Edible Main Street
Feeding an important conversation about climate change
Imagine a place where small gardens line the streets. A businessman stops on his way to the office to pick greens to add as a topping to his bagel. A child’s perspective is forever altered when she learns that she can taste that pretty flower, which before she thought was only for putting in her mother’s hair. A cooking class makes its way down to the center of town to harvest fresh culinary herbs to season whatever dish they will be learning how to make. Every day, people gather around these gardens to taste and point, to pick and to learn. On Main Street in Norway, Maine, imagination becomes reality.
The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy (CEBE) started Edible Main Street in 2015 as a pilot project to serve as an entry point for the community into the local food system. CEBE—a climate-action organization with a mission to help the region transition to a post-carbon future and simultaneously help to mitigate, as well as help the region adapt to, climate change—hopes that Edible Main Street can make changes in the way people consume food and inspire people to grow more of their own.
“While the food system is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, it’s also one of the most vulnerable sectors in our economy to climate change and holds the promise of helping to mitigate our current climate crisis by drawing down carbon from the atmosphere and returning it to the soil,” says Scott Vlaun, executive director of CEBE.
Edible Main Street is able to start the conversation about where food comes from and how it’s grown by putting small planters on the street, increasing accessibility to fresh, naturally grown ingredients such as tomatoes, edible flowers, herbs, leafy greens, peppers, cucumbers, peas, and hardy crops for Fall.
Weather is always a factor and a challenge in growing food successfully. Vlaun says the weather this past spring made it particularly difficult to get the planters out, and a 100-degree weekend in mid-July took its toll on gardens all around, but challenges such as these showcase the fact that making food isn’t as easy or inexpensive as the industrial food system can suggest.
“It runs on cheap fossil fuels and underpaid labor. The food produced is only cheap in dollars; it’s not cheap in external environmental and health costs, including climate change, water pollution, aquifer depletion, and soil erosion,” says Vlaun.
CEBE works to build relationships between eaters and farmers to create awareness and to encourage people to grow their own food. Vlaun says that if Edible Main Street accomplishes one thing, “it’s that people walk by and say ‘shoot, I could do that in my backyard’.”
Edible Main Street only has a number of little gardens, but they’re starting a much larger conversation about climate change and the food system’s role in that. The project also drives people to the larger community garden, where individuals can start their own planters. Right now, CEBE is working to get a community compost project off the ground.