Incredible Edible Todmorden, a town growing all its own food - in public!

  by eden.

Article 2072383 0 Eff567300000578 764 468x286Outside the police station in the small Victorian mill town of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, there are three large raised flower beds.If you’d visited a few months ago, you’d have found them overflowing with curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions — all manner of vegetables and salad leaves.
Today the beds are bare. Why? Because people have been wandering up to the police station forecourt in broad daylight and digging up the vegetables. And what are the cops doing about this brazen theft from right under their noses? Nothing.
Well, that’s not quite correct. ‘I watch ’em on camera as they come up and pick them,’ says desk officer Janet Scott, with a huge grin. It’s the smile that explains everything. For the vegetable-swipers are not thieves. The police station carrots — and thousands of vegetables in 70 large beds around the town — are there for the taking. Locals are encouraged to help themselves. A few tomatoes here, a handful of broccoli there. If they’re in season, they’re yours. Free.
So there are (or were) raspberries, apricots and apples on the canal towpath; blackcurrants, redcurrants and strawberries beside the doctor’s surgery; beans and peas outside the college; cherries in the supermarket car park; and mint, rosemary, thyme and fennel by the health centre.
The vegetable plots are the most visible sign of an amazing plan: to make Todmorden the first town in the country that is self-sufficient in food. ‘And we want to do it by 2018,’ says Mary Clear, 56, a grandmother of ten and co-founder of Incredible Edible, as the scheme is called. ‘It’s a very ambitious aim. But if you don’t aim high, you might as well stay in bed, mightn’t you?’
So what’s to stop me turning up with a huge carrier bag and grabbing all the rosemary in the town?
‘Nothing,’ says Mary.
What’s to stop me nabbing all the apples?
‘Nothing.’
All your raspberries?
‘Nothing.’
It just doesn’t happen like that, she says. ‘We trust people. We truly believe — we are witness to it — that people are decent.’ When she sees the Big Issue seller gathering fruit for his lunch, she feels only pleasure. What does it matter, argues Mary, if once in a while she turns up with her margarine tub to find that all the strawberries are gone? ‘This is a revolution,’ she says. ‘But we are gentle revolutionaries. Everything we do is underpinned by kindness.’ The idea came about after she and co-founder Pam Warhurst, the former owner of the town’s Bear Cafe, began fretting about the state of the world and wondered what they could do.