Gifting the Seed of an Idea

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

I admit it. I search for related communities around the world embracing and incorporating collaboration and gifting into their everyday lives. With this lens, I stumble upon many interesting projects, ideas, and happenings around the globe. Given this years’ Burning Man theme, Fertility 2.0, the following example seems rather topical.

Ai Wei Wei holding the seeds from his Installation Sunflower Seeds at The Tate Modern

You can love it or hate it, but the theme this year is an interesting and timely one. The beauty of the theme is this: the myriad ways it can be interpreted. I’m sure there will be lots of mother-earth-vagina-art, which is beautiful in its own way, but I choose to view this year’s theme as a metaphor; one of sowing seeds. Seeds are an eloquent imagery that describe the process of dissemination, care-taking, timeliness and growth. These elements also aptly describe the formation of an idea, a community or a movement. There are many varieties of seeds in all sorts of shapes and sizes, all of which have evolved to interact with their environment. Seeds can be receptive to light, others to moisture, some even need fire to start their process of germination (hmmmm, I seem to like this one best). Their diversity is spectacular. Some seeds must germinate within a specific time frame, and some can survive for thousands of years.

And now for an example of seed sowing; the Incredible Edible project in the town of Tormorden in the UK.

Surplus vegetables grown at the high school go on sale, with all proceeds going directly back to the school. Image from

The lofty goal of Incredible Edible is for the town of Tormorden to become totally food self-sufficient in 7 years. How did the seed of this idea start? With a bit of something familiar to us – that good old gift economy. Three years ago Mary Clear, co-founder of Incredible Edible, did a very unusual thing. She lowered the front wall to her yard and encouraged passers-by to walk into her garden and help themselves to free vegetables.

There were signs asking people to take something but it took six months for folk to ‘get it’.

Now there are 1000’s of vegetables grown around town in 70 large beds. And one of the biggest recruiters for the project is officer Janet Scott. She watches from the station’s security camera as townsfolk come up and pick from three large raised flower beds in front of the police station.

“‘I watch ’em on camera as they come up and pick them,’ says desk officer Scott, with a huge grin. It’s the smile that explains everything.”

Why the smile, these vegetable enthusiasts are not thieves. These veggies are for taking. They are Free.

Have you seen examples of other seeds that have been sown? Please share them here.

And to find out more about Incredible Edible, visit: and Follow: @incredibledible


About the author: Jess Hobbs

Jess Hobbs

People have often described Jessica Hobbs as someone trying to lead a compulsively artistic life, which is more or less true. She started off her adventure in a small Sierra Foothill town and eventually meandered her way to the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the way Jess has worn many hats; running and creating community art programs, counseling teenagers, curating, exhibiting, designing, photographing and creating monumental interactive art experiences. She is an MFA graduate from the San Francisco Art Institute and has been wandering and creating in the dust fest for well over a decade. Collaboration is her magic ingredient for success in work, community, art and life. This can be seen through her founding and directing work with the Flux Foundation and All Power Labs.

8 Comments on “Gifting the Seed of an Idea

  • erica says:

    i dream of growing food outside in a greenhouse all winter long in alaska. it will happen. :)

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  • Diana says:

    I think that the Fertility theme is also magically appropiate for the current ticket situation which will “force” people to spread (like seeds) to their own communities and their regional events. Burning Man has incubated seeds for all these years and now these seeds are forced out of the pod and on to the wind to find other fertile grounds to grow on. I choose to see the ticket situation as the necessary “tough love” event which will give us the wings to really take it to our own communities. This is the next level 2.0!

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  • Tinker (Steve) says:

    When I heard the theme, my first thought was botanical rather than animal – spreading BRC culture like a bamboo with runners. I was even considering an ‘art’ project where I would distribute saplings on the playa for people to take back to their cities, much like the Apollo Trees program in the 1970s.

    The good people of Tormorden have taken it to a new level. Kudos.

    Now I need to come up with another project for the playa :-)

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  • Very good platform to get information about Windows 10 My computer.Normally you see a icon at you desktop but the rule is changed now.

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  • Play Store says:

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing. ideas are basic need to start any business.

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  • Thanks for sharing such post with us

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  • Balance Acupuncture says:

    It’s all about the motivation and discipline. A seed sown can grow into hundreds of trees if one puts some work every day.
    This applies in all walks of life.

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