Pam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson: Incredible! – Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution, The Story of Incredible Edible Todmorden, Matador 2014, 310 pages, £12.99.
This is quite a story to tell. How Pam Warhurst first got thinking about how to revitalize Todmorden after hearing a talk in 2007 by Tim Lang about food. Today Todmorden is known across the world for what has been achieved in a few years by many volunteers.
Pam lives in Todmorden and used to be a counsellor representing the town at Calderdale Council, where she was also the leader of the council. Although the book is written seen from Pam’s perspective it is actually written by Joanna Dobson based on interviewing some of the many people involved.
The founders of Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) wanted to find a way to get ordinary people involved in creating a more sustainable community. They did not want to talk about climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, etc as a lot of people would switch off. They want to use food as a way to bring broader understanding of how to make change, even if it is only small steps. The slogan was “If you eat, you are in”.
They started off with what they call ‘propaganda planting’, often on Council owned land and initially without asking for permission. The idea was local people should see edible food around the town and feel free to pick what they wanted. The idea spread when Calderdale Council gave permission for the planting on their land in Todmorden, when the fire station, the police station, the GP surgery, the library, the train station, the college, the schools, a nursing home for the elderly, etc wanted IET to grow salads, herbs, fruit and vegetables on their land – usually in large raised beds.
However, IET wanted to do a lot more. They started giving out freshly homemade food at
events, to encourage people to try and make fresh food rather than buying fast food. This was supplemented with cooking classes as many people lack skills in cooking fresh meals.
Next on the agenda was getting young people trained up to develop businesses in the area that can provide local food. Todmorden High School got involved and started working with Incredible Farm in Walsden, which is an off-spring of IET. Local businesses were encouraged to provide locally produced food, which became successful.
To revitalize the town center IET created a Green Route, which is a walk around Todmorden to see a variety of food plants combined with information on the importance of pollinators. Tourists and the press now come from all parts of the UK and abroad to see what is happening in Todmorden.
The example of IET has spread to other towns, cities and countries. The ‘Incredible!’ book has suggestions on how to set up such a project, how to work with local authorities, schools, businesses, what to grow, etc.
You can borrow the book from the library in Todmorden or Hebden Bridge or buy it local book shops.