Produce local food

Farm to fork

Be part of the solution

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.