The Covid19 pandemic along with the issues our farmers are having getting workers onto the land due to Brexit have highlighted the problems we have as a nation with regards to what is known as ‘food sovereignty’. The majority of our food is imported, especially our fruit and vegetables which mostly come from southern Europe. Those supply chains are under some stress and there is a fear that food prices may rise in the coming months and years.
The Landworkers alliance (link below) are supporting a new breed of farmers who are keen to develop more sustainable and local food growing so that we are less dependent on food grown far away. This is an eminently sensible aim as far as I’m concerned.
The University of Sheffield (link below) also calculates that growing fruit and vegetables in just 10 per cent of a city’s gardens and other urban green spaces could provide 15 per cent of the local population with their ‘five a day’.
Allotmenteers vary greatly in their aims. Some grow purely as a leisure activity, and that is fair enough…. while others grow for economic, environmental or philosophical reasons. Others find it beneficial for their mental health. Whichever way you look at it though, allotments will surely play a part in growing ‘food sovereignty’. We are all aware of how important a role they played historically and during and after the Second World War. The idea of a city that feeds itself using allotments, green spaces and urban and local farms is a very attractive one.
How can we as allotmenteers play a bigger role in this picture? Many of us feed ourselves fruit and vegetables through the summer, some of us nearly all year round. The ‘Grow a row for the Real Junk Food Project’ (link below) is also a fantastic initiative. The Weald Allotments Association have started a ‘Community Fridge’ and are getting allotment food out into the local community. These are great initiatives and it would be amazing to see more.
One controversial aspect of some of our allotment sites however is the amount of unused and underused plots. We have such a precious resource it’s a shame to see it not used as well as it could be. Of course there are some benefits for wildlife in underused plots but a well managed plot can grow food AND be a benefit for the biodiversity of the city.
I’m wondering if we need to seriously encourage more Co Workers onto sites for people who may be struggling to get the best out of their plots. There are a lot of willing Co Workers out there! Maybe we need to set up a system by which willing Co Workers can find plot holders who could do with some help? It will have issues to overcome as Co Workers and Plot holders would need to get on. It’s almost like we need a kind of dating site to match people up!
A Facebook group specifically for this might be a good place to do this as people can become friends there first maybe and check each others feeds and likes? Though a problem is that a lot of people do not use Facebook. We could use our website but that would lack any way of people matching with each other so neatly… but that is an option. If anyone has any innovative ideas on how this can be done please message us!
One thing is for sure though, allotments have a huge part to play in the trend towards greater food sovereignty. Allotmenteers are naturally a very self reliant and sustainable minded lot. We also know how to grow food! It feels like the time is ripe for us to show a greater lead in creating the kind of food systems we all need going forward.