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?”
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.
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.