Starting an Incredible Edible group

Show notes (summary)

There are few things more important than food! But have we lost this idea of people coming together to grow and provide food for themselves and others around them? Well, certainly not in South Milford in North Yorkshire, where my guest Nadia Lindsay and other villagers have developed what’s known as an ‘Incredible Edible’ group, an ‘off-the-shelf’ project with online support that’s spreading rapidly across many parts of the UK. Listen in and find out more. Perhaps you could start your own Incredible Edible group in your community?

Transcript: Season 1 / Episode 22

Johnny Thomson 00:00
Hello everyone and welcome to The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK’s largest specialist provider of village hall insurance and the home of VillageGuard. Now, there are a few things more important than food. And as well as keeping us all strong and healthy, food often sits at the very heart of rural communities. It’s what most were originally built around, of course. But what about now? Have we lost this idea of villagers coming together collectively to grow and provide food for themselves and others around them? Well, certainly not in South Milford in North Yorkshire, where my guest, Nadia Lindsay, along with others and with the support of St. Mary’s Church Hall there, have developed what’s known as an Incredible Edible group, which she’s kindly agreed to join me on a call today, and tell us all about. Hi Nadia, how are you?

Nadia Lindsay 00:54
Hello, Johnny. Yes, I’m very well, thank you.

Johnny Thomson 00:56
Great. Now, before we get on to Incredible Edible, which is an idea I’m sure many of our listeners will be really interested in, tell me a little bit about you in the village of South Milford and the church hall there.

Nadia Lindsay 01:08
Okay. Yeah, I’m a mum of two children at primary school. I’ve lived in South Milford for a few years now. It’s a rural community, but it’s very well connected. We’re very close to the motorways and we’re very close to train stations, Surrounded by lots and lots of potato fields generally. And St. Mary’s Church Hall is quite important in the village because it supports lots of groups in the community, including Rainbows, Guides, Brownies, exercise clubs, yoga, baby and toddler groups and meet and greet drop-in sessions for the general community as well as Incredible Edible.

Johnny Thomson 01:53
Fantastic. Well, Incredible Edible itself then. Tell me tell me how you first heard about it, and why it interested you?

Nadia Lindsay 02:01
Okay, so a friend in South Milford had spotted an Incredible Edible project in a nearby town, which is Garforth, and was interested in how they’d set it up and realised that this is actually something that can be replicated in any village, town or city anywhere in the country, quite easily. Asked if I would like to be involved, which I was very interested to, along with a number of other people. And we put a small group together. However, that was just before COVID, so we didn’t actually get going until the beginning of this year.

Johnny Thomson 02:42
How does it all work Nadia? Tell me what Incredible Edible is and what it’s kind of setting out to achieve.

Nadia Lindsay 02:50
Yeah, so Incredible Edible is a community growing project, where using oversized planters in public and prominent locations, we are growing edible produce for the community, with the involvement of anybody in the community who wants to be involved. And what’s been really good here is that very quickly, we’ve seen there are lots and lots of people very interested in growing and wanting to be involved in this. It’s a way of bringing the community together. Because even if you don’t want to do any of the growing, you could just pop along and help yourself to some tomatoes or beans or herbs for your evening meal, or even your cocktail that you’re making that particular evening. And people have commented that it’s improved the look of the village in the areas where we’ve managed to put a few planters up. And also it’s been a positive thing to get people together after COVID after all of these lockdowns and us all being stuck inside for so long.

Johnny Thomson 03:54
Yeah. So you’ve got you’ve got all these planters then dotted about the village. Is that right?

Nadia Lindsay 03:59
Yes. So most of them are in the church hall garden. So we have three planters in the church hall garden at the moment. We’ve recently established a new one on a quite a public grass-verge in the middle of the village. And we have plans to roll out more planters. The WI Hall houses the local preschool and they have asked if they can have some planters to look after. Also, we have, like lots of many other communities, lots of new build houses. We have two new build estates and we have plans to put some planters on the other side of the village, if you like, in those new estates. And we have plans to put some around where we have almost sheltered housing. We have a council owned area, which is for the elderly members of the community that are a bit more isolated and we have plans to put some planters over there as well.

Johnny Thomson 05:00
And how did you manage to get it going, bearing in mind all of the various challenges that we’ve all had around COVID and so on, as you mentioned, recently? How did how did you get things moving there?

Nadia Lindsay 05:10
So the thing that’s been really good about Incredible Edible is because it’s an established system, if you like, we’ve been able to tap into the overarching information that exists for Incredible Edible. Originally, Incredible Edible was set up in Todmorden a few years ago. When they realised the popularity of it, they replicated it. And just as we’ve done in South Milford, other the communities around the area also wanted to replicate it to the point where now I think there are over 120 communities operating their own little Incredible Edible.

