Todmorden: Britain's First Town with Self-Sufficient Food Supply
The move toward self-sufficient living is not just for paranoid end-of-the-world resisters anymore. Consciousness of how precarious our global food distribution chain is finally seems to be reaching wider audiences in places where such knowledge matters most.
By all means, the local food movement appears to only be picking up steam with towns such as Todmorden, U.K. setting fine examples for the rest of us of how we should be managing land-use and food supply issues more resourcefully.
Every square inch of available ground in Todmorden is being dug up and turned into a vegetable plot.
Red-ribbed chard decorates the kerbside of A646 to Halifax and fruit trees are thriving in dustbins in the backyards of artisans' cottages. Even floral displays, which once helped the town take second place in Britain in Bloom in the small-town class, have given way to edible plants. Commuters passing through its tiny station are urged to bring scissors to crop herbs from planters on the platform.
Mary Clear, Todmorden's community development worker and a founder of the "Incredible Edible Todmorden" project, said: "Why pay the supermarket £1 when you can have it fresh for free?"
What at first seems rather eccentric or absurd starts to make a lot of sense when factoring in the very real costs of using vast amounts of non-renewable resources to produce and ship food around that we could very easily grow in our own backyards and communities, season-willing. In other words, what Todmorden is doing could become the rule, not an exception.
Mrs Warhurst, 57, said it made sense to forget flowers and grow food. "Given costs and concern about where produce is sourced – and it has all sorts of benefits: it's healthier and reduces food miles. It also encourages a sense of community."
At their first public meeting 60 people crammed into her café. "The buzz was phenomenal," she said. "Incredible Edible Todmorden lets everyone just do what they want to do and not worry about the big picture," said Mrs Warhurst.
Todmorden has planted its first community orchard of old English varieties of apples and pears, around the municipal soccer pitch.
Todmorden High School's chef, Tony Mulgrew, has begun sourcing food locally for his 800 pupils. "Through Incredible Edible I have made some fantastic contacts with local farmers," he says. "Now we have free-range chickens and eggs and rare breed pork on the menu, all coming within the normal school budget."
Parents at the area's six primaries have planted tubs and tyres with potatoes and carrots, and even the GPs at Todmorden's new £6 million health centre insisted its landscaped grounds be turned over to fruit and veg.