What’s the best location for plots to grow food?

Back in the autumn, we wrote this piece on allotment provision: A few thoughts on allotment provision 11.11.22. In that piece we wrote a bit about Roots Allotments who are a business providing plots at scale. This is what we had to say:

They already operate a site at Tuckers Meadow in the countryside outside of Bath and hope to open up a second site at Abbots Leigh Wood near Bristol. The plots come in a variety of sizes and the rentals vary, depending on what level of service a plot holder wants. Basically, it’s allotment provision for people with busy lives who haven’t got the time to put into a plot that say, an active retired person would have. A gap in the market has been identified and Roots are doing what they can to fill it.

The proposed second site at Abbots Leigh Wood is proving to be somewhat controversial. The site is on farmland in the greenbelt. It covers 25 acres and it will host 700 plots. There will be parking provision for up to 80 vehicles. The local residents are not at all happy about the proposed allotments. Things got a bit heated at a recent consultation meeting hosted by Roots Allotments in a bid to allay the concerns of the residents. This is how the meeting was covered in the local media: Villagers fight plans for 700 plot allotment site in Somerset green belt 7.3.23 and: Feud breaks out over plans to create allotments on outskirts of Bristol 6.3.23.

The concerns of residents range from the loss of meadow habitat for wildlife through to an increase in vehicle movements in the area. Roots Allotments have pointed out that there’s a bus stop right outside the plot. A bus stop in close proximity is all well and good but, it needs to be visited by a reliable and frequent bus service. You don’t need us to tell you that the bus services across the entire Avon region are in a state of meltdown! With the best will in the world, we can’t see that many plot holders choosing to make the journey to and from their plots by bus. So, the concerns of the local residents about an increase in vehicle movements do have some justification.

The title of this piece is ‘What’s the best location for plots to grow food?’ While we accept that Roots Allotments have sound intentions, we’re not at all convinced that large, edge of urban area sites for plots is the best way to go. It does offer provision for those with busy lives but who are time poor and would appreciate some help with maintaining their plot. As stated above, it fills a gap in the market. What it doesn’t do is provide an opportunity for people to grow their own food in a location that’s within walking distance of where they live. As committed localists, that’s something that’s very important to us.

Allotments need to be in the neighbourhoods where people live. This is not just to ensure that there’s a local source of food people have direct control over. It’s also a recognition of the role local allotments have in building a sense of community – something that in these troubled times is more important than ever.

Right, that’s hopefully made our thoughts on the ideal location for allotments pretty clear. However, we’re realistic enough to realise that the demand for allotments outstrips their supply. This is where people have to get a bit creative and a bit cheeky. Take a look around where you live, paying particular attention to what there is in the way of underused open space that’s currently covered in grass and not doing much else. We’re not talking about the spaces used by people for formal and informal recreation. We’re talking about those awkward strips and plots alongside roads or in forgotten corners. Basically, we’re talking about land suitable for guerilla gardening.

A PDF of this leaflet can be downloaded from here

Recent glitches and interruptions to the complex ‘just in time’ food supply chains we’re obliged to rely on have prompted an increasing number of people to start asking questions about where our food comes from and how it’s brought to us. This is what we recently had to say on the issue: Time to think about where our food comes from… 26.2.23. We think it’s worth repeating this:- whoever controls the food supply controls the population. That’s not ‘conspiracy theory’, it’s the harsh truth.

That’s why, when it comes to securing the land we want to grow the food we need, we can’t afford to be polite about our tactics. There’s only so far lobbying for extra allotment provision and setting up community gardens with the blessing of the local council can take us. For sure, it does take us some distance down the path we need to go down but it will not take us to where we want to be. That’s because the bastards who presume to rule over us don’t want us having food sovereignty. Having that sovereignty means we won’t be as reliant on them for our survival. That means they’ll lose control over us. They do not like that prospect one bit!

Which is why we advocate community guerilla gardening on any suitable plots of land in the neighbourhood. Alongside the question of food sovereignty at the level of the community, there’s the question of who owns the land. As many of you are already aware, too few people own way too much land. Those patterns of ownership are becoming increasingly concentrated. Guerilla gardening at the neighbourhood level is a statement of intent about taking back control of how we get our food and also the land it’s grown upon.

This piece started off discussing allotment provision and has ended up advocating guerilla gardening and effectively seizing the land we need to do that! We’ve said it before – Grassroots Alternatives is not a fluffy project! It is, as the name suggests, about bringing power right down to the level of the neighbourhood. Gaining more control over how we produce our food is important part of that.

One comment

  1. Good idea. Spuds will grow almost anywhere and sadly most people wouldn’t even recognise a potato plant if they saw one. You don’t need to specifically buy seedling potatoes as you can use some that you may already have. And once your plants have flowered you know that your spuds are ready to dig up. You could try likewise with other root vegetables. A bit more difficult with let’s say lettuces, kale or courgettes, let alone tomatoes or runner beans, as it’s plausible that someone else may pinch them one they have grown.


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