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Successful meeting in Mendip
Bringing together local land seekers, parish, town and district councillors, private landowners and more, the evening was a great success with many people now enthused about how to make their dreams of growing their own, a reality.
The meeting was opened by Linda Hull from the Somerset Land & Food Project and the recently launched Incredible Edible Somerset. She presented the results from the project’s recent survey of provision of allotment land, which has revealed that 259 people are on waiting lists in Mendip District, including 90 in Frome and 66 in Wells.
Allan Cavill, South West Director of the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens (NSALG) then spoke about his experience supporting the development of over 50 new allotment sites in the South West, himself an allotmenteer with over 45 growing seasons under his belt. Allan spoke encouragingly about the need for self-managed sites that are no longer subsidized by councils and instead provide an income stream for the landowner & community. He explained the heightened success rates when an allotment association is formed with a constitution, which enables the new group to attract grant funding. Beyond the role of food production, Allan described his main love for allotments was because they, “Engender community spirit, making friends out of neighbours who have never spoken & bringing towns and villages to life with the renewal of horticultural shows & events”.
John Cridland from Croscombe Community Allotment Association then told their story of finding land & developing their site which is now the centre of activity in their village. Landowner, Cordelia Rowlatt from Vallis Veg, a market garden outside Frome, which offers land for private allotments, spoke about the needs of landowners or managers - clarity of agreements & having a good self-managing group to work with. After the break, members of the audience were invited to ask questions and the room came alive with enthusiasm about the multitude of options available from container growing in the High Street to community supported agriculture schemes. A wide ranging discussion ensued about how enabling access to land has a wide range of benefits from improving health and diet, saving money, introducing children to where food comes from, reducing food miles and for personal satisfaction.
In summing up, Linda Hull said: “It’s clear that those looking for land in a particular location need to join forces and let their parish, district and county councillors know that they mean business. Elected representatives can then help groups contact landowners to create self-managed sites at zero cost to the taxpayer. What we need now is local landowners to come forward to play their part in the grow your own revolution. ”
The event is the first of a district by district tour of the county to help people find out how to access land & meet their local land owners & councillors. Visit www.somersetcommunityfood.org.uk or call 01749 678770.