Grow vegetables in villages, towns, cities, parks and public places instead of flowers, free food for all!
Most of us are used to walking through public places such as parks, villages, towns etc and seeing flower beds and borders that the local authorities have put in place to improve the appearance of the area. These usually consist of either shrubs, shrubs combined with flowers or just annual flowering bedding plants. Every year the annual flowers are replaced with new ones to create another colourful display. Of course the effect is very nice, and few if any would complain at seeing such a bright and cheerful 'public garden', but what if there was an even better idea......... what if you were to replace a large amount of those flowers with vegetables and then encourage the local residents to simply help themselves to any they needed whenever they wanted to?
This might sound at first like a strange idea, but it has already been done in the English village of Huddersfield, who themselves were inspired by a similar project in another English village called Todmorden (which was featured on the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall television series River Cottage). Hugh met the women in Todmorden who were reclaiming wasteland in a bid to make their town self sufficient, Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear's mission was to make their West Yorkshire town, Todmorden, self-sufficient in staple foods. Within 10 years they aimed to have their community producing and buying their own fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products.
Norah Hamill was one of the founders of the Huddersfield project, (having previously been involved in the Todmorden project when she lived in the town), their ideal being that "The future can be incredible - and edible! We all have to eat and yet few of us grow our own food any more. But if we are to reduce food miles, minimise the impact of agriculture on the environment and save the planet then that will have to change".
Norah gives up her time free of charge in order to promote the idea that we should all be planting vegetables anywhere, in fact everywhere, our gardens, schools, communal flower beds, graveyards, roadside verges etc. The project is called 'Incredible Edible Huddersfield' and echoes the name that Todmorden adopted 'Incredible Edible Todmorden'.
Incredible Edible promote what they call 'Guerrilla Gardening', using any land available, be it waste ground, bus stops or grass verges, (with or without permission). In Huddersfield they have even invited shop and cafe owners to have vegetable planters outside their establishments. The produce is free to anyone to harvest as they need it, and although there has been the occasional act of vandalism, the organisers are not deterred and see this as potentially educational in itself. After all, if they pull up a carrot at a bus stop Norah stills sees this as part of the educational process as to where food comes from.
Support for the initiative has come from many sources, including staff at the Pound World shop in Huddersfield, who clubbed together to donate seeds.
“We’ve had donations of spades and seeds and we’ve got people who grow seedlings. I am really determined about this,” added Norah, who is taking a course in permaculture (permanent agriculture) at the Permaculture Society in Hebden Bridge.
“The permaculture movement is based on three principles: care of the earth, care of its people and fair shares for everyone. It’s about how to manage the earth and ensure sustainability,” she explained.
Imagine going to your local cemetery to pick some runner beans, or the public car park to pick cherries! The fruit and vegetables are not only free, but organically grown. This is environmentally friendly as the vegetables can be harvested fresh, and taken straight home. No need for them to be driven hundreds of ' food miles ', shipped overseas etc.
Think on these facts:
- 80 per cent of Britain's population live in towns and cities
- Britain's food travels 17 trillion miles every year to reach our plates
- It costs four barrels of oil per person to feed us every year
To quote from the Incredible Edible Huddersfield website, their aims are:
"Incredible Edible Huddersfield is a grassroots movement, its aims are to actively
promote locally produced food through community action.
than ever - in a time of uncertainty in the climate, the financial
system, and the availability of rapidly depleting resources - we need to
address the basic requirements of our communities: food, shelter, and
clothing. Incredible Edible Huddersfield aims to address these
1. growing good food on land as close as possible to where the food will be consumed
2. building community through the shared experience of growing, harvesting, and eating
3. developing real, sustainable jobs from community projects
4. empowering young people to drive the provision of food for themselves and for the community
5. building strong links between schools, business, community, and farmers
6. developing community supported agriculture for local farmers
7. taking action and responsibility for food production together with your community
8. taking action in reclaiming waste land for the use of food growing
9. using local resources
10. sustaining the individual....knowing what each individual needs and what each can offer
have lots of ideas for community gardens providing fresh vegetables and
fruit, community orchards, and an aquaponics unit providing fish and
vegetables. We need you and your ideas to help make it happen in your village, estate, road."
- Incredible Edible Todmorden | The Future Of Local Food In Todmorden
Aims to increase the amount of local food grown and eaten in the town. Local businesses, schools, farmers and the whole community are all involved.
- Incredible Edible Wilmslow
A non-profit making organisation working in partnership with Transition Wilmslow, to make Wilmslow a more sustainable community.
- Incredible Edible Wakefield
What is wonderful about these projects are that so many people and businesses have seen the potential, and tools, seeds etc are donated on a regular basis. Schools have become involved, volunteers go round every year planting more vegetables, fruit bushes, fruit trees etc, and the whole concept has become a community activity. This is reminiscent of the days of World War II when the 'Digging for Victory' campaign encouraged householders to dig up their flowers and grow food instead, only this goes one step further and encourages the planting in all and any available areas. Thankfully it seems local authorities have adopted the idea too, and although initially many areas may have been planted up without permission, it would have been hard to take someone to court for being caught planting a gooseberry bush on common land. It is refreshing to see this attitude taken by authorities, and the fact they now support the concept is fantastic. Within eight months of Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear's Todmorden project being launched, Calderdale Council, began to respond to the momentum, giving permission to plant 500 fruit trees around the local playing fields and looking for plots to turn into new allotments.
Clearly the momentum of this idea is spreading as many other UK towns and villages such as Wilmslow, Wakefield etc are now starting their own 'Incredible Edible' projects.
Isn't it about more of us approached our local authorities, schools etc and tried to start similar projects as these can only benefit all of us in the long run!