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Transition Essentials: No.1 – Food

So here’s something we’ll try, and see if you find it useful. I was in Clitheroe recently in Lancashire, and chatted with a couple of people involved in Transition Clitheroe. I asked them what else Transition Network could do to support their work, were there materials we could produce that would help them? They said that in fact Transition Network put out so much stuff that they struggled to keep up with it, and that perhaps some kind of a digest would be useful. It reminded me of Lee Brain from Transition Prince Rupert telling me that in their group they have someone whose role is ‘keeping up with Transition’. So I thought I would try today to do a digest of the key films, articles, projects and links out there, and see what you think of it and what’s missing. I thought we’d start with food:

Some food background …

In terms of a good grounding in the wider issues around Transition and food, the book we published on the subject, ‘Local Food’ by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins, is now unfortunately out of print, but can be bought as a download and for the Kindle here. A great overview of the wider arguments in terms of peak oil, localisation and food is the very popular BBC programme called ‘A Farm for the Future’:

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

And this short film, from Transition Forest Row in Sussex, shows how one Transition initiative is rethinking food supply:

Transition ingredients about food

‘The Transition Companion’ included a number of ingredients that distilled out the learnings so far about food and Transition. There’s Local food initiatives, which gives a sense of the breadth of projects that Transition groups can get involved in. Ensuring land access explores the diversity of ways in which Transition groups can find places to grow things. Meaningful Maps explores how maps can be useful for local food initiatives. Social enterprise and entrepreneurship suggests that we need to increasingly be thinking about how to turn food projects into livelihoods and Strategic thinking suggests we need to see food initiatives in a wider context of the intentional localisation of the place we live. Community supported farms, bakeries and breweries is pretty self-explanatory really. Then here is some of the nitty-gritty of what Transition groups get up to in practice:

Growing food in public spaces…

This is one of the places many Transition groups get started. Here are some good examples:

In Bath, Transition Bath took over a part of a local public park, Hedgemead Park, and as this video so beautifully shows, turned it into ‘Vegmead Park’ instead:

…and in London, Transition Kensal to Kilburn are growing food on their local underground station:

The sky is the limit in terms of how and where your Transition initiative might think about growing food. Some take inspiration from the Incredible Edible model that started in Todmorden, for example Saltash in Transition. Others set up new community gardens, such as Transition Hythe‘s. Here is a useful resource from Graham Burnett of Southend in Transition, a guide created with the NHS for novice gardeners.


Transition Finsbury Park’s Edible Landscapes London (ELL) project is a great social enterprise which teaches people about using perennial food plants in the urban context:

In order to encourage more people to get involved in growing food, some Transition groups organise ‘Edible Open Garden’ tours, such as this one in Stroud:

Some places create a local food directory. Here’s Transition Helston’s in Cornwall. Others, such as Transition Towns Donabate Portrane, have come up with innovative ways of supporting people who want to start keeping chickens in the back garden:

.. and Transition Town Tooting’s annual ‘Foodival’ is a brilliant way to stimulate thinking about what ‘local food’ means in the context of very diverse communities whose diets are often imported, en masse, from elsewhere in the world:

Garden Sharing

Garden share is a simple idea. So far as we know, the first Transition initiative to do it was Totnes, and here is a short film about it:

Lots of other places are now doing it, such as Transitions Cambridge and Stratford. Here is a useful guide to setting one up.

Seed exchanges

Seed exchanging days are also a key part of Transition and the relocalisation of food. Here’s a ‘Potato Day’ organised by Transition Stroud:

…and here is one of Transition Town Totnes’ annual Seedy Saturdays…

Here is a good guide to setting one up and running it.

Fruits and nuts in urban spaces

Quite a few Transition groups look to plant productive trees in their area, and to work with the trees that already exist. Some have organised the collection of fruit grown in their urban areas that would otherwise just fall off and rot. Here’s Transition Willesden in London:

..and Transition Towns Hackney and Stoke Newington are taking it one step further and have mapped all the productive trees in the area which they then collect the harvest from.

Transition Town Totnes is one of many Transition groups who have been planting nut trees in urban areas:

… and here are Transition Wilmslow planting fruit trees …

… and my personal favourite film about Transition groups planting fruit trees, from Kilkenny in Ireland.

Transition Town Reading have been at it too.

Turning food projects into viable livelihoods

The scaling up part of Transition takes place though when these kinds of projects start to step across into being social enterprises, creating local training, investment and employment opportunities. Local United have created a great pack about setting up food-related social enterprises. Here, from Slaithwaite in Yorkshire are the Green Valley Grocer and the Handmade Bakery:

Sustaining Dunbar have also set up a community bakery. In terms of new models for getting local food affordably to local people, here is Stroudco, a food hub from Stroud:

Some, such as Transition Marlborough in Wiltshire and Transition Portobello in Edinburgh have set up new street markets to help make local food available Transition Town Kingston have created ‘From the Ground Up’, a vegetable box scheme, which has been running successfully now for 2 years, and Transition Kentish Town are just about to launch theirs, called ‘VegBox’. Hebden Bridge Transition Town ’s is called ‘HebVeg’.

Some places choose a more ‘gift economy’ approach to distributing local food, such as Transition Town Berkeley’s (CA) ‘Cropswaps’:

Some Transition groups are setting up Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes, where the community owns and runs its own farm. Have a look at Transition Norwich’s Farmshare as one excellent example of this, and has recently begun to offer apprenticeships for local young people. This ‘The Story of Transition in 10 Objects’ film gives the background to how it came about:

Transition Topsham in Devon have set up a community supported brewery, Topsham Ales, and Transition Leytonstone worked with their local brewery to create ‘Transition Ale’ to celebrate their anniversary. Some larger projects, such as Transition Town Totnes’ Atmos Project, is seeking to develop a site which combines a ‘School for Food Entrepreneurs’ (with a bakery, brewery and others) in the context of a project designed to stimulate new businesses and to be “the heart of a new economy”. Here is a film about the campaign for the first step, to bring the site into community ownership:

Do let us know if this is useful, and if to have a set of similar Essentials, perhaps on food, energy, groups and so on would be useful. Let me know if you think of things that are missing, and how it could be improved, and we can get these on the Transition Network website.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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