Help Yourself it’s Free Incredible Edible Food

Nourriture à partager – Food To Share” is catching on fast as grassroots groups from Paris to Provence get the Incredible Edible urge to pollinate France by growing and sharing free food and helping defeat the Great Recession.

Share your food — share the soup

The “peace and love” slogans of the hippies of the 60s have morphed today into “peas and love” signs found in communal gardening planters seeded and maintained by a new breed of community activists, keen to show that when crisis strikes, local communities which take matters into their own hands can become self-sufficient and empowered.

The Toulouse shared food group’s peas and love posters can be downloaded from the Internet

This image shows just one of the communities across France now seeding and sharing food:

Groups are sprouting around the country to grow and share free food

The movement began in the UK villages of Hebden Bridge and Todmorden in the  wet Yorkshire hills following the 2008 banking crisis and was inspired by two local inhabitants, Mary Clear and Pam Warhurst. It is, according to a report in The Observer, the London based weekly newspaper, “neither hippy nor New Age, but is made up of ordinary people, old and young, from both affluent homes and social housing. Call it a sharing revolution. ‘Community empowerment, social enterprise, co-operative, it has various titles, but it’s quietly getting huge,’ said Mike Perry of the Plunkett Foundation, a thriving national organisation supporting such enterprises nationwide. ‘I don’t think it’s about the recession as such in financial terms; it’s more that it’s made people think about what’s important to them.’ “

In France the equivalent of the Plunkett Foundation is the Colibri Movement. The Colibri (Hummingbirds in English) network has groups around France — inspired by Pierre Rabhi, a 72 year old farmer and founder of Terre et Humanisme who established an international centre dedicated to agro-ecology in the North African desert. Its watchword is “change the world on our scale!”.

The Incredible Edible idea was picked up in January 2012 by a small group of environmental activists in the Alsace region led by a local Colibri follower, François Rouillay — who is now national coordinator of Incredible Edible France — and currently there are some 57 informal groups countrywide seeding or planning to seed grass verges, gardening bins, and unused corners of their towns and villages and spread the message – Help yourself – its free.

François Rouillay told French-News-Online that the movement would be  making  a presentation about its activities to Unesco in Paris on  April 27.  He also urged anyone interested in spreading the word, to consult the movement’s latest report  which is available here as a pdf download. This document is a remarkable testimony, in words and images, to the rapid progress the idea has made in France in a very short time. Indeed the speed at which the idea has caught popular imagination was summed up in this recent report — Un potager pour partager — on the national radio network France Inter.

The movement is co-ordinated via a Facebook page, an interactive Google map and the Colibri network. See the list as it stands today a the end of this report. The Google map is here, and gives details of how to contact each group now growing food to share.

The video clip shows Incredible edibles — les incroyables comestibles— thriving in front of Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris Beaubourg:

This video clip shows the origins of the movement in the UK:

This video clip an interview from the French overseas territory of Noumea sets out to allay the fears of farmers that free food will destroy their livelihoods:

Here at a TED conference, Pam Warhurst cofounder of Incredible Edible speaks about her experiences :

A report in the online newspaper Rue 89 notes that this exercise in guerrilla gardening — part of a growing global “shared abundance” movement — is spreading at a rate of one new free food activity a day in some parts of France.  It says self-serve potagers or vegetable gardens are sprouting up as small communities latch onto an idea that reinforces local links and ultimately strengthens consumer ties to local producers by getting people used to living off what is available in the area rather than flown in from thousands of miles away.

The movement is spreading around France as the idea of help yourselves planters catches the imagination

The movement has plenty of visual material available on several websites run by supporters and activists:

Posters downloadable off the Internet are used to highlight the initiatives in communities around France

Meanwhile as unemployment and poverty spread across Europe in Year 6 of the great global depression, French farming associates of the Terre de liens are finding young urban dwellers increasingly interested in investing in land as a fallback if they need to become self-sufficient in the current climate.

Anne-Laure and Michel a young couple who live in the heart of industrial Clermont-Ferrand and are expecting their first child, have, according to Rue 89, just acquired 60 shares at 100 euros each in a local farm owned by Chantal and Jean-Sébastien Gascuel. Anne-Laure works on European projects in the  local community, and Michel is an executive in a waste recovery firm. They say they invested in the project to put their money where their mouth is as they believe in organic farming. “By joining Terre de liens we are helping keep the vegetable growing belt around the town alive and  preserving farmland making the ecological transition to organic,” says Michel.  The money we invested in the farm via  Terre de liens will not bring any yields in  the first year, and no one knows how things will look ten years down the road but  “there will always be the land asset,” says Michel.

The investment is part of a Terre de liens scheme to help farmers nearing retirement find investors to take over a going concern rather than seeing the farm split up or absorbed into neighbouring farms.

Chantal and Jean-Sébastien joined Terre de liens so as to ensure their 46ha farm remained part of the collective heritage of  the area. The operation will be acquired by Terre de liens  with the help of shareholders such as Anne-Laure and Michel and the farm owners say once they retire, the farm could easily sustain at least four people without the overhead of a big debt if it had been sold outright.

A free food share at Bayonne in the south-west:

Current List of Incredible Edibles around France and its Dom-Tom:

Alsace, dans la commune de Muttersholtz; Alsace, à Colroy la Roche; Munster, dans le Haut-Rhin; Saint Jean de Valériscle (Gard); Coilombier à Lempdes Puy-de-Dômes; Alpes Maritimes et le Var;  Fréland; Rouen, capitale de la Haute-Normandie; Bretagne– Gaëlle et Pleugueneuc; Vebret Cantal aussi à Prunet Bas, commune de Vebret,  et Suzy; Lyon; Grenoble; Sélestat; Saint-Nazaire; Versailles; Aix-les-Bains; Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne;  Caen et Basse-Normandie; Nantes; Chambéry; Yverdon-les-Bains; Morges; Marseille; Bordeaux; Calais; Warcq; Toulouse; Châteauroux; Quimper; Luglon; Rédéné; Namur; Jodoigne; Saint-Dié-des-Vosges; Sainte-Croix-en-Plaine; Cruis; Tamerville; Armissan; Saulx-les-Chartreux; Élancourt; La Rochelle; Pougonvelin,Finistère; Auxerre, dans l’Yonne, Bourgogne; Saales; Montpellier; Noumea; Belvès en Dordogne; Pouilloux Bourgogne Pouilloux, dans la Saône-et-Loire; Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers, l’Hérault, à Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers; Lorient; Rennes Bretagne et Pays de la Loire; Concarneau; Brest Bretagne et Pays de la Loire; Le Mans.

The official Incredible Edible France Facebook page  has linked back to our report here:

Story: Ken Pottinger


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4 Responses to Help Yourself it’s Free Incredible Edible Food

  1. Helena Clare Cook January 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Splendid article!! it’s great to see how our project has spread from Todmorden (not Hebden Bridge, though they have just recently formed a group, which is great news!) across to Europe, and other parts of the world…lets hope this is where ordinary people reclaim food-growing and improve their food security for future generations!….lovely to see what Toulouse have down with Estelle’s original peas and love patches! keep it up France!!!! Well done!

  2. admin January 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you for your comment Helena. Today France, tomorrow the World! Well done for getting the sharing ball rolling.

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