Imagine you’re in charge of Planet Inc. Billions are dependent on its success, but it’s in real trouble. You’re worried about your stakeholders. You’re worried about the story leaking to the press. What are you going to do? Not commission another bunch of reports. Urgent action is needed. Just maybe your business plan is wonky. So you ask your head of research to find case studies of how things could be different.
That’s when you find Incredible Edible Todmorden. It’s a market town up for actions not words, and it’s not going to ask permission from anybody.
There are three spinning plates – community, learning, business – putting local food at the heart. Propaganda gardens start springing up – veg along canals, back garden fences come down, edible landscapes at the police station. Little children are learning new skills and believing they can do something that’s really practical. Local traders are selling local everything you can name. There are new businesses. Environmental damage in the town is down 80%. All because people are willing to take on a ‘forever experiment’. And the town is buzzing. They know in their bones it is time for positive action.
Contrary to popular wisdom, people really are part of the solution, not the problem. There are many obstacles in the way of leading kinder lives. But Todmorden isn’t waiting for authorities’ permission or cheques to fall through the letterbox. They are rolling up their sleeves and getting on with it. As they see shoots growing from the ground, the shoots of power are growing within them.
It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen if you don’t want to do it. It’s captured the imagination of the police and the job centre. Positive positive positive is what it’s about, creating hope. The infectious spirit is spreading. The scouts have produced a Grow It, Cook It, Eat It badge to go national. The local authority has created a land register. The school has put local food at the heart of the curriculum, and children are getting qualifications they wouldn’t have otherwise. Sheffield University found benefits to the local economy – 49% of local businesses had increased takings as a result, and the town has received £1m worth of free advertising through media stories, not to mention veg tourists.
All through spinning three plates.
There are now 40 more communities involved, and for those who might be interested: “If you eat, you’re in”. But fundamentally, for the executive of Planet Inc, “believe in the power of small actions.”
Another of Pam’s talks at TEDSalon London: “How we can eat our landscapes”