Imagine what would be possible in our communities if we followed the lead of Todmorden, England and planted edible landscapes that provide free food to community members in raised beds around public buildings, in vacant lots, on private land and anywhere else you might imagine.
This revolutionary concept was highlighted recently on the TED Radio Hour on National Public Radio. TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, brings ideas that can change the world to communities large and small across the globe.
Host Guy Raz interviewed Pam Warhurst, who co-founded Incredible Edible, an initiative that encourages planting edible food on unused land to help citizens develop a strong sense of ownership of their community.
Todmorden, a cold and rainy city in north England, has food everywhere, listeners learned. There’s corn growing next to the police station, all kinds of vegetables and fruit being grown along a canal in town, there are raised beds of food in front of the college, as a few examples.
“We’ve surrounded our health center with edibles,” Warhurst said. There are public signs that say “food to share” all over town.
Incredible Edible, an all-volunteer nonprofit, has accomplished this in a community that does not have favorable growing conditions, so imagine what North Central Washington could do if we followed the lead of this effort.
As described on the broadcast, people have free license to walk into these edible public gardens and take what they need. Warhurst said an interesting thing has happened in the community with access to free public food. While some might predict that people would take advantage and take more than they need, Warhurst has found that people take only like what they will use. “The truth is nobody picks everything,” said Warhurst. “They pick enough and that’s it.”
So this effort caters to the better nature of our angels as human beings. This is a movement rather than a program because it invites people to come together in community to achieve a lofty purpose. No one is required to participate — people grow free food for their neighbors as a contribution to the greater good.
The simple idea for Incredible Edible came to her one day and she launched it. “It was just, let’s imagine wherever we live…..we planted edible landscapes everywhere that we could,” Warhurst said.
“None of this is rocket science,'” she explained in her TED presentation. “It certainly is not clever and it certainly not original. But it is joined up and it is inclusive….. this is a movement for everyone.” Incredible Edible was started because people wanted to start a revolution. Food, they discovered, is a unifying language.
If we can adopt and adapt powerful ideas like Incredible Edible, imagine what would be possible in feeding the hungry and inspiring our neighbors to contribute their energy for the common good.
This kind of community is diametrically opposed to the vision of President-elect Donald Trump, whose perspective is that value can only be created by beating someone else in any way possible (ethically or unethically) and being concerned with only one’s self interest.
We have a choice. We can buy into the social Darwinism leaders like Trump or we can build resilient, inclusive communities by working together. I’m for community building.
To see the TED talk with Warhurst, access artofcommunityncw.com. The Art of Community Project is devoted to creative community building in our region.