Call for professionals to share skills with community growers

Incredible Edible co-founder Pam Warhurst has called on horticulturists to get involved in local edible growing schemes.

Warhurst wants your skills to join her growing revolution: Image copyright Nick Harrison
Warhurst wants your skills to join her growing revolution: Image copyright Nick Harrison

She said that people working in the sector had incredible skills to share and would be a great asset to local groups. The charity works to "join up the dots" between community groups, local shops and restaurants and other bodies such as councils which want to get involved.

"So much of Incredible Edible is taking over spaces. Part of what we do is helping people to understand that they have gifts to share in the places they live in," she told Horticulture Week.

"As you take personal responsibility of what your places look like, what you find is that places that were dog toilets are now wonderful herb gardens. We use food to give people a greater sense of their own values.

"We see the spark in people’s eyes when they see that people do have a role in their society they just didn’t know before. That might be growing, cooking, sharing skills. We’ve seen that the simple act of growing food has an amazing effect on the place and the people.  At a time when we need more people actively understanding horticulture and growing, we want places to look beautiful as well as functional."

The call was the key thrust of this year’s Landscape Institute (LI) Jellicoe Lecture at Leeds Beckett University, West Yorkshire, which Warhurst gave last week, on the theme of engaging communities with landscape and green infrastructure.

"I’m a huge fan of the LI because landscape architects have the skillsets that create spaces in our lives that make us feel good. They are about creating inspiring space, we’re inspiriting people to create their own edible urban landscape."

Incredible Edible started with a group of volunteers in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and there are now Incredible Edible projects active in 120 towns across the UK, as well as globally, as far away as New Zealand.

One of the initiatives which made a difference in Todmorden was the idea of linking up different ‘propaganda plots’ – so called because there are in visible locations such as train and police stations - into a guided walk. This model has been copied in Bristol, Greater Manchester and is being developed in Clapham Common, London.

But despite its success Warhurst wants to see action step up a gear.

"I’ve seen great stuff going on but it’s always on the margins or so called ‘best practice’. I want this to be normal," she said. "When people are designing a high street or a housing estate they need to think about the role of food in that."

She said community growing still need to come from grassroots action and nobody can force people to start but landscape architects’ skillset would be addition to the mix, perhaps by getting involved in a personal capacity, or doing some pro bono work. She said landscape architects are "a sparky group of people with good hearts." She has been contacted by three landscape architecture firms following the Jellicoe lecture. 

Other speakers at the event were Sara Main and Rachel Parkin, who work to increase access to Chatsworth House and Leeds Beckett professor of landscape architecture and urban forestry who spoke about how urban green space should form an integral part of city planning and development. The LI annual general meeting was held on the same day and attendees were able to see work by Leeds Beckett landscape architect students. 

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