Here’s the problem: The
rapid expansion of cities is breaking the relationship that people have
with the food ecosystem. Although the problem is receiving attention by
some city officials, and they are adopting new sustainability programs
and policies, it is a time-consuming, top-down process with an uncertain
impact. What if with a bottom-up approach of small, local actions
citizens can engage with could have a massive impact? Cities are centers
of enormous energy and resources, and, by leveraging connections with
friends, families, neighbors, and local community groups, it’s possible
to create sustainable and affordable food systems.

Here’s how one organization is working on the problem: Back
in 2007, a woman in a small town called Todmorden, in the northern part
of England, dug up her prized rose garden. She planted vegetables,
knocked down the garden wall, and put up a sign saying, “Help

This small action grew into a movement that has transformed Todmorden
into a town in which citizens are reshaping their surroundings. The
incredible edible Todmorden movement has turned all the public spaces,
from the front yard of a police station to railway stations, into farms
filled with edible herbs and vegetables. Locals and tourists pluck
fruits and vegetables for free.

This novel idea, which is also called “open-source food,” promises a
future with food for all. The project shares a participatory vision of
“three plates” — community, education, and business. Schools grow food,
businesses donate goods and services, and shops sell planter boxes.


  • As a result of the huge success of the project, the Incredible Edible Network
    was set up in 2012 to attract grant funding and support the replication
    of the project globally. There are now 100 Incredible Edible groups
    across the U.K. More are popping up all the time around the globe.
  • The initiative has opened up a new marketplace for local farmers as well as the tourism industry.
  • The movement has also fostered a sense of community and
    responsibility among the local residents, interaction and bonding among
    the neighbors, and connections with spaces like police stations,
    cemeteries, and prisons.

Learn more from:

This case study is adapted from our latest book, “Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons.” Get a copy today.

Header image of the Incredible Edible Todmorden volunteer team gardening outside the housing residence in the city. Provided by:

Incredible Edible Todmorden team

Incredible Edible Todmorden gives free access to locally grown food to everyone

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