What factors support and promote home-based food-growing in four neighbourhoods in SW Sheffield?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Allotment problems Chart #31

Why do the residents of N#4 take fewer allotments than N#1? Reasons given are displayed in Chart #31. They both have allotment sized or larger back gardens, they both have adequate solar resource; there is a commitment to growing food in both neighbourhoods. 4 of the 5 respondents, 3 from N#4, who expressed distance problems mentioned reluctance to use a car to access an allotment. Compare this to Chart #30 which is based on responses from all 4 neighbourhoods. It is clear that in all 4 neighbourhoods distance and time are the primary issues.
There are others who have done extensive research on allotments in England and there is ongoing research on allotments in Sheffield. I will leave details on this topic to them. However, as it impacts on the growing decisions of my cohort I should discuss some of what I learned about allotments in Sheffield.
Those who I talked to in depth about allotments expressed great concern about the council’s lack of commitment to adequate, fair, and supportive management of the allotments in existence, and dismay that so few are provided. The relationship between highly committed and experienced growers and the management has been quite dysfunctional at times and has hindered the positive development of the allotments in the Sheffield area. There have been many disputes with the chronically understaffed Allotments Department.
Certainly sufficient allotments to meet demand are not being provided. Interviewee #19 stated that they had been on a waiting list for 20 years. Apparently waits of 5 to 10 years are common. Meanwhile a great many sit unused. Of the approximately 3600 plots on 66 sites, 1000 are sitting unused or disused with approximately 1000 people on waiting lists, some of which were closed in 2008. (Clare 2009) In my opinion, if an allotment is unused for a certain period of time it should be rented to someone else through a sensitive and well-informed process involving all stakeholders, including the allotment federations. Also the rules governing the marketing of produce should be revised as needed to encourage maximum use of allotments and to help provide the city with local fresh produce. Terms of use agreements should be negotiable, particularly in the allowance of paid training to take place on allotments.
In my opinion, allotments are the heart and soul of urban agriculture in the UK. They have provided large quantities of food in hard times and are highly valued by those who are committed to them. They are also valuable centers of learning and gardening culture. Allotments have the potential to and indeed are already providing vital services to home-based food growers, from composting to seed swapping. Some home-based growers have an allotment and have developed methods of interaction between the two. Most use their home planting to bring on seedlings. Most do their composting on the allotment and bring it back home, though different forms of composting sometimes take place on the two sites.
Allotments have been the center of community supported agriculture projects, educational efforts, and a lifeline for disadvantaged, disabled, and/ or disturbed individuals who have been lucky enough to find their way onto a site. “In the most recent survey of allotment provision in Sheffield, 75% of tenants defined themselves as either disabled or disadvantaged.” (Clare 2009) In Sheffield several successful examples of these types of projects exist.

No comments:

Post a Comment