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Scotland: An Interesting Development in Allotment Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] Scotland: An Interesting Development in Allotment Gardens
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2004 08:04:31 EDT


The tradional allotment garden in Scotland is changing, as this article from the "Scotsman" states. Along with their revitalization, there is a growing social component that sounds like they may be evolving into the community garden model.

Adam Honigman

From "The Scotsman"
Thu 15 Apr 2004
9:38am (UK)
Back to the Land

By John Ives, PA Features

In today's choked, grey towns and cities, a growing army of people is choosing to return to nature and get its hands dirty.

Allotments were once the sole preserve of the flat-capped old man with a well-worn spade and muddy wellies. Now they're holding their own in the face of housing developers and their bulldozers - and attracting a trendy new breed of green-fingered fans.

More than a quarter of a million of us now grow our own vegetables on our own little plot of land, according to government figures - and young women are the fastest growing group of allotment gardeners.

Deborah Burn is one of them. As development officer at the Allotments Regeneration Initiative (ARI), she has noted a growing interest in allotment gardening in recent years.

"I've been a plot-holder for eight years and I can't think of a better way to spend my spare time," says Deborah, 36.

"The traditional image of the male allotment holder who might be older is starting to change. Younger women are getting involved - not necessarily professionals, but maybe women with families. Black and minority ethnic groups are also getting involved, as well as community groups and schools, and people with physical and mental health needs.

"For them, gardening is an excellent way to get involved in the community, learn some gardening skills, and get out in the fresh air."

Geoff Stokes, national secretary of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG), agrees that there's an allotment renaissance going on.

"There seems to be a marked increase in the number of people wanting them," he explains.

"We're seeing a change in the type of people taking allotments. It was always thought of as land for the labouring poor, but that's changed. Now it's more clerical and managerial types, and more women are becoming involved - often people whose children have gone to school and who have extra time on their hands."

Stokes says there are many reasons why allotment gardening is so popular: "They include wanting to be out in the fresh air, exercise, being close to nature, growing fresh organic produce, and knowing what's gone into what you're eating."

Certainly organic food seems to be a big draw for many newcomers. Sally Smith, from organic supporters the Henry Doubleday Research Association, says growing your own produce is a cheap and accessible way to eradicate chemicals from your diet.

"Nutritionally speaking, it has been shown that conventionally-grown food may be lacking in certain trace elements. More people want to know where their food has been grown and what has gone into it. By growing your own food, you know exactly the source and how it's been grown."

The benefits of allotment gardening haven't escaped the government. ARI's Deborah Burn says: "The message has gone out that allotments are a sustainable facet of urban life, and that's been picked up by the government, the NHS and regional trusts as a way of promoting healthy living. So the future is very bright for allotments."


HEALTH: Gardening is a great way to get some gentle, healthy exercise at your own pace. It's also a therapeutic hobby which can help beat inner-city stress. "A lot of allotment gardeners have solved problems by digging around or standing thinking about the world," says Geoff Stokes of NSALG.

FRESH FOOD: What could be healthier than a meal cooked with fresh ingredients picked from your allotment garden that same afternoon? Many new allotment holders are trying their hand at organic gardening, shunning artificial pesticides and fertilisers to cut out the chemicals.

ENVIRONMENT: Allotments provide much-needed green space in built-up city areas, which benefits the local population and encourages wildlife too. Growing your own food cuts out all the packaging, transportation and waste generated by supermarket produce.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: The stereotypical older male gardener might prefer to keep himself to himself, but allotment gardens are an increasingly social space where you can meet new people, share stories, and maybe even enjoy the occasional barbecue.

ACHIEVEMENT: Growing food can be rewarding as well as enjoyable, says Geoff Stokes. "There's a real sense of achievement in taking a seed you can hardly see and producing from it something you can eat. It's hard work, but it's fun too."

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