Back in the 60’s, Incredible Edibles were a brand of strange culinary toys. They came in the form of a series of circular metal molds into which Gooble De-Goop, a candy-like gel formulated by inventor Don Lusk, was squeezed. Once the Gooble De-Goop had set to the mold, the substance was then placed in a special small oven and baked, finally producing alien rubbery soft edible candies in the shape of worms and insects.
Fast forward to 2012 and the tag Incredible Edible is increasingly associated with a different kind of magic transformation, still involving food and worms, but this time the formula isn’t Gooble De-Goop, it makes complete sense!!
In a short space of time, the Incredible Edible movement has spread to towns across the country, gathering pace as word reaches from Rossendale to Wakefield, and from Totnes to Lambeth, with many other projects in between.
All these initiatives are linked by a vision that began in the Lancashire Pennines town of Todmorden in 2008, when an urban community set out to transform the local environment and empower the local population by growing food.
The town’s residents have taken over carparks, grass verges, graveyards, roadsides, school yards, health centers and every conceivable space imaginable to turn into edible landscapes. Starting off initially ‘guerrilla-gardening’ – planting without permission on unused public space – the team of local residents soon gained the support of the public sector and private landowners and found themselves with a wealth of free ground to work on. All the towns schools are involved, growing food in raised beds and teaching students the basics in harvesting and preparation. Over 600 fruit trees have been planted so far, that’s 1 for every 2.5 residents, there are 40 growing sites in the town centre and 33% of residents take part in Incredible Edible Todmorden activities.
Co-founder and voice of the movement Pam Warhurst is an inspirational leader and communicator, this short interview recorded at a NESTA, Making Innovation Flourish conference is well worth taking a few minutes to watch.
Incredible Edible Todmorden was one of 25 case study initiatives featured at the conference and in the accompanying handbook:
“Against the context of rapid economic, social and environmental change, a collective reflection is taking place on how to build more sustainable routes to share prosperity. In the meantime, an increasing number and wide range of change-makers have already found ways to imagine and grow a different economy in our cities, towns, neighbourhoods and villages.
This publication presents 25 case studies of the civic economy – rooted in age-old traditions of the associational economy but using new organising tactics, ways of connecting with people and approaches to collaborative investment.
They show that the civic economy is already a real, vital and growing part of many places, which actively contributes to community resilience, everyday innovation and shared prosperity. They also reveal how local leaders – that is, all those working together to improve places and their economies, whether in the public, private or third sector – can create the fertile ground for the civic economy to flourish and grow. Most importantly, the remarkable achievements of these 25 trailblazers show why we need to get better at understanding and recognising the role of civic entrepreneurship and enable it to turn ideas into action and impact.”
The document is free to read, download and print here: http://www.nesta.org.uk/todmorden/assets/features/compendium_for_the_civic_economy
The Incredible Edible programs form just one part of a wider development in the UK towards growing more food locally. With projects like Bristol based East Side Roots promoting the virtues of farming close to home, we will certainly be returning to cover more of the work being done in this exciting area.