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[personal profile] chelidon
From the UK:

Dig for recovery: allotments boom as thousands go to ground in recession

Dozens of National Trust properties join scheme to bring life to disused
* Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent
* The Guardian, Thursday 19 February 2009

In the boom times of the 1980s, councils sold off allotments in their tens
of thousands as it seemed no one in the Britain of conspicuous consumption
could be persuaded to grow a single leek of their own. But as recession
bites, the growing enthusiasm for homegrown veg has seen more than 100,000
people join waiting lists for a patch of land as demand hits an all-time

Today, following the initiative of chef and "real food" campaigner Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall, the National Trust is throwing its weight behind a
campaign to share unused land, creating up to 1,000 new plots for use as
allotments or community gardens.

The trust, the UK's biggest private landowner, also wants to help bridge
the skills gap by recruiting an army of green-fingered volunteeers and
matching growers with its own expert gardeners.

Each of the new growing spaces will be created within a range or rural and
urban communities throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will
be registered through the landshare website set up by
Fearnley-Whittingstall, an online "matchmaking" database which pairs
prospective gardeners with available spaces.

The new National Trust spaces will be available at about 40 locations. They
will vary in size, from smaller plots suited to new growers, to larger
areas suitable for community growing schemes and even refurbishment of
dilapidated walled gardens. The spaces have been found in places such as
restored kitchen gardens, farmland and vacant land near to National Trust

The plan has been drawn up to avoid conflicting with the trust's
conservation objectives, meaning land which is protected or of special
scientific interest would be deemed inappropriate. The trust said yesterday
that the new spaces could produce up to 2.6m lettuces or 50,000 sacks of
potatoes a year. The allotments will incur a rental cost, but it is likely
to be minimal, the trust said.

The total number of allotments in Britain has decreased steadily since the
end of the second world war as they fell out of favour. In the late 1940s
there were 1.4m allotments. By the late 1970s there were around 500,000. In
the 1980s and 1990s, almost 200,000 plots were sold off by councils around
the country unable to find takers for them. Today about 300,000 allotment
plots remain.

The trust's director general, Fiona Reynolds, said the scheme tapped into a
mood in which, as a result of the recession, people's priorities were
changing from materialism towards "real" things such as spending time with
family, and homegrown food.

Reynolds said: "There's something in the air. More and more people want to
grow their own fruit and vegetables. This isn't just about saving money -
it's really satisfying to sow seeds and harvest the fruit and veg of your
labour. By creating new growing spaces the National Trust can help people
to start growing for the first time."

Reynolds said using existing expertise was important. "We're also looking
to recruit many more volunteers with fruit and vegetable growing skills and
knowledge to join us, so that we can offer even more practical help and
advice to new gardeners," she added.

"Our main aim is to help those who are new to growing to find the space
they need - but we also want to help them learn how and what to grow."

As part of the initiative the trust is even turning over the back garden of
its office in Queen Anne's Gate, central London, to be transformed as an
allotment for its staff to use.

The trust will launch a wider campaign this year - called Food Glorious
Food - in an attempt to involve more people in the growing, preparation and
enjoyment of fresh food. This will include activities and demonstrations at
many of its properties, including a "chutfest", to be held at Barrington
Court in Somerset, to celebrate chutneys and pickles.

It also plans to publicise the plight of the country's traditional
orchards, which it says require conservation because of their importance as
a habitat for wildlife.

Geoff Stokes, secretary of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure
Gardeners, said: "The demand for allotment sites is huge and it is great
that the National Trust is able to use some of its land to help people grow
their own. The growth in demand has been happening over the last few years,
and though the credit crunch is helping to stir interest, the main reason
more people want to grow their own is to improve their quality of life."

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "This pledge alone has the potential to make a
difference to many thousands of people - not just those who grow, but those
with whom they share their wonderful produce."

Some of the new National Trust growing spaces can be used immediately, for
example at Gibside, near Gateshead, Minnowburn, near Belfast, and Wembury
in south Devon, but others need work, which means they will take longer to
create. The trust is aiming to have all the new spaces up and running by
2012 and will review the situation then to see if there is a case for
further expanding it. It will encourage schools, community groups and
charities to make use of the new sites, as well as individuals and

Referring to the impact of the credit crunch on the National Trust's
revenues, Reynolds said visitor numbers were holding up well, but people
were spending less money in its shops and cafes. There were 14m visits to
its properties last year, and 100m to its parklands and gardens.
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