Johnny Thomson 05:55

Nadia Lindsay 05:56
What the main organisation helps with, they allow the individual communities to do what they want to do. But in terms of governance documents, making sure that you are complying with legislation, making sure that everything is correct in terms of health and safety. Making sure that you’re considering the community in the right way. All of the documents and the knowledge and support is, is there for us to tap into. And what we’ve been very fortunate about in South Milford is that the Incredible Edible team over at Garforth, which comes under Incredible Edible Leeds, have supported us hugely in terms of giving us some guidance and advice to get going.

Johnny Thomson 06:44
Brilliant. So obviously, I’m not seeing it’s easy, but I guess what you’re saying is that the it is easier to implement something like this, than perhaps just starting from from afresh, from from a brand new idea. Because as you say other people have tried and tested this and there’s a lot of processes and procedures already in place that you can follow like a template, yeah?

Nadia Lindsay 07:06
Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Johnny Thomson 07:08
And what about funding for this as well, I guess you’d still have to go about getting some of that to get things moving as well. So…

Nadia Lindsay 07:16
That’s right. So funding is where I’ve come in, really, because that’s one of the areas I’ve been able to help with. I am not a grower, and I’m not green fingered in any way. But I’ve wanted to be involved, because I would like to be, like to learn that new skill. So in terms of funding, we were very successful very quickly in securing a grant from North Yorkshire County Council under their stronger communities fund, which is all about bringing people back together after COVID. And our project fitted in very well with their aspirations of tried to support communities to do that. We’ve also had support from local businesses that have wanted to make us donations. And we’ve had support from local businesses that operate, such as landscaping businesses, or suppliers of materials, and garden centres that have been able to help us with their labour in terms of building the planters or materials, such as topsoil compost. We’ve had timber all supplied for free. So we’ve managed to secure funding and we’ve managed to secure donations in terms of financial, labour and materials.

Johnny Thomson 08:37
And how receptive have the villages been there to this project. You’ve got quite a few involved understand, yeah?

Nadia Lindsay 08:46
Yeah. It’s generally been very positive. We initially approached the church, the PCC committee to ask if we could use the church hall garden. We wanted the first location for the project to be somewhere very public, very prominent, somewhere where people would feel confident to to just go in and to be involved. The church and the PCC committee and the church hall were very supportive of what we were trying to do. The community generally have just taken to the whole idea very quickly, been very positive. We have been in touch with the Parish Council because we’ve had to have, we’ve had to liaise with the Parish Council for permission to put planters in other locations around the village, such as the grass verge. They’ve been very supportive as well. And in terms of people in the village wanting to be involved, we’ve had people wanting to donate produce where they, for example, have a glut of products that have grown, say courgettes or tomatoes and they’ve had far too many this particular year. So they’ve asked if they can bring them down. And we’ve also set up as well as the planters a drop off point. We’ve had people making chutneys from the produce that’s been donated. And we’ve had people donating seeds and seedlings and wanting to be involved in the growing. So we have a really good collection of all ages and backgrounds wanting to be involved with this project, which we’re really happy about.

Johnny Thomson 10:30
So everybody’s very keen on kind of producing, what about what about in terms of consuming?

Nadia Lindsay 10:38
So the the consumption and the actual picking of the produce is, surprisingly, has been the most difficult thing to overcome. I think what we’ve had to do is try and create a paradigm shift in people’s minds. Because we’ve had people asking us, where do we leave the money for what we’re taking, and how much do I need to leave? And we’ve had to look at different ways that we can make it very obvious that this produce is there to be picked, and it’s for free and it’s for the community. That has been the biggest challenge, but a nice challenge to have had.

Johnny Thomson 11:19
Yeah, I was going to say that is a nice challenge, isn’t it? It’s good to feel that people are more interested in, in contributing than they are, necessarily, in kind of just helping themselves to what’s what’s been produced there, that’s fantastic.

Nadia Lindsay 11:32
It is and we’ve had people as well commenting, we have a Facebook page, which is where we update most of the information about what’s happening, where we try and recruit volunteers, or where we’re asking for ideas from people. We have people commenting about how the project has helped with their mental health after COVI, because they’ve had somewhere to go and they’ve had something to do. And it’s been nice to be able to take something away and go and cook some food with that particular produce and made them feel happy and warm inside. So that’s been really nice as well.

Johnny Thomson 12:11
Yeah, I guess there’s all kinds of benefits isn’t there associated with this, not just those community benefits and so on that you mentioned there, but some environmental positives as well, I imagine?

Nadia Lindsay 12:22
Yeah, exactly. One of the worst things that we can buy from supermarkets are those herbs and those salad leaves in plastic bags that have an immense amount of packaging, they have a very short shelf life and they’ve been transported for miles and miles to get into the supermarkets. And what generally happens, if you’re like me, you buy them, you take out a little and then by the time you go back to the rest of it, it’s gone a bit mushy in the fridge and you have to throw it away, which is a terrible, terrible waste. What we’ve started off within the planters, we’ve started off with herbs, and we’ve included some herbs that are not so well known, such as Vietnamese coriander, and other items. And people have been surprised they can obtain these things. And been pleasantly surprised that they can just pop along and get something that is perfectly fresh, to add to their salad or cooking and just take what they need and not have any waste. No plastic, no transportation. That’s been a great thing.

