Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear were two good friends living in the pretty market town of Todmorden in West Yorkshire, they were both green-fingered and shared a love for home-grown fruit and veg. In the Spring of 2008 they began planting vegetables in different dis-used green spots around the town. They started with a patch of rhubarb beside a local bus stop, and as their enthusiasm grew they spotted other potential growing patches in graveyards, roundabouts and pavements. Determined to get more people involved, they placed an advert in the local paper calling all of those ‘interested in growing local food and sharing land’ to attend a meeting. Brilliantly, 60 people arrived at the meeting keen to roll their sleeves up and start growing. The ball started rolling, and since then the whole town have got on board including the council who have allowed them extra funding. Now every school in Todmarden takes part in the scheme, and the locals have planted a town orchard.
Todmarden are determined to become a self-sufficient town relying on produce grown within the town, they’ve extended it now to include eggs as well creating a town map pinpointing poultry keepers who sell their surplus eggs when available. They’ve replaces ornamental trees with edibles, and they planted a medicinal herb garden. A local care home for the elderly allowed their raised beds to be used for community growing and permitted ‘healing horticulture’ – working with people with long-term mental health problems to grow there as part of their therapy. And Pennine Housing, the local registered social landlord, provided tenants with land to grow food and offered gardening packs, including plants, seeds and grow sacks to encourage tenants to grow their own.
The Incredible Edible movement has inspired other communities across the country, another similar project has sprung up in Huddersfield. One of the founders in Huddersfield is Norah Hamill, she had been involved in the Todmorden project when she lived in the town and their ideal is simple, 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”. Across Huddersfield edible planters line the streets and local businesses are heavily involved either sponsoring seeds or giving up their own green space for the project. We have featured guerrilla gardening and community projects before on the blog, and we think this is another brilliant, simple example of how gardening can really help to improve a community and bring it together. A green-fingered inspiration!