Earlier this month, we spoke to the people at The National Allotment society about national allotment week, the benefits of keeping allotments, and how The National Allotment Society works to provide, promote and preserve allotments. Find out all about their work and how and why you should get involved in allotment week this year in our interview below!
Our interview with The National Allotment Society
1. The National Allotment Society – can you describe what it is you focus on, do and work on?
The National Allotment Society (NSALG) is the leading national organisation upholding the interests and rights of the allotment community across the UK. We are governed by volunteers from our regional bodies in England and Wales and our membership is made up of allotments associations, societies and federations, schools, councils, landlords and individuals. We work with the government at national and local levels, other organisations and landlords to provide, promote and preserve allotments and raise awareness of the social, cultural, heritage and health benefits of the allotment movement and its relevance to wider environmental issues. We offer support, guidance and advice to our members and those with an interest in allotment gardening. We also work to ensure statutory allotment sites are not disposed of unfairly and that local authorities uphold their duty to provide allotment land.
2. How long have you been up and running, and what have you seen as the impact across this time?
The Society’s roots go back to the early 20th Century and our influence has helped UK citizens to grow food in times of war and depression and ensured that allotment sites were not lost when interest waned during the post WW2 period. Our current focus is supporting sites who are interested in taking on devolved management of their sites and encouraging provision of new sites in housing developments.
3. Being a member of the National Allotment Society, what does that mean for gardeners?
Allotment growers join the Society as either individuals or as members of an allotment association, this gives them access to a range of benefits. We have supportive regional networks who can visit sites to help with site development or forming a committee and an informative website with an exclusive members section. We produce a quarterly members magazine and e-newsletter. We offer a discounted insurance and seed scheme along with other retail benefits. Members also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are contributing to the protection of allotments for future generations.
4. It’s approaching the time of year for National Allotment Week! How can people take part in this?
From 14 to 20 August many sites are opening their gates and inviting the local community to join them for barbecues, plant and produce sales, allotment tours, competitions and exhibitions, coffee mornings and afternoon teas – many of them raising funds to support local charities. We offer a free publicity pack to sites taking part. We are also running a beginners’ allotment course at Barnsdale Gardens in Oakham on Sunday 20 August. Details can be found on our website.
5. What are you hoping is the result of National Allotment Week?
National Allotments Week serves to highlight and celebrate the enduring nature of the allotment movement and gives aspiring plot-holders the opportunity to visit a site and see the benefits for themselves.
6. Allotments are a great keeper for those of all ages. How do you think people can benefit from allotment keeping and gardening?
There are many benefits to individuals of allotment growing – healthy exercise, good food, sense of achievement, social engagement, contact with nature, fresh air and Vitamin D!
Now that there are more families renting plots and gardening together the knowledge needed to grow your own food is being passed down the generations, more children are aware of where their food comes from and will be keen to preserve our precious allotment plots for the future.
Allotments are also important biodiversity hotspots in towns and cities linking up with parks, rivers and hedgerows to form wildlife corridors. Supporting a healthy eco-system increases levels of pollinators that are vital for allotments and farmers.
7. Gardening can help promote an active and healthy lifestyle in many ways. What are your thoughts on the importance of this?
Contemporary allotments do more than provide food, the healthy lifestyle they encourage helps to combat several of the challenges facing 21st Century populations – obesity, inactivity and mental health problems resulting from social isolation cost the UK economy billions of pounds every year. Investment in allotment sites can make a huge contribution to the health and well-being of UK citizens.
8. Do you have any general tips and advice for fellow allotment keepers?
The advice I usually give to new plot-holders is work your plot little and often and grow what you like to eat. Ask your fellow plot-holders what grows well on the site and prepare to learn from your mistakes. If you are unable to garden for a while through ill health or other emergencies – let your allotment authority know. We would also like to call on plot-holders on devolved managed sites to muck in and support their committee on work parties and Open Days.
9. Allotments can be all about growing your own produce. What do you propose are the advantages of this?
By growing your own food, you have control over the chemicals that are used (or not) in the process and less food is moved around the country in lorries. Allotment growers can grow unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables that are not available in the supermarket and help to conserve rare varieties. Allotment life also offers opportunities to share produce and experiences.
10. How can more people get involved in allotment gardening?
Demand for allotment plots will always fluctuate and waiting lists are necessary for sites to be viable. However, if there are no local allotments or prohibitively long waiting lists then a DIY approach may work. Form a group and approach your local council and suggest that you work together to find land and create a site, one of the Society Representatives has supported over 50 groups to do this in the South West of England.
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