Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Incredible Edibles (IE) is a social movement that began in Todmorden, England in 2008 and has since spread around the world. Activists involved in the movement reclaim empty public spaces in towns and city neighbourhoods, plant food, and share the harvest with others. The movement’s motto is “If you eat, you’re in!”. This means anyone is welcome to dig up a few carrots, clip some basil, and pick a couple tomatoes, all the while leaving something for the next person and ensuring the plant replenishes. The larger aim of this movement is to build a resilient and more compassionate world through acting at the community level.
Through ethnographic research for my doctoral thesis, I follow IE activists as they spread soil, plant seedlings, and tend to public gardens in Montreal. Echoing Jahnke (2010), this paper proposes an exploration into what I find unites most IE activists: the pleasure and the joy to work with plants, to touch nature, and to put their hands in the soil. Gardening is a physical as well as a sensual feeling which connects (or perhaps, for some, reconnects) participants with new communities, with their urban surroundings, and with a web of life which contains all living beings. Planting food for others to consume is a symbolic act which raises awareness about personal and collective transitions, allows us to open a discussion about issues of justice, food security and sovereignty, the right to food, and forces us to question our unbalanced power and resource distribution.