Radio 5 Interview
I had a phone call last night from Radio 5, “Would I go on the Tony Livesey slot to discuss whether allotments could save you money?” Of course I said yes, although the slot was scheduled for 11.30pm and I would have preferred to have been in bed.
The researcher asked me a few questions about how much you could save, price of seeds etc and if I thought it worth the effort. Well I assembled my information in my mind ready to go on and waited.. and waited.
On came some woman almost boasting about how she ignored basic road safety, dragging her child across busy (London?) roads against the red man on the crossing for ages. I couldn’t believe anyone could admit, let alone sound proud of such stupidity. Amazing to me was nobody challenged her. I still remember our daughter running onto a busy road when she was 3 and my terror as I grabbed her back.
Anyway, eventually the phone went and I was on. By this time we were obviously squeezed as the news at midnight was coming up. So here’s what I would have said if I had had the time.
Do Allotments Save You Money?
For most of us growing our own is a hobby. Unlike most hobbies, it actually saves you money. Yes, you can spend a small fortune on equipment but you don’t need to. The few tools you absolutely need can be picked up for a few pounds second hand. Electric propagators and rotovators are great but you don’t absolutely need them.
Rent for plots varies but even the extortionate rate of £80 a year some councils demand with menaces isn’t that large compared to the gains. A couple of years ago we calculated a plot could save an average family £800 a year. With inflation this is probably creeping towards the £1,000 mark now. Incidentally, that’s calculated on ordinary, not organic vegetables.
Growing your own teaches you the value of your food, the effort you put in means you reduce waste and the flavour means you eat better as you realise how tasteless a lot of the supermarket stuff actually is.
The only other thing is time – allotments and growing your own does take time but it’s time you enjoy spending. Not like a boring job, you get fresh air, exercise and company from other allotmenteers.
Hobby or Survival?
It’s a hobby now for most of us but I think a time will come when it’s going to be a matter of survival. Oil is going up and up so this will knock on into food. Everything from tractors to transport and fertiliser depend on oil.
Population is going to peak at around 9 to 10 billion by 2050 and the UK will have increased its population to 70 million and we import the majority of our food. This means we’ll be competing on the world market for a scarce product so the cost will only increase.
At the same time, countries like China and India are becoming wealthier and their populations are able to pay for better quality food. Specifically more meat in their diet and meat is far less efficient in terms of land use than a vegetarian diet.
Finally, the big unknown of climate change. It could be a nightmare scenario where the human race scrabbles to supply increased demand for food at time when production drops dramatically.
In that situation I can foresee rationing at least in the UK and Europe and growing your own being a matter of survival rather than a lifestyle choice.