Growing food is a trojan horse to create change in communities by shifting how folks see the spaces around them and building confidence in the power of small actions.
There’s a myth that if we don’t like something, we can ‘vote with our wallets,’ as if by choosing to buy (for instance) organic vegetables we’re somehow going to change the world, one red pepper at a time.
What if, instead, we took a leap of faith and believed in our own abilities to create change for the future? If we care about the planet, why don’t we take personal actions rather than trading our cash for a false choice at the supermarket checkout?
The people behind Incredible Edibles believe that food is a powerful key to taking personal actions for our future. Food matters to everyone – we all eat, and we can all grow it too, whether we’re able bodied or disabled, old or young, rich or poor. People from all cultures grow, cook and eat food.
Incredible Edibles developed the concept of ‘propaganda gardening’ – planting up scraps of land with fruit and veg across the town of Todmorden, supporting local producers and local markets. Now, they encourage people from across the globe to grow food and remind them that they can contribute to a new world.
Growing food might feel like a small act, but it’s revolutionary. Propaganda gardening isn’t about scaling up – we’re trying to get away from industrial mega-farms! – it’s about spreading. A patchwork of growing communities that support and encourage local producers and markets is ‘sticky money’ economics. Every pound that’s spent in the local community stays there.
If the small actions of individuals are revolutionary, imagine the power of social businesses that get involved in urban food growing. Feeding the City is a start-up incubator for food businesses challenging the status quo, run by Impact Hub Kings Cross, a partner in Food Talks. Its aim is to help people create grassroots change in sustainable food.
One of the alumni of the programme is Tenement Veg of Glasgow, a market garden and workers co-operative bringing veg to the people. They believe that local food isn’t just nutritious and tasty, but there are clear physical and spiritual benefits to growing food, as well as helping us reduce our reliance on unsustainable food practices. Tenement Veg runs a veg box scheme and sells its produce to local cafes.
Another Feeding the City participant is Coventry’s Proof Bakery, which provides its community with nutritious bread and creates jobs. Proof Bakery is the sweet spot where a food business meets social action. It rebuilds lives through baking, providing skills, jobs and a sense of community for refugee Syrian women in the city.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules for helping everyone to get involved in changing the food system for the better, but there are some magic ingredients. Start small and aim to spread, not scale up. Spend less time talking and more time doing. Stick a spade in a child’s hand and watch them bloom. And above all, believe in the power of your actions.