I had an email just before Christmas from someone concerned about the relentless growth of the supermarkets and their increasing dominance of the food supply chains. This is something I’ve talked about before both on here and in my book Low Cost Living.
“As I understand it people visit the large supermarkets as the prices are unbeatable. To keep prices down supermarkets buy produce from mass production plants. This has environmental impacts, and is pushing/has pushed many local growers out of a job as they can not compete.
However every council has allotments, why don’t allotments have weekly markets to sell excess produce to local people? Is this something that you think could be easily set up?“
I think this is something that could be set up by the larger allotment sites in the cities but it misses the ethos of allotments.
Most allotment sites have strict rules about not allowing the produce to be sold. Since the land was rented at a price below market value the idea is to stop them becoming market gardens.
With one person renting multiple plots, it might well be possible to set up a part-time business but that’s hardly fair when there are waiting lists for plots. In the days when allotments were going spare and sites half empty, multiple plot owners were useful in keeping the occupancy rate up but the pendulum has swung the other way.
Of course there’s nothing to stop allotment sites selling some surplus produce for the benefit of the site – say to raise funds for a specific project. But I think this would be the start of a slippery slope. Soon it would become almost a tithe on the plotholders and people would be expected to grow to market rather than their own taste.
We could end up with mono-culture plots, the best brassica grower running the cabbage plots and the best potato grower taking on a number of plots. In other words the whole site would end up as a market garden. Then someone would question the rent being cheap.
Perhaps I’m overly negative, but on balance I’m set against the idea of selling produce from allotments either as an individual or as a site. It changes the grow your own, self-sufficient culture into that of the commercial market place.
What do you think?