When we’re putting away the fruit and vegetable shop do we think about where they came from? How many miles they’ve travelled? And who grew them? Do we consider the packaging required to keep them fresh? Do we worry about the environment and climate change and how our food culture impacts on them? Could we maybe do things differently?
These are some of the questions that Incredible Edible hopes to get us asking. They grow fruit and vegetables in public spaces to show how easy it can be to grow our own and to encourage conversations about the bigger picture of food and the environment.
Incredible Edible started in Todmorden, West Yorkshire in 2008. It has now grown to be a national project, with groups around the UK, from Orkney to Cornwall. Their vision is “to create kind, confident and connected communities through the power of food.”
Beeston’s Incredible Edible group was set up by a small, passionate group of residents in 2019, following a talk about climate change in Nottingham, when a few of the attendees who lived in Beeston decided to do something to make a difference. Most knew very little about growing food, but had a desire to work and learn together. The intention: to encourage people in the local community to participate and have conversations about climate change and where our food comes from. Community and connection are at the heart of what they do. In fact, one of their values is being more passionate about people than plants.
The Beeston group has four sites: Leyton Crescent in The Rylands, The City/Middle Street, Sandby Court, off Bramcote Lane and Cator Lane Recreation Ground. I met Heather Sarno, one of the founding members and an active participant at the Cator Lane site. She related the group’s inception and shared some challenges they face. There is currently a core group of just five regular volunteers at this particular site; others dip in as and when they can. They would love more active participants.
Being a regular volunteer might sound daunting to anyone already stretched with their ordinary life commitments, but taking a few minutes to water the beds when it’s been dry, to bring food peelings for the compost bins, or to pull out a few weeds when passing, is just as valued. Some people might keep the site watered, whilst others grow seeds at home to plant out when they are ready. The invitation is to bring the skills and time you have.
All the sites have young fruit trees; herbs and vegetables grown seasonally in small beds, as one might in a garden or allotment. The difference is that these are communal, making use of spare land, deliberately in public sight. Anyone is welcome to join in with the gardening work, but equally and most excitingly, to harvest and eat the produce. The Incredible Edible motto, “If you eat, you’re in” means that anyone and everyone is welcome. It also means there is no need for prior knowledge of gardening; its about learning together and from one another.
After Heather left, I spoke to Dave, a local resident. He had noticed the site, but had assumed it was private, an overspill from the allotments, or maybe a project connected to Greenwood Court. Clearly this is one of the challenges for the group: getting across the project’s aims to more people; having those vital conversations and thereby getting more people involved.
As a society, we have become separated from the traditions and lost the skills of growing food, maybe no longer have time to tend a veg patch. It’s a lot quicker to pop into the supermarket on the way home from work, but at what cost? This is why Incredible Edible is needed, providing a physical space and sharing skills; a chance to re-learn the knowledge and confidence that were part of everyday life only a few generations ago.
At The City site, the spinach looked ripe and delicious, so I took a handful for my dinner… When they say if you eat, you’re in, I guess I must be in. Thank you Incredible Edible.
If you’d also like to be in, you can contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Colin Failes for informing us also of the community herb garden at Beeston Methodist Church, which is an Ecochurch. Colin tells us that the herbs are just inside the premises, “the first part of the border on the left as you enter the gate via the bus stop.”
Thank you also for correcting our geographical error and confirming that Todmorden is in fact in West Yorkshire, not Lancashire. Indeed, what they have achived there is incredibly impressive.