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Incredible, Incredible Edible. How to build a LOCAL Food Industry?

I was lucky enough to spend a day with some of the team from Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) and see how food can build a happier, healthier community. And perhaps, a LOCAL food industry by stimulating demand and supply.

Not just building a community that is growing and eating better food, but one where people care rather than vandalise, volunteer to take part, and some, even enthused to set up a food business, creating jobs and income for the local economy.

If the IET team have their way Todmorden will eventually become food self sufficient in a part of the country known for hill farming rather than horticulture. This is a food community built by increasing demand first then building supply from within the community.

If a local food industry can be built here the whole country could follow and see a large percentage of the £120 billion spent with supermarkets diverted from corporates to local communities

Back to my trip. Following in the footsteps of HRH Prince Charles and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I met with many of the team at Incredible Edible Tod and was given a fantastic tour of the town and new “green route” for schools and tourists.

For those not familiar with IET it is an initiative that started to raise awareness to fresh food by, in simple terms, planting fruit and veg all over town and encouraging locals to help themselves. “Help yourself to a cabbage as you leave the station”!

The team of volunteers has ‘gorilla gardened’ all over Todmorden planting fruit and veg wherever they can including, the police station, outside the Health Centre, and even between the graves in one of the cemeteries.

Locals help themselves and hundreds contribute and volunteer for work parties to weed and plant out. Schools are including ‘food’ in the curriculum and restaurants have recognised that adding a local product to the menu increases sales of that dish. Some of the team even run street cookery demonstrations showing how easy it is to make great meals from local food. Click here to see a video of Michaela at our new KIS Cookery video channel.

Brussel Sprouts between the graves

This demand has led to greater production and ‘foodies’ setting up small food businesses to meet the demand, like Carl an ex IT professional now a self taught cheese maker using local organic milk.

Gorilla gardening is already transforming to taking on farm land, and will increase as IET and demand grows. Farmers will share land (especially small pieces next to towns where huge modern farm machinery can’t reach the corner of a field). As production increases economies of scale, and a short supply chain, will help keep food prices low.

A donation of land now in full production and also used for food growing courses

I set up BigBarn to help build a LOCAL Food industry, so we are now configuring the BigBarn map and admin system for Incredible Edible Tod and many other towns now starting their own Incredible Edibles. Each will be able to add icons to the map and every new food business will be promoted via the Incredible Edible websites, BigBarn, and all 88 other partner websites that have the BigBarn map & MarketPlace within their websites.

We hope that other initiatives like IET will follow suit, share best practice and a new more sustainable, lOCAL, food industry grow and thrive.

Or am I adding 2+2 and getting 678? Time will tell! Watch this space an do your bit by shopping locally to encourage greater production and agricultural diversity.


  1. Bill Pearson says:

    It’s a fantastic initiative, isn’t it? I’ve put some pictures I took here. It’s pleasing to see that the initiative is spreading, There’s now an Incredible Edible in Doncaster, Huddersfield, Macclesfield, Rossendale and Wakefield.

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