Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A town wraps its arms around edibles

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a small Victorian mill town in England united over gardening, and hasn't looked back.

Todmorden, in West Yorkshire, has experienced a food renaissance of sorts. Um, not the kind that attracts foodies and gourmands, but the type that is a quiet revolution of trust, sharing, and uniting around a common goal... food sharing.

Over coffee, Mary Clear, a grandmother of ten and co-founder of Incredible Edible, and Pam Warhurst, the former owner of the town's Bear Cafe decided to help educate the residents (and the world) about growing food - with a twist - and stimulating the economy.

The goal? To make Todmorden the first town in the country that is self-sufficient in food.

Town residents grow edibles in raised beds on the canal towpath, on their lawns, and throughout the 70 large beds around town. And get this... the bounty of veggies, berries and fruit is FREE for the taking.

Locals are encouraged to linger over a sprig of your neighbor's thyme, or appreciate the size of beans and peas, experience the mouth-watering juiciness of an heirloom tomato, and pause to chat with neighbors over recipes for currants, as they commune over the pleasurable satisfaction of growing food and sharing slices of life.

Thievery? Nonsense, say the founders. Everyone shares with glee. "We trust people. We truly believe -- we are witness to it -- that people are decent," says Mary. What a concept.

The "gentle revolution" as she coins it seems to be working. Today, hundreds in the town are growing and sharing communally, even planting sweeps of herbs at railroad stations. Young and old are side-by-side, passing secrets about pickling, canning and preserving - even bread making.

And local business is "growing" as well. The Bear now sources all of it's ingredients from farmers within 30 miles. And their local school is setting up a fish farm to teach the young new skills and offer locals access to fresh food.

Brigadoon? Perhaps. But 21 other towns throughout the U.K. are onboard and interest from Canada to Hong Kong have perhaps sparked a "quiet revolution." 

'Once upon a time'  may indeed be here and now.

Share what you think of this novel concept. We'd love to learn if your town is considering this concept, or wants to stamp it with its own unique brand of sharing the love.

 Garden Media Group
photos: Mary's garden and Debbie's garden (Incredible Edible)


Jeanette said...

What a wonderful concept -- increasing intreactions, swapping knowlege, and sharing food. What could be better? Gardening truly is the healthiest habit you could have. Better food, outdoor excercise, and shared by all generations. I LOVE this idea!

kmdubow said...

Jeanette, youre right about all of those things! Plus, gardening makes you HAPPY!