Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The Allotment

The energy group recently discussed co-benefits. These are sustainability measures that benefit both ourselves and environment. It turns out that growing food has many co-benefits. Nathan offered to tell us more about why he loves working on his allotment. Over to Nathan:

Crunch, squelch, crunch, squelch, a meditative repetitive sound from the spade blade cutting away.
A land abandoned, knee high weeds, runaway flora.
This allotment has indulged in its freedom engulfing all tools abandoned by the previous land hand.
The allotment, a transient establishment, attracts a broad crowd.
Some nosey, some private, working side by side.
The September sun was bright, low in the sky, but still warm.
The respite of summer rolls on to the bite of winter.
Quiet this evening and season, harvest toil ended, some leases renewed, however many released.
Ground stands abound ready for fresh hands.

The Cambridge Transition Energy group recently discussed eco actions that come with co-benefits. It was resoundingly agreed that gardening, or keeping an allotment, has many co-benefits. Although science is rarely used in a sales pitch, the science is nonetheless there. A meta-analysis elucidated a wide range of benefits [1] that arise from horticulture including reduced anger, anxiety, depression, obesity, fatigue, stress, and tension. The study also highlights improved mood, self esteem, life satisfaction, and sense of community. The causal mechanisms are unclear however I personally testify for these remarkable outcomes after taking on an allotment. A patch of land is just a tabula rasa. You make it great. Some use them to get some peace and quiet, others reach out and meet others in the community. I also find that through self sustenance a calm and open mind blooms.

One also connects with nature. An amazing array of creatures share the habitat. I believe we should think beyond the economic argument for sustainable living [2], and take enjoyment from being custodians of this beautiful world. We share the 100% organic plot with goat moth larvae, mice, shield beetles, and many butterflies amongst a further myriad of creatures. It is nature’s stage and the show dances through the seasons altering one’s perspective.

The sustainability benefits are also obvious. One can be careless from a use of CO2 intensive fertilisers, compost or nitrogen. On the whole however there is a potential for reduced freight, food waste, and the burning of fossil fuels. There are also opportunities for recycling through composting, CDs, plastic bottles etc. Again there can be issues from some attempts to recycle, such as the use of tires for raised beds as these degrade and pollute. Reusing suitable things reduces landfill and incineration.

The most obvious benefit is of course the food. It comes with no plastic wrap or preservatives. It is tastier, more convenient, and thoroughly satisfying. And it’s also not soaked in poisonous pesticides.

Image: Radish and Parsnip haul
We took on this allotment fall 2017 and have enjoyed a year of bounty. The first harvest was perpetual spinach. The joyest harvest was parsnips. The easiest were chillies in the greenhouse.

So you might be thinking ‘So what ? . . . this is not possible for me.’ Well, since the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act local councils must provide sufficient allotments [3]. Further developments through recent history have entrenched the right to access an allotment [4]. They are for all.

So you are sold ! It’s really three steps to proceed:

  1. Contact your local council,
  2. Get a decent handbook (e.g. Caroline Foley)
  3. Get your hands dirty.

Nathan Moriarty

[1] Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis (Preventive Medicine Reports) March 2017
[2] Economic Facts Support United States Action to Curb Global Warming (Union of Concerned Scientists)
[3] Smallholdings and Allotments Act 1908
[4] Brief History of Allotments (National Allotment Society)

1 comment:

  1. You could also come to Transition Cambridge's Empty Common Community Garden. Every Sunday 10.30 or whenever you like. Contact details on the Transition Cambridge website and for an idea of what we get up to see https://emptycommongarden.blogspot.com/ and