Johnny Thomson 13:31
What’s developing this initiative or being part of the development of it meant for you personally, Nadia? I imagine it’s been quite fulfilling, yeah?

Nadia Lindsay 13:38
Yes, it has. I’ve learnt lots of new skills from being involved in the project. In terms of growing, as I mentioned, I am not green fingered at all.

Johnny Thomson 13:49
Me neither.

Nadia Lindsay 13:50
I’ve always wanted to be, I’ve always thought that’s something that I’d like to do, but not quite known how to get started. Had a couple of houseplants, which haven’t lasted very long. So been a bit afraid of dipping my toe in the water of growing things. But I, my youngest child is very interested in growing and has pushed and pushed and pushed to grow things in the garden and I’ve been very nervous about getting started. But through the Incredible Edible project we’ve learned about how best to grow things, how to look after them. Things have cropped up like the best way to keep cats off your garden and using it as a toilet that’s friendly to them is to cover the soil with pine cones. Not to obviously use slug pellets, but to use beer traps to stop the slugs eating the leaves of the young plants. And we actually have a very nice garden at home and I credit that to Incredible Edible and what we’ve learned throughout this project.

Johnny Thomson 14:56
Yeah, I think it’s a wonderful idea. There’s something very traditional, just about the whole community coming together and creating something that’s self sustainable for that community. But there’s a modern twist to it as well, the fact that it’s part of a wider online group where you can get support through that service and also the environmental stuff that we’ve mentioned, which is obviously critically important now. I just think all of those things coming together under one very simple idea is a brilliant thing.

Nadia Lindsay 15:32
Yeah, I found it very captivating, as well to be involved in the project. You can’t put it down once you get started, because you want to know what’s going to happen next, or you’ve planted something and got something going and you want to see how it’s developed over the days and the weeks going forwards. We have some plans for Christmas going forwards. We are involving some of the community groups in the Incredible Edible project by asking them if they want to tie herbs together to make Christmas decorations. The Brownies and the Rainbows in the village of doing that. And we’ve had them planting beans earlier in the year. So, we’ve managed to involve a few groups already, despite the restrictions and things that we’ve had this year with COVID, and we hope to do more of that in the future.

Johnny Thomson 16:29
So if there’s anyone out there listening now Nadia and they’re interested in Incredible Edible, what should they do next?

Nadia Lindsay 16:36
Have a quick look on the Incredible Edible general website. Have a look at the information that’s available that tells you everything from how to get started, to giving examples of how Incredible Edible has been set up in different communities. The other thing that you do need is you need some willing and able volunteers. We’ve been very lucky with our small group in that we’ve got a couple of growing experts that really do seem to know everything about growing. And we’ve got some people that are very good with organisational management skills that have been able to pull things together and organise the project.

Johnny Thomson 17:20
Fantastic. Yeah. And so try and get your your local church, village or community hall involved too I guess, as you’ve done, because that helps a lot as well right?

Nadia Lindsay 17:29
Exactly. Having a central location for the project to start, it is a perfect starting point. And the village halls, the church halls around the country, generally are very central to communities. So it’s a great use of the outdoor area that isn’t always very well utilised around the church halls.

Johnny Thomson 17:53
Well, thanks Nadia for letting us know about Incredible Edible and the fantastic work you’ve been doing there in South Milford as well. And as I say, such a great idea and well done for putting so much effort into it all as well.

Nadia Lindsay 18:05
Thank you. It’s been great. It’s something that’s given a lot back to everybody I think that’s been involved.

Johnny Thomson 18:11
Yeah. And I’ll be putting links up with this episode to Incredible Edible and other resources. And if you’ve got any questions, you could always pop on to our social media channels and ask away. We can get Nadia to come and answer some questions if you come up with anything. But thanks again and best of luck with the planting and with the eating, of course as well.

Nadia Lindsay 18:35
Yes, thank you very much.

Johnny Thomson 18:37
And that’s all folks for this episode. Time is pretty much up to enter our Wonderful Villages Photo Competition where you could win £1,000 for your village hall and £500 for yourself, so get in quick. The closing date for entries through our website is Sunday the 21st of November. Thanks as always to our headline sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible and whose services you can discover more about at And to online booking system provider Hallmaster, who also sponsor our podcast, and can be found at You’ve been listened to The Village Halls Podcast, a unique listening community for Britain’s church, village, and community halls, and anyone interested in the vital community services they provide. We’ll be back again soon with another episode. So if you haven’t already, please visit to subscribe, sign up for updates, link through to our social media pages and to find out more. Until the next time, goodbye for now.