Produce local food

Despite increasing popularity, the provision of allotment gardens to enable people to grow their own produce – regardless of whether they have access to a private garden – is declining. This reduction is very uneven, with the most deprived communities facing an eight times greater loss of allotments compared to the least deprived.

With one in eight of the UK population having no access to a garden and rising awareness of the fragility of our food systems, now is the time for more allotments.
The open green space that allotments provide plays an important role, especially in our urban areas. Allotments have been shown to improve local climate and air quality, flood water management and water purification. These impacts spread beyond the boundaries of the allotment plots and reach those not directly involved; with the benefits, wider environmental awareness grows too.

In addition to undisputed health benefits from the physical activity, growing fruits and vegetables also helps reconnect people with one another. Allotments feed community spirit and contribute towards a healthier neighbourhood, as plot holders invariably help each other out with advice and gifts of seeds, offsets and spare produce.

Many varieties of plants thrive on our allotment sites, which contribute to the biodiversity of our local area and provide vital habitats for different species of birds and insects. Allotment plots have on average up to 30 per cent higher species diversity than urban parks and hence are ecologically more valuable.

There are around 250,000 allotment holders in England and Wales, and yet the potential for community involvement in allotments is scarcely tapped. Landowners – from the government to the Church of England – could do a lot more to support allotment cultivation by making more sites available. Ards Allotments in Ards and North Down, Northern Ireland, is an innovative example of farming landowners taking the initiative, providing allotments on their land for the local community to grow their own food. Fuelled by pent-up community demand, it’s a business model that could be replicated by thousands of private landowners across the country.

Do you want to plot for a better future? There is a legal requirement on Local Authorities to provide allotments in your area if there is sufficient demand. There are also immediate opportunities for private landowners to be resourceful and generate revenue by providing similar access for people to grow their own produce.
Ards Allotments, Newtownards Ards Allotments, Newtownards
Start something new…

In England and Wales, contact your local council to apply for an allotment near you so you can grow food. They will either allocate you a plot or, in many cases, add your name to a waiting list. Refuse to wait. Visit The National Allotment Society and find out more about your rights as a community, including the Right to Bid, Community Asset Transfer and the Right to Reclaim Land. In Scotland, contact the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society. There is no central allocation scheme in Northern Ireland but some councils do provide them.

Inspired? Check out many lots more initiatives about land use, food & agriculture.

… or join an existing community project:

If you’d like to rent an allotment to grow your own food, you’ll need to find where your nearest allotments are and contact the committee which runs them (all allotments will have a committee). Your local council will have this information, especially if it’s a parish or town council as they know everything that’s going on in their area. Or try your local library, that usually has information about all community groups and facilities in the locality.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert in growing food or sustainability: a whole range of skills is needed to guarantee the success of projects like these and it’ll also be possible to learn as you go.

Other related community actions: Reduce food waste, Create a food partnership, Farm for change

What do we mean by community action?
23 community actions