THE FUTURE for our planet may look bleak, says Norah Hamill, one of the driving forces behind a project to encourage people to grow their own food, but it could be “incredible.”
She’s one of the founders of a newly-formed group, inspired by a similar project in Todmorden, that wants Huddersfield residents to start planting fruit and vegetables in their gardens, schools, roadside verges and communal flower beds. Everywhere, in fact.
It is, quite literally, a grass-roots movement. But one that Norah (inset) is so passionate about that she is prepared to work voluntarily and unpaid.
She has great hopes for Incredible Edible Huddersfield and after just five months she and a group of other volunteers have made contact with Kirklees departments, local schools, businesses and community groups. Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has pledged his support although Norah is keen to point out that the movement transcends political parties.
“As a country we are no longer self sufficient. Incredible Edible is about how to take action on growing local food. With further economic deprivation forecast we want to help everyone believe they can do something,” said Norah, who lives in the Holme Valley.
Changing the way we view food production is the key to the success of such a project. Worries about climate change, financial recession and our dependency on shrinking oil reserves mean that communities need to find ways to be more self sufficient.
Norah says it’s important that residents are reconnected to the way food is grown. Education is an important part of Incredible Edible Huddersfield.
“We are already working with Holmfirth High School on a Permaculture Design Course and with Colne Valley High School. Christ Church Primary School in Deighton has taken the initiative and developed its own vegetable garden.
“We have also been talking to Barry Sheerman (chairman of the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families),” explained Norah, who is a single mum with two teenage children.
Originally from Northern Ireland, where she was involved in inner city community projects, Norah, who has a degree in media and politics, joined the Incredible Edible Todmorden project when she lived in the town. She was a friend of Pam Warhurst, one of the project leaders, and is still involved in publicity work for the group.
Incredible Edible Todmorden, which was featured on the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall television series River Cottage, has successfully raised awareness of sustainable food in Calderdale. Norah is hoping that Incredible Edible Huddersfield can do the same here. There’s even a possibility that the new group will also appear on River Cottage, as the programme makers have expressed an interested in its work.
Self sufficiency projects can take inspiration from the success of the ‘Digging for Victory’ campaign that took place during the Second World War, when householders planted cabbages instead of flowers and dug up their herbaceous borders.
Incredible Edible, however, wants to go one step further and promotes what it calls ‘guerrilla gardening,’ using public land at bus stops, waste ground and grass verges. In Huddersfield, shop and cafe owners have been invited to have vegetable planters outside their premises.
Produce on such land is free to anyone who wants it and has been well accepted in Todmorden. Instances of vandalism have occurred but don’t deter the organisers.
“They might pull up some plants and discover that they’ve unearthed a carrot at a bus stop. It’s all part of the educational process,” said Norah.
Support for the initiative has come from many sources, including staff at the Pound World shop in Huddersfield, who clubbed together to donate seeds.
“We’ve had donations of spades and seeds and we’ve got people who grow seedlings. I am really determined about this,” added Norah, who is taking a course in permaculture (permanent agriculture) at the Permaculture Society in Hebden Bridge.
“The permaculture movement is based on three principles: care of the earth, care of its people and fair shares for everyone. It’s about how to manage the earth and ensure sustainability,” she explained.
Next month Incredible Edible Huddersfield will have a presence at a free food event in Huddersfield Town Centre and at Golcar Lily Day (both on May 9) and at the Holmfirth Folk Festival (May 10).
For further information on how to become part of Incredible Edible Huddersfield check out the website www.incredibleediblehuddersfield.org or contact Norah on firstname.lastname@example.org