It’s National Allotment Week and in Bristol we are fortunate to have a great wealth of allotment land and fairly short waiting lists unless you desperately want a particular site, but as an organisation supporting community growing, and especially empowering people through that we wanted to look at the effects of allotments on and in our communities.
Allotment sites should be a microcosm of the community that surrounds them. They should be rich in the food cultures of the area, supporting communities to grow the foods of their ancestors and sharing that knowledge and experience. They should recognise tools from other cultures, and the cultural growing techniques that we now take for granted but which often came from the legacy that colonialism brought to us.
But they should also represent the city they are in. In Bristol we see huge inequality and, especially in the last few months, huge need for emergency food provision, and without a doubt allotments could and should be a part of that provision.
Now we will caveat that first by saying we are not at all suggesting that giving people in crisis an allotment is the answer as it most emphatically is not. People who are in crisis do not need the added stress of learning how to grow, access seeds and compost-they need support, and that support should, surely, come from the community surrounding them?
We also are aware of the allotment myths, that no food can be sold from allotments (not true-an allotment should not be used for growing to send to market but you can send your glut), or that food banks don’t take fresh food(true in some cases but we have a solution), but we need to move away from these and find solutions to supporting our communities and using up those gluts that it’s so easy to just compost.
Over the Covid lockdown period it has been heartening to see so many people helping their communities, and to see the food sector of the city supporting many marginalised communities. However, there is always more to do and there are always groups who, through no ones fault, fall through the gaps. Who don’t feel confident to ask for help, or genuinely don’t know where to turn. Collecting allotment surplus and taking it into these communities, joining in their conversations around food and growing, about their food cultures, is an incredible way to connect communities and to understand other cultures. Holding community feasts, using that glut to open a conversation and hold a safe space is one of the treasures of food-we all eat so we can all connect over food.
So if you’d like ideas about how to utilise your allotment glut, and your neighbours or your allotment sites glut, please do get in touch and we will ensure you find a place where that food will be honoured. We can always be found at firstname.lastname@example.org