Saturday, 23 May 2009

Allotment socialism

After more than 7 weeks wait, finally took a call from B&Q on Friday indicating my bargain discounted 6ft x4ft shed was ready for the allotment. This after visiting x3 stores trying to get hold of one! (I thought capitalism was supposed to be the most efficient method of allocating scarce resources!) Only problem, I had to collect it from Sidcup! Much bigger than expected and really awkward to bring home but after a slow and careful drive with the help of a trailer managed to get to the allotment on the Bellingham estate. Spent most of the day with my lad helping to assembly it.
Harvested the first crop of radish and lettuce today. What is great about the allotment is its collective and community basis. It is rented from the LA, nobody owns their plot or would ever think of seeking to purchase it. The site is run and managed by a collective of allotment holders. People are allocated a plot from a waiting list. If people are on income support or on a low wage they pay a discount amount. All plots are of equal size, although if people can't manage a whole one they can share it with friend. If people need help they can request assistance from the committee or more likely a neighbour would most likely help. The allotment committee and officers are drawn from the plot holders and are elected, not appointed and subject to recall and answerable to the allotment holders. An urgent meeting can be called to discuss important issues. Minutes are published and are open. The tasks undertaken by the committee members are not done for any reward, simply there are tasks that need doing. Many tools are collectively owned, often left by previous plot holders. Specialist tools can be borrowed or hired when needed. Volunteers are sort for help in cutting communal areas. Knowledge and information is shared and exchanged on tips and what grows well. Manure can be purchased collectively and composting can also be done collectively, along with the purchase of seeds at discount. Surplus produce can be exchanged and traded.
The re-birth of interest in allotments, I am sure is not just people keen to grow food more cheaply and get good exercise and fresh air, but the attractiveness of its democracy and socialism!

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