Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hug Your Allotment Chairperson

View of the allotmentsOn our allotments, right next to the entrance, is a huge heap of manure. Someone laid a few paving stones to make it easier to get round this bog of eternal stench. The other day I was chatting to one of the plot-holders who was grousing about the paving stones.

"They should have made the stones more level. And they should put more down," she complained.
"Who is they?" I asked, "There is no they. There's only you, and me, and all the other plot holders here. One of us put the stones there. If you think there should be more, you do it."

I probably didn't make a friend that day.

But it makes me mad. Who is this invisible army of young, well-paid labourers who she thinks does all the work around the allotments? I'll tell you who. It's our allotment chairperson, and a couple of others on the committee. But they're not paid at all, in fact they have to pay rent on their plots the same as anyone else. Their average age is about 102 (warning - statistics in this blog post are made up). They have no budget, but when they see someone throwing out a few paving stones, or some old carpet, or some hawthorn hedge trimmings, they pick them up and bring them to the allotments to make good use of them. I've had a think about some other things I know they do, and I've made a list:
  • They mend the fences when hooligans break them
  • They repair the lawnmowers and keep them filled with petrol
  • They arrange the delivery of big piles of manure
  • They lay stepping stones to help people get past the manure
  • They put up with people whinging about the above two points
  • They liaise with the council, who own the allotments
  • They arrange delivery of compost, fertiliser, seed potatoes, onion sets and all the other things in the shed
  • They make sure they are on site to take delivery of these things.
  • They used to empty the toilet bucket, and now we have a chemical toilet they empty that (for that alone they deserve a medal)
  • They collect the rents and pay them to the council
  • They maintain the waiting list and the allocation of vacant plots
  • They keep their own plots in spic-and-span order
  • They dispense free advice to newbies

There's probably millions of other things I don't even know about. Even if you have complaints about your allotment association committee (and allotment-holders always seem to blame their committee for something-or-other), they deserve your gratitude and your respect.

So hug your allotment chairperson the next time you see him or her. Or at least shake his hand and say a heartfelt "Thank you". I'm sure a bottle of malt whisky wouldn't go amiss, if you feel so moved. They really do a heck of a lot of work for no reward at all, in fact they usually catch a lot of flack instead.

11 comments:

blackberry44 said...

Speaking as the ex-secretary of an allotment association, I endorse everything you say.

Doesn't stop new members chucking you out when you're too ill to do your allotment, though.

Not that I'm bitter or anything. They probably didn't know how much funding I had got for the allotment over the years, or didn't care.

mjohnson said...

I work in property management. We'd charge you 10 grand a year just to organise all that, collect the rent etc. On top of that you'd have to pay a service charge for all the contractors, toilet emptiers, fence fixers etc - plus a 10% management fee on top of that. Might put your rent up a bit. Make it cheaper just to shop at Waitrose. Without those guys the whole project is dead in the water.

Square Foot Hammer said...

Wow, I don't even have an allotment, but I'm feeling all emotional about your chair-people. Well done for them. Hurrah!

I've been told I'm not allowed an allotment yet (will mean I'll be out of the house for too long :-) ), so making do with a small raised bed. Maybe soon I'll be able to join your ranks?

Wimblejigs said...

blackberry, I'm sorry you got chucked off. It's not right. In our area, mostly if somebody is ill and the allotment association know about it, then their plot is tended for them.

Add to the list for Eastleigh Allotment Association, fighting high court battles against the demon council who is trying to sell off sites which have been tended for years and years and years and years.

Maria said...

Excuse my ignorance, I just came across your blog and read this posting...but what is an allotment? I get that it's a piece of land, that you rent a spot from for your garden, but never heard of it..sounds interesting. Would love an explanation. How does it work? Especially when 'square foot hammer' says "I've been told I'm not allowed an allotment yet". Very confusing :)

Melanie Rimmer said...

Maria - yep, you've got it in a nutshell. It's a largish area of land split into smaller plots. You can rent a plot (or a half-plot, quarter plot and so on). Most people use them to grow vegetables and fruit, but other people grow flowers. They are popular in Britain. I know they have them in some other Eurpoean countries as well, and I have heard of them in the USA although I don't think they're widespread there.

I think Square Foot Hammer is not permitted by his partner to get an allotment, so he is growing veg in a raised bed at home.

neil said...

And a quick google gives, for example
http://www.foodvision.gov.uk/pages/allotments which seems to be a reasonable description, though I am no expert to verify all the content.

Particularly note the "Legislation" section which places a duty on the local authority to provide allotments.

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