I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the TED Salon at the Unicorn Theatre on 10th May, and I wanted to share some of the ideas I heard about there. Amongst a bumper crop, there were two food-related talks that really stood out. The first was by an amazing man called Tristram Stuart, who discussed the obscene waste of food that goes on all around us, every single day (www.tristramstuart.com). Tristram asked some very simple questions, like: ‘why don't shops sell sandwiches made of crusts?’ and ‘where do the crusts that aren't used go to?’ (A hole in the ground, apparently, because we can't even give cooked waste to animals since the Foot and Mouth outbreak in the early 2000s).
He also did some very complicated sums, such as calculating the excess on how much food is grown in the world after most of it is thrown away. Apparently, we are currently producing four times more crops than we need to eat, and destroying much of the planet to do so. We are draining aquifers to grow salad in the Sahara and destroying the rainforest to grow soya to feed to pigs and cows all for food, most of which we will never eat. It might sound depressing but it was actually a hugely empowering experience; Now not only will I eat my greens but I might even buy a pig to feed all the stalks to.
Even more empowering was the talk by Pam Warhurst, a visionary who hails from Todmorden, on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Pam is one of the founders of an enterprise called Incredible Edible. Theirs is an amazing tale of non-violet direct action. Yes, I wrote violet, because Pam and her friends have started a green revolution in their home town. They've got everyone there planting food crops all over the town: salad on the canal towpath, sweetcorn outside the police station, even crops on graves in the cemetery (as Pam says: 'the soil is very rich'). They've planted an orchard outside the health centre and a pick your own garden outside the railway station, so you can harvest your veg on your way home.
It's all part of a mission to remake the link between food and farming, and to get townspeople - especially kids - growing things. They've managed to get the local high school to teach horticulture and the local council to give over spare land to grow more food. Their approach has been adopted by other communities around the world, all of whom are sharing in this growing revolution. You can find out more about them, and how to set up your own scheme, at http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk - grow on, you know you want to.