How to Feed a Town: The Incredible Edible Project

Posted by Adele Peters

Four years ago, a group of residents in the small English town of Todmorden decided to adopt an ambitious goal: by 2018, the whole town would become completely "food independent," growing and raising all of the food it needed itself, through the Incredible Edible Todmorden project.

Now, virtually every free piece of land in the town is filled with food, from yards in front of the police and railway stations, to parks, schoolyards, backyards, and traffic roundabouts. Everything grown on public land is free for anyone in town to take. The nonprofit running the project also offers classes in everything from baking bread to pickling.

As Liam Hinshelwood, a designer who worked with the nonprofit, wrote in the Guardian, this project is a great example of the type of design we need most, even though it might not seem like design in the traditional sense:

The answer is to design ‘what we do’ rather than to simply design ‘things’. We must design the everyday items of our lives, landscapes, our streets, our buildings, our services and institutions in a way that will foster behaviours that will continue to sustain us.

For the activists in Todmorden, the project is about more than just food; it's an important step in shifting to a more sustainable lifestyle, and in making a tiny dent in the unbalanced global food system. And that step—just taking action—has power in it. Matthew Taylor, CEO of the RSA, said this about the project:

There is an emotion that we have, that you have to hope to act. I’ve always believed that is the wrong way round. You have to act to hope. Its acting that gives you hope and its people in this town in the face of this massive global food crisis who didn’t just think were going to get upset about it or petition about it, they said we are going to do something about it in our own back yard.

Check out the short film below for more on the project.

This month, we're challenging the GOOD community to host a dinner party and cook a meal that contains fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Throughout March, we'll share ideas and resources for being more conscious about our food and food systems. Join the conversation at good.is/food and on Twitter at #chewonit.

Original image courtesy of Incredible Edible Todmorden