Advice for allotment seekers, organising allotments.
In previous articles I have looked at allotment culture from both a historical and site owners perspective. Well, in this piece I hope to help the “landless” gardener source their very own allotment, for a years growing at the very least.
But first off, why should you grow on an allotment? Is it all just about providing yourself and your family with a source of fresh food, free from potentially harmful herbicides and pesticides? Granted there’s that, but also consider the following advantages of allotment growing…
· Your kitchen waste can be recycled on-site through composting.
· Fresh air and exercise is available in abundance.
· Provides a learning experience for children as they develop an awareness of where their food comes from.
· Allotment gardening reduces stress, especially when it gets you away from the pressures of modern urban living. The health and social benefits of allotment growing can offer a particular advantage to individuals with physical and mental health issues.
· You will be developing a new skill, picking up tips from other plot holders whilst you chat or pass the time of day. The skills you pick up from “old hands” can be used by in the future as you yourself mentor newcomers. As you meet and share experiences with growers from all walks of life you will begin rediscover a sense of community that’s missing from so many of our lives today.
Where to look for an allotment.
Your first stop should be your local authority, city or county council. Contact the parks and recreation section and ask about the availability of public allotments in your area. You may strike it very lucky and be told that is a plot available near you. If the reply is not as positive, you will be either told that there are no allotments at present, some are planned, or that waiting list has been frozen due to an already overwhelming demand.
Lodge your interest in a plot verbally, then with a follow up letter or email. Your written correspondence should quote Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2001 which states that “a local authority may take such measures, engage in such activities or do such things as it considers necessary or desirable to promote the interests of the local community in relation to a range of specified matters, including allotments, fairs and markets, and related amenities, facilities and services”.
Local authorities will only provide allotments if they feel there is enough interest and they can be sure the plots will not be left idle. So get writing, and get anyone else who is interested in a plot to write as well.
If the local authority route seems unlikely to bear fruit, then consider establishing your own allotment association or society. Such a society can seek out unused land and fund-raise to provide for its development as allotments.
Start by placing a notice in your local paper canvassing people to attend a public meeting on your proposed community allotments. From a successful meeting you should be able to delegate administration, site seeking, and fund-raising tasks. You may be able to get some local businesses onboard to sponsor your scheme, I’m thinking garden centres, hardware suppliers etc.
Local authority and government schemes make grants available to encourage community development, and allotments are one such development. There will be paperwork of course, as you will have to show how your scheme meets the objectives of the funding agency.
Some agencies to contact regarding grant aid…
· Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, who deal with the Leader and Rapid programmes.
· Department of the Environment, who deal with Local Agenda 21 funding under the Environment Partnership Fund
· Your local VEC (Vocational Education Committee).
If all else fails you always have the option of falling back on one of the privately owned allotment schemes throughout the country. Many listed here….. Allotments to rent in Ireland - by county list.. Although pricier than public or community allotments, they still provide all the relaxation, congeniality, learning, and growing that any gardener could wish for.
Further reading…. Setting up allotments from a land owners perspective. what else to provide, Insurance, how to publicise, and how to charge.
More debate about this topic on our forum, click The Irish gardeners forum.
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