Incredible Edible initiatives are spreading across Quebec and starting to appear in other parts of Canada. They make use of all sorts of urban spaces to grow food and growers invite everyone in the community to share in the harvest. There are now over 100 initiatives worldwide. They are offshoots of what started out six years ago as a small local initiative in the UK: Incredible Edible Todmorden. A network has been created to support Incredible Edible initiatives in the UK and worldwide.
The first Incredible Edible initiative emerged when according to founder Pamela Warhurst: “We decided to invent something that would perhaps make our town better, perhaps make more people aware of the importance of the environment, but do it by talking about local food because everybody’s got to eat and it just seemed a simple message that might just unite us.” The process of engaging the local community focused on ‘doing’ because as Ms Warhurst explains, “People want to do things but they don’t know what to do.” When she convened a meeting in a local café, sixty people showed up. Ms Warhurst asked them, “What do you think? Should we do something? The time to act is now! Let’s not write a report, let’s get on with it. We can cook, we can share, we can grow…and the whole room exploded!” Converting underused urban spaces into food growing areas where everyone can help themselves to the produce is a compelling concept. It becomes more inspiring when one sees places physically transformed in diverse and creative ways and when it’s accompanied by inclusive (their motto is: “If you eat, you’re in”) and festive community events.
Incredible Edible has a philosophy of “keeping three plates spinning”: community, education and economy. With respect to education, each school has its own garden and makes growing food an important part of its curriculum. There are also opportunities for other community members to develop their food growing skills, which in turn leads to new economic opportunities. Other economic spinoffs include “vegetable tourism” and creating new markets for local farmers who have turn developed new products.