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?
I think it could work on a small scale if done though the allotment shop.We are quite often asked by local people if we will be selling any fruit or veg in the shop.Also our local council have on occasions offered a stall on the local market to sell any excess produce from allotments in the area.
Thank you for the reply to my question. After reading your answer I agree that you are right, selling the produce could have a negative impact on allotments, and I guess the old saying ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ is appropriate here. Maybe a solution to the issue raised is to further promote to the public the benefits of growing their own where possible, and sourcing local produce supporting local small holders and farmers.
Thank you for your response,
As a returning allotment plot holder I asked the same question to the ‘old guys’. There response was the same plus our Allot Assoc rules state you can’t grow produce for profit ie sell the stuff commercially. I think the next problem we face is produce being lifted illegally as food prices are set to soar. What next, observation towers on site?
Q Can you show some pics of your snowed up land?
I would have to take issue with the idea that supermarket prices are unbeatable. They are always beatable by our local greengrocer, often by a considerable margin. This is why I never buy veg from a supermarket. It’s not just a question of not knowing what you’re buying but the almost obscene profiteering of supermarkets and the way they treat their suppliers.
What we really need to do is educate the public as to the alternatives to supermarkets.
This whole business of selling allotment produce is beset with problems and evassions. An holder on a particlar site grows stick beans in abundance. Two in the family. But takes the crop to a plant nursery outlet who sells them to the public as ‘home grown produce.’ Strickly speaking they are not as the nursery does not grow beans. The allotmenteer does, in vast quantities. Right on wrong?
I am very interested in this discussion as I am looking to secure funding for a charity community allotment scheme, where produce is sold to the public as a social enterprise. Profit will be reinvested back into the community allotment scheme social enterprise. I had not considered the enterprise as market gardening as I considered this to be undertaken by more experienced farmers (but I am quite ignorant on the matter!). I had thought perhaps people with surplus vegetables grown on their local allotments may want to donate goods surplus to requirements, rather than see it go to waste – especially as it is for a charitable cause – and helps marginalised people in volunteering opportunities in the community allotments.
I would be very grateful for people’s thoughts on this idea – would this be permissable and ethical to allotmeteers or would it be prohibited by local allotment rules?
Many thanks, Jo
I think donating surplus produce is something most allotment holders do anyway – especially courgettes!
Allotments do have huge social benefits anyway – they mix all classes / races / religions and engender understanding, tolerance and sharing.
One of the reasons Fre and I took on our plots was to provide surplus food for needy folks. One of the Q’s I posed to the Allotment Committee was the selling of surplus produce as a social enterprise for the needy. Our Allotment / Council Rules restrict the sale of produce to the public thus scuppering the idea. So it’s back to the good old ‘milk of kindness.’
I think we all like to share so if one member is good at growing say leeks and another good at say cabbage then we could swap these items to make it more sociable, and we could give to our family and maybe good pals. I do not think produce should be sold at all; we are not in it for profit. It’s a hobby for most people and selling could cause competition and spoil the joy of growing their own
Q Q Q Q Q Q
Moving away from the should we shouldn’t we… Folks on the plots are all talking about getting your onion seeds in. It’s all a bit confusing with the ‘get a propagator, don’t get a propagator’ advice!
What do you guys do?
Well said Mike! Last year was my first attempt at growing onions from seed and at the end of (a very difficult) season I finished up with bulbs the same size as the sets I bought for Autumn planting.
Hardly daring to mention the matter, my grandfather used to warm up the soil by blackening it with good Tees-side soot (the ammonia helped later of course).
In the hope that we have seen the last of snow and Arctic temperatures I will soon try warming/drying an onion patch under a mini-greenhouse (cue for one of John’s adverts here).
I have just found your fabulous website…I must say I am very impressed! I would like to mention that I organise adult community classes and last year ran 2 x 10 week course on growing your own fruit and veg….Would it be possible to mention that we are running another due to the demand in April.
ps I am also looking for a tutor to teach this subject and preserves, jams and pickles…if you know of anyone?
I help run a Gardening Club at the local Junior School.I also grow fruit and veg. at home,from the surplus I make Jams Chutneys and Pickles, if distance is not too great I may be able to help with classes?
I am based in N. Nottinghamshire.
After we’ve given some away to friends and neighbours, we trade some of our best produce at our local health foods store. They award us credit in return for the veg, and we use this to purchase other goods in the shop. Thus we’re not ‘selling’, but only trading surplus.
hi, interested in your socail emterprise, I’ve got one as well…allotment, please contact me if yours is operating.
Just had my plot for a few months, it’s ready for sowing.
I know what ever the land produces we will have more than we need. As I know people give some away to friends family with all the pleasures that that may bring, Grown with your own hands and all that. The pleasure of sending that to those others who would also benefit for the price of a packet of seeds would be just as rewarding!
Care-homes,local community centres that provide luncheon clubs for the local people would welcome fresh veg in return for the cost of a packet of seeds.
sow that sead im your local centre and see what grows!
After all, I feel thats part of the pleasure of cultivation isn’t it,? Or so i thought. Hope thats OK,