Julian Dobson has written what will hopefully be the first of many guest posts here about a phenomena in which a local community has constructively subverted their local institutions to create something far better than what was there before. You can help to crowd-fund the book about the Incredible Edible community/guerilla gardening project here.
After five years of austerity and with more to come, the need to rethink local economies is more pressing than ever. Governments are not going to do it for us. The big society has evaporated as a political idea. Many of the new private sector jobs are precarious, low-wage roles with few prospects, barely keeping body and soul together.
No wonder people are looking at new approaches to local economies and better ways of doing society – ways that reflect many of the ‘more like people’ principles promoted here.
For six years now one of these experiments has been taking place at the back end of a neglected Yorkshire valley. Frequently dismissed as just another community growing scheme, Incredible Edible Todmorden is serious about rethinking the local economy. But it recognises that economies start with people.
Incredible Edible has come a long way since its co-founder, Pam Warhurst, came back from a conference inspired to take action in her community; since community worker Mary Clear dug up her rose garden and planted vegetables with a big sign saying ‘help yourself’; and since ‘propaganda planter’ Nick Green turned the derelict medical centre where mass murderer Harold Shipman used to practice into a free feast for passers-by.
So here are ten tips for an incredible edible community, neighbourhood or town.
1 Start with what you have. Get out there and do stuff – see Pam Warhurst’s TED talk.
2 Don’t write a strategy document. Council officers are useful – see Nick’s 17-ish tips for activists. But don’t wait for them to set the pace.
3 Don’t ask for permission. Hope starts with action. See Joanna Dobson’s post about this.
4 Make it easy. If you eat, you’re in. That’s why the Incredible Edible ethos is spreading around the world.
5 Propaganda planting starts conversations. See my 10 brilliant reasons why you should plant veg in public places.
6 Make connections through kindness. Here’s why.
7 Start now, but think two generations ahead. That’s why learning is at the heart of Incredible Edible actions. See this story on Todmorden high school’s new aquaponics centre.
8 Rediscover lost skills – especially the art of wasting nothing.
9 Reconnect businesses with their customers. Local food is about local business and jobs. Have a look at Incredible Farm which is selling fruit trees and salads and providing classes and workshops for young people.
10 Redesign your town. See the Green Route in Todmorden that links the town up with edible veg beds and bee-friendly plants. And then think about how the whole town can be different.
And if you like the sound of these, support our Kickstarter campaign to help spread the word and tell the Incredible Edible story. We have just two over weeks to make it happen, so if you’d like to support it, please join us.