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Come Saturday Morning: Can Your Hometown Feed Itself? Todmorden’s Trying It

Blackcurrant jam on fresh bread, both Yorkshire made. From

While tooling around on the Internet, I ran across the story of Todmorden, the market town in Yorkshire in the UK that, from a modest guerrilla-gardening start less than four years ago is now well on its way to self-sufficiency in foodstuffs. They’ve set a goal of self-sufficiency by 2018, and they’re already well on their way to that goal.

How do they do it? The ringleaders convinced the city authorities to let them set up community gardens anywhere and everywhere in town — abandoned lots, highway medians, ditches, you name it — and encourage the townsfolk to come and take as much as they wanted. For free. Even in front of the police station:

Outside the police station in the small Victorian mill town of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, there are three large raised flower beds.

If you’d visited a few months ago, you’d have found them overflowing with curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions — all manner of vegetables and salad leaves.

Today the beds are bare. Why? Because people have been wandering up to the police station forecourt in broad daylight and digging up the vegetables. And what are the cops doing about this brazen theft from right under their noses? Nothing.

Well, that’s not quite correct.

‘I watch ’em on camera as they come up and pick them,’ says desk officer Janet Scott, with a huge grin. It’s the smile that explains everything.

For the vegetable-swipers are not thieves. The police station carrots — and thousands of vegetables in 70 large beds around the town — are there for the taking. Locals are encouraged to help themselves. A few tomatoes here, a handful of broccoli there. If they’re in season, they’re yours. Free.

So there are (or were) raspberries, apricots and apples on the canal towpath; blackcurrants, redcurrants and strawberries beside the doctor’s surgery; beans and peas outside the college; cherries in the supermarket car park; and mint, rosemary, thyme and fennel by the health centre.

It’s not just veggies and fruits the Tods are raising: They’ve got an egg campaign, other sorts of local livestock, an aquaponic fish-and-veg farm under development, and have inspired several other UK cities and towns to see how much of their own food they can produce.

So what’s cooking in your neck of the woods?

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