Speaking to Dan Robinson about Incredible Edible Garforth: an organisation which has been running for around a year, taking un-loved and un-used spaces and turning them into something beautiful and resourceful. Their projects provide abundant sources of food which people within the community can take and eat at no cost, alongside building a stronger community.
Incredible Edible Garforth provide green spaces in Garforth where fruit and vegetables are grown for the community to take as they need. They also work to educate the people involved and build a sense of community through supporting local businesses. The work these organisations do can transform the way we look at our food, how we deal with food waste and bigger issues surrounding food production and the environment. But at the heart of the organisation is the people – those who make these projects happen and the community around them.
When speaking to Dan, I really wanted to know how people reacted to the gardens and the projects which they have been working on. Consumers aren’t used to getting our food from gardens – we go to the supermarket and pick what we want, rather than growing and harvesting it ourselves.
This is a really important factor; and it shows the importance of the work that Incredible Edible are doing to educate people and show that food does grow – in the ground and on trees – and this it is there to be taken for free. There is a lot of wild fruit grown on public land which is available to anyone, such as blackberry bushes, raspberries, even apple trees and cherry trees. There is a wild food map on the website which people can use to find these sources of fruit and take what they need. It’s all about the education and letting people know it’s there. There are also recipes on the website – such as a recipe for pesto whilst wild garlic is in season. Another example of this is herb gardens which Incredible Edible also provide. People go to the supermarket and buy a whole plant when all they really need is a few bits for one meal. Being able to take what you need from a local herb garden is a brilliant idea to make them available to everyone at no cost.
When we talked about events and the pandemic Dan mentioned being hopeful about being able to host foraging events in the future, but also shared his beliefs that the lockdown has had some positive benefits too. This includes a great community response in terms of having the opportunity to connect with more people on an individual level and spread kindness. At the beginning of the lockdown in 2020, Incredible Edible Garforth worked to provide seed packs for people who were shielding, as a way of providing something for them to do. Early on in the pandemic people embraced the idea of growing their own food and seeds became hard to get hold of as they were so popular. The sense of achievement you get when you successful grow any plant is so positive, and there’s real fulfilment in being able to eat something that is homegrown.
There is definitely an inter-generational gap between old and young when it comes to growing food. There is the older generation who are used to growing their own food and hold all the knowledge and skills, and then there is a younger generation keen to learn these skills. And bringing the two generations together could have a magical effect on mental health issues such as loneliness.
I think that a push for a younger generation to understand where their food comes from and how it is grown is so important. Getting involved in these kinds of projects can have a huge impact on how the next generation view food in regard to sustainability and health. A big part of the work Incredible Edible Garforth do is relating to education. They want to provide sources for schools, such as CPD packs for teachers and lesson plans which are available for schools to use.
Even down to the artwork which Edible Garforth has created – a mural commissioned by local artists made up of edible flowers which grow locally around Garforth. This ties into the incredible edible ethos, being both a beautiful piece of artwork and educational to the local community.
My final question to Dan was about his recommendations about what to do, or how to get started if you have a plot of land or space which you want to improve, and I was surprised by his response – “let it grow wild”.
Explaining further, Dan talked about sustainability and its importance. We have a focus on making things look pretty, we sometimes overlook what is best for the natural environment. We have an obsession with UK lawns and keeping them green and neat, but if you let the grass grown, allowing for dandelions, daises and clover, you can see such a big impact on the bees and butterflies and other wildlife who need these plants to survive. So, if you have the opportunity to leave an area for 3-6 months undisturbed, then just leave it and watch what happens. After this you might just decide that actually, it’s fine just the way it is.