concluded that Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) has in direct benefits in various dimensions: social (higher levels of physical activity and use of green space, strengthened local identity, increased community cohesion and connectivity), economic (generation of income generator for local businesses, creation of spin-off businesses including a farm and educational centre, encouraging a buy local ethos) and environmental (increased engagement with food, improved use of public space, heightened public understanding about sustainability).. This has been achieved with little or no recourse to external funding: the project relies largely on the work of 300 local volunteers, who are among its key direct beneficiaries, and raises such funds as it need largely through income from tours of its edible spaces and speaker fees earned by its founders at events outside Todmorden. Social Return on Investment calculation conservatively estimated that IET realised direct and indirect benefits to the community of a total value equivalent to over five times that invested in the project (direct expenditure plus value of volunteer labour).
One of IET's most successful projects is Incredible Farm, a permaculture-inspired learning and research centre on sustainable food production and significant local food producer in its own right. Incredible Farm mainly exists to teach young people the cultivation and marketing skills necessary to start successful businesses in small-scale, sustainable food growing. IET also contributed to a successful campaign to bring the local Further Education College into community control, rather than being demolished to build a supermarket. In early 2018 the local authority agreed in principle to an asset transfer to Todmorden Learning Centre (TLC) and Community Hub, who plan to run the college on behalf of the community with a focus on training in sustainable building, agroecology and renewable energy.
Interest from groups all over the UK, and further afield, in adopting the Todmorden approach led to the formation in 2012 of the Incredible Edible Network, and establishment by 2018 of over 100 groups nationwide. Internationally, the idea has become particularly popular in France, whose national network Les Incroyables Comestibles lists over three hundred local initiatives. Les Incroyables Comestibles also coordinates the international network, and lists on its website national groups in Germany, Spain, Finland, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Portugal, DR Congo, Colombia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Haiti, USA, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Palestine, Russia, Tunisia and Qatar.
- Paull, J. (2011). Incredible Edible Todmorden: Eating the street. Farming Matters, September: 28-29.
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- Paull, John (2013). "Please Pick Me" – How Incredible Edible Todmorden is repurposing the commons for open source food and agricultural biodiversity. In J. Franzo, D. Hunter, T. Borelli & F. Mattei (Eds.). Diversifying Foods and Diets: Using Agricultural Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health. Oxford: Earthscan, Routledge, pp.336-345.
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- Morley, A., Farrier, A, Dooris, M. (2017). Propagating Success? The Incredible Edible Model.Final Report.
- Morley, A., Farrier, A, Dooris, M. (2017). Propagating Success? The Incredible Edible Model.Final Report. Pp. 47-62.
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