What is Incredible Edible?
Imagine helping yourself to a juicy cob of sweetcorn from the yard outside a police station. You might feel secretly pleased that nobody has come out to arrest you. You might be surprised to see the corn there in the first place. You'd get even more of a shock if you knew a police officer was watching you on CCTV with a huge grin on her face.
Welcome to Incredible Edible Todmorden. What seems surprising in most places is normal in this West Yorkshire town. Go there any day in the growing season and you will see fruit and vegetables in some most unusual places: tomatoes along the canal path, strawberries outside the college and runner beans in the cemetery. What's more, you are welcome to take as much of it as you like.
This simple but radical act of growing food in public places for everyone to share has been a starting point for a movement that is now spreading across the world.
A few years ago Todmorden seemed stuck in a downward spiral, just another small town blighted by economic decline. Shops and pubs were closing, the market was struggling to compete with supermarkets, house prices were falling and many people were being forced to commute to find work.
Some of the locals decided they were fed up with waiting for the powers that be to sort everything out and so they tried an experiment. They set out to see if they could bring people together around the shared language of food and from there do something that would create a stronger, kinder, greener town and a better future for their children.
Now all the schools are involved in growing and the secondary school will soon become the first in the country to have its own aquaponics centre selling fish and vegetables to the community.
There's a market garden training centre offering apprenticeships to local youngsters, and friendships are being formed across the generations as older residents help their younger neighbours rediscover lost arts like pickling and jam making.
Incredible Edible is good for business too: producers have been inspired to bring out new lines, like an award winning cheese, and sausages from rare breed pigs. Market traders and restaurant owners also say they're profiting from the Incredible Edible effect.
In a world where ordinary people feel increasingly alienated from the forces that shape their lives, Incredible Edible Todmorden demonstrates a straightforward way of taking back control.
It's a way that starts with what people have, not what they haven't - and where politicians and experts learn from the people instead of lecturing them.
Our book Incredible! tells the story of this extraordinary movement from its earliest days, when co-founder Mary Clear ripped out the roses from her garden and replaced them with vegetables and a sign saying 'Food to Share', right up to the present, when people travel thousands of miles to be inspired by what's happening in this once overlooked town in the north of England.
Woven into the story are facts and figures about the present state of our food system and examples of why we all need to think differently about the way we treat the land if we want to create a stronger, kinder and more stable future for our children.
There are also practical tips about how to get started on an Incredible Edible project in your own community, along with simple and delicious recipes from some of Todmorden's many accomplished cooks.
The whole story is told in the voice of Pam Warhurst, the inspirational co-founder of Incredible Edible, who gives regular talks in the UK and across the world about what has happened in Todmorden. Her TED talk on the town has been viewed more than 700,000 times.
Why a book?
They like to say in Todmorden that they are the town of the example. They’ve done the hard work of getting Incredible Edible established for the first time and now others can follow their lead, copying what has worked well and learning from the mistakes.
Already more than 50 towns and villages across the UK have joined the Incredible Edible movement. It's spreading across the world too, with over 300 Incredible Edibles in France alone, and others in places as far apart as Mali, Canada and New Zealand.
But not everyone can visit Todmorden for themselves and although the co-founders receive countless invitations to speak around the country and abroad, there's only so many places they can be at once.
Hence the book!
My hope is that Incredible! will enable even more people to catch the vision and be inspired to start making the places where they live stronger, kinder and greener.
Writing the book
I've spent the past two years researching and writing the story of Incredible Edible. As well as spending many hours with Pam, I have conducted in-depth interviews with a wealth of people whose lives have been affected by the movement, from grower and inventor extraordinaire Nick Green, to volunteers and producers from all walks of life.
The final book will be a paperback with eight pages of colour plates.
With many thanks to Estelle Brown for the photographs and Jason Rooper for the video.
Why I need your help
My partner Julian Dobson and I have used our own resources to fund the research and writing of this book. Now we need your help to turn it from its current form as a completed, typewritten manuscript into an illustrated paperback with the potential to spread the Incredible Edible message even further afield.
We need to raise a minimum of £10,000 in order to publish this book in time for release at the start of the next growing season in April 2014.
As a backer, you can become part of the Incredible Edible story and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to bring this vision to more and more people in the UK. We have a range of rewards, from a hearty Yorkshire 'thank-you' to the opportunity to attend the book's launch in Todmorden itself.
Anyone pledging £10 or above will receive a copy of the e-book. For £20 or above we will send you a copy of the paperback book as well. For £35 you can also get a book for a friend, while supporters who pledge £50 will additionally get their name printed inside the book. Backers who contribute £100 or above will also get a fruit tree grafted at Incredible Farm, Todmorden's market garden training centre. (Perhaps you will take a lead from the Incredibles and plant it on some unloved ground in your own community.)
FInally, for people who can pledge £250 there's the chance to attend a special supporters' event in conjunction with the launch of the book in the spring of 2014.
What the money is for
The manuscript is written; it's been professionally critiqued and I am just completing the final edits. We plan to work with a highly recommended publisher who specialises in self-published books. We need to raise £10,000 to fund an initial print run and associated costs for 700 copies.
Of course we would really like the message to spread much, much further than 700 copies and for that reason we have set two stretch goals.
S-T-R-E-T-C-H GOAL 1
If we raise £20,000 we can print around 2,500 copies to be sold directly.
S-T-R-E-T-C-H GOAL 2
If we raise £30,000 we can print around 5,000 copies and we'll have the opportunity to market the book through mainstream bookshops and online outlets, spreading the message even further.
A closer look at the £10,000 target
It's important to point out that this sum does not cover any of the costs we have incurred so far in writing and researching the book.
The £10,000 breaks down as follows:
Professional reading and advice on first draft: £465
Editing and proofreading final script: £910
Design and typesetting: £690
Preparation of ebook: £150
Distribution costs: £1,400
Promotion (including video): £950
Launch costs, sale of fruit trees and other costs associated with the rewards: about £1,600 (the exact amount depends on which rewards are selected during the campaign)
Kickstarter fee and transaction costs: £1,000
Contingency for unforeseen costs or additional promotion: £681
Incredible! is proud to be featured on the RSA area on Kickstarter, which selects the best new ideas to help tackle social problems that its 27,000 Fellows are looking to deliver. Pam Warhurst and many others involved in the project are RSA Fellows and have been selected to feature in the area. Click here to see more RSA-backed projects and find out more about the RSA.
Risks and challenges
The main risk to this project is not raising enough money to be able to publish the book at all. Otherwise the risks are low. The current draft of the manuscript has already received an enthusiastic reception - one professional editor told me it made him want to go out and start digging! Assuming we raise the money we need by the end of this campaign, we have plenty of time to get the manuscript to the publishers for a release in spring 2014.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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