Allotments – why I like them!

My allotment - sometime in May 2011!

This my first attempt to include some more positive stuff in this blog – starting with this piece on why I like allotments! Some of this is taken from this podcast on Radical Gardening where Laurie Taylor is joined by George McKay and Tim Jordan to discuss the protest, politics and plots of the garden – the podcast touches on the history of radical gardening more generally – looking at peace gardens and organic gardening – allotments can be read as being radical – of course this doesn’t mean this is the only interpretation of them – but here’s Six reasons why I think allotments are great!

  1. They are based on the principle of people before profit – The rents for allotments are a complete rejection of capitalist values – anyone can rent a plot for a nominal fee (mine is around 15 pounds a year) in order to meet some of their basic food needs. This anti-capitalist ethos  is further emphasised by the rule that you are not allow to sell anything you grow which means that when certain crops glut (seriously, it’s runner beans at the moment – mainly thanks to all the manure – also free! – that I shoved under them a few months ago)  then the tendency is to give at least some of them away.
  2. A second positive is that allotments foster self reliance – and growing at least some of your own food reduces dependency on volatile food markets – obviously one plot is not enough to subsist entirely, and I am not suggesting that we go back to a rural, locally based agricultural economy, but this kind of localism can be just one part of an ecotopian future.
  3. A third advantage is the strengthening of local community bonds – especially through the sharing of seeds amd cuttings and community allotment stores where goods are sold for a minimal price, rather than your globally linked home and garden store which tends to have much more expensive stuff.  
  4. Fourthly, allotments help to make urban areas a more green and pleasant place to live – they resist the tendency to speculative accumulation of land for housing development – this does of course depend on the commitment of local councils to protecting allotments!
  5. Yet another positive is that allotments help to provide meaningful and unalienating work – this advantage is straight from Marx’s economic and philosophical days btw – one of the ways that man asserts his humanity is by transforming the world around him, but central to this process is that he controls the conditions under which he works – unlike many jobs under Capitalism – an allotment provides this kind of worker – centred work – (obviously within the constraints of nature – and yes I am aware that Marx was more of an industrialist than an ecocentric and that he wasn’t romantic at all about traditional subsistence food production – I’m merely extracting his alienating thang and applying it out of the Marxist-must-dominate-nature context) – and on this note, I’ve honestly felt levels of enthusiasm about this that I haven’t about anything since I was child!
  6. Finally the localism of the allotment means a reduction in food miles and thus allotmenteering if exapanded could form the basis of a more sustainable food system than one dominated by industrial scale production and comparative advantage – obviously we’ll always need some kind of international food infrastructure in place – but the expansion of food-localism is an obvious way of reducing our global footprint. This is a very interesting post about how the ‘global food superhighway’ on which most of us who buy food from supermarkets depends is not ethically neutral

So I’m not saying that growing your own is the solution to all of our social and environmental problems – but it’s one medium sized step in the right direction…..

If you want to read more – on radical gardening in general then try Radical Gardening: Politics, Rebellion and Idealism in the Garden – by George Mckay

I’ll probably add in a few more links to beef up the evidence base at a later date. Also look out for a future post on the wider alternative food network and why I like that (permaculture, transition towns etc), and one on the problems of the global food system that the allotment movement helps to counter,  but enough bloggin for today – right now – I’m going down my allotment – yay!

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One thought on “Allotments – why I like them!”

  1. obviously within the constraints of nature – and yes I am aware that Marx was more of an industrialist than an ecocentric and that he wasn’t romantic at all about traditional subsistence food production – I’m merely extracting his alienating thang and applying it out of the Marxist-must-dominate-nature contex

    Allomenteering *is* the domination of nature. Marxist, ecocentric, idealist or otherwise. There’s no getting away from it. The imposition of order onto the chaotic entropy of unbridled growth is the intervention that creates a constant tension between nature and nurture. Only hunter/gathers can avoid the question of domination, by accepting the ebb and flow of honest interaction with environment.

    I love the constant dialectic, the dynamic application of praxis to the unfolding material reality. Even in the most sustainable way, it is humanity over environment. I’m glad of that opportunity to nurture. What else could I do with a £35 per year allotment?

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