The Golden Toga Flap: Incredible Edible Todmorden

In 2009, the English town of Todmorden decided to try something revolutionary.

They decided to produce more of their own food.


A hundred years ago, this would have been a given, but now, finding local produce in a supermarket can be well nigh impossible. Even if something is marked “Produced in the USA”, the odds are good that it was trucked in from another state. With the global spotlight currently on fuel usage and how best to utilize our planet’s finite resources, the topic of food production — how it’s grown, processed, and transported — has never been more pertinent.

If you’re looking for an in-depth discussion of this subject, I highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which she and her family explore the concept of being “locavores” by eating only local produce for a year. Throughout her narrative of the experiment, Kingsolver tackles a bunch of questions, including this big one: “Don’t we need factory farms if we’re going to feed all seven-plus billion people on the planet?”


As always, this image links to the book’s listing at Better World Books. I’m not paid to do this. I just like them.

Is this post’s title a typo? Is this actually Book Chatter?

Ahem. Sorry. It’s a fantastic book, is all I’m saying. Todmorden, meanwhile, puts the Kingsolver family’s experiment into practice on a massive scale, both space- and time-wise. Since 2009, they’ve launched multiple “locavore” initiatives. The best-known project is the community gardens all over town that anyone can harvest from, but there’s also a beekeeping project and Every Egg Matters, which encourages home coops. Perhaps most impressively, the local schools have played a central role in this movement, installing gardens, an orchard, a chicken coop, and (in the near future) a fish farm to involve students in the production of the food they eat at lunch.

Who wants to be in charge on harvest day? (Not it.)

Who wants to be in charge on harvest day? (Not it.)

When my roommate showed the original Incredible Edible Todmorden film to her mother, the first reaction she got was, “So … they’re basically doing what everyone did fifty years ago.” This is true, but how much has changed since then? Based on any of the many stories about town leaders discouraging home gardens, I’d say quite a bit. Todmorden knows that urban gardening is a good way — perhaps even the best way — to get citizens thinking about where their food comes from, which is something many of us could do more often. Well done spreading the word and kickstarting Incredible Edible initiatives in other cities, Todmorden. We flap our togas in your honour and stand with you in your pursuit of mindful eating and sustainability.

Want to learn more? One of the leaders of Incredible Edible Todmorden gave a TED Talk found here, and you can find the movement’s site here.


Photo credit: Tomatoes from ludo38 and fish from falco on Pixabay.


8 thoughts on “The Golden Toga Flap: Incredible Edible Todmorden

  1. My daughter started some buckwheat sprouts the other day and I said something like “That’s awesome! You’re such a whiz in the kitchen.” She looked unimpressed and said, “This was considered normal 100 years ago. I’m just doing what people have always done.” Well, I do think it’s awesome when we go back to growing and making our own food, as we have for millennia. Thanks for the post. By the way, I love the Kingsolver book too 🙂

    • (Sorry for the delay in replying!) Isn’t it strange to think about the difference in skill sets between generations? Even just fifty years ago, my mom was doing laundry with a mangle and sewing her own clothes. Sometimes I like to think about what my kids will consider “old-fashioned” in 2064 — typing with one’s fingers, maybe? It’ll be interesting to find out, but with any luck, good food will still be around. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Ha ha. Yes, typing with fingers might make our kids nostalgic in 2064. I told my younger daughter just this morning that the first grocery store did not open in the US until 1946, that WWII industrialized food and so on (her eyes glazed over as usual, but I’ve had evidence that the info does sink in). My mom was my daughter’s age then. It must have seemed so modern to her and my grandmother. The food went downhill from there, but times are changing (again).

    • Have you read _The Food of a Younger Land_? I haven’t yet, but it seems to be a pretty comprehensive history of the topic you’ve mentioned. _Fast Food Nation_ also delved into the subject. All in all, it’ll be very interesting to see where food goes next.

  3. Pingback: Counter Action: Bruschetta | In Which the Shadow Learns to Yodel

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