The Woodseats Allotment Society has always held Open Days and encouraged the local community to visit and look around plots by arrangement. Folks could share a cuppa and a cake with the opportunity for allotment holders to get together and be willing to showcase their plots, answer questions about how to get and manage an allotment and a chance to purchase plants and materials from the on -site shop. For the last couple of years, the Open Days have centred around ‘the Hub”—two plots within the allotments where we have aquired additional facilities to raise produce collectively , host educational events and a small kitchen/ meeting room.
This idea of a pop up shop originated from a decision made by four people last February/March to grow a wider range of different seeds so that the Hub would have plenty of flowers, vegetables and plants growing to showcase Open Days. We have always tried to share good practice and encourage visitors to engage in question and answer about our allotment produce and growing techniques. We also offer three starter plots on the Hub so that each year aspiring gardeners who are awaiting an allotment or want to try out their skills, can get started on growing.
Initially we struggled to aquire compost for growing seedlings during lockdown and became aware that fellow allotmenteers were short on seeds and seedlings because postal services were overwhelmed by online demand and nurseries struggled to dispatch. We set up a seed and seedling swap which broadened out to various neighbours who developed a keen desire to improve their gardens during lockdown but had no access to garden centres or nurseries.
Lockdown meant that future Open Days were off the grid, so the question was what to do with the produce that was growing given that it is basically part of our society and efforts but would clearly not be picked or used by many people because of social distancing —certainly never reach the local community—and without open days, our allotment society would be under the radar this year.
The main development from this was the Plant Swap or Donate
project on the Hub. Many allotment folks were key workers or front-line workers or were shielding so were unable to raise their crops for their plots, so the Hub grew more & offered a swap or donate system. If a person had too many plants of one kind, they could swap for something grown on the Hub or take the plants and leave a donation towards Grace Foodbank. This raised £100.
We decided to give surplus plants and produce to charity and/or use it at street stalls to benefit community projects-.The Mitchell Rd Socially Distanced Street Event was the first of these. Residents decided to raise some funds for 3 local charities- Sheffield Women's Aid, P.A.C.T. & Grace Foodbank in June. They raised £1,433, which was split between the 3 charities. Lots of Woodseats allotment folk donated plants, flowers & produce plus preserves towards the event.
The next event was the Friends of Graves Park Snail Trail in July.Woodseats allotments was offered the opportunity to take part in the FOGP fund raising event. The proceeds of £450 were shared equally between FOGP and Woodseats Allotments.
Fresh from these success we were faced with a technical problem of donating more fand more fresh produce as the growing season progressed. Grace Foodbank could not easily process small and irregular supplies so one of our members contacted Foodworks.
The idea was that fresh produce left over from a series of pop up sales for four Sundays in August gets immediately collected by Foodworks. This charity collects from around the city and turn surplus food and supermarket donations into meals to feed people in need and avoid waste . We also made the decision to keep half of funds raised to keep ourselves afloat given we have spent on seeds, compost and maintain the Hub but donate half to Foodworks. They will be receiving their cheque shortly.
Amazingly, it has been successful and despite covid / government restrictions, teething problems and rain and cold, we will have fulfilled our short term aims and raised just over a staggering £1000.We could not have done this without our allotmenteers who donated an awesome amount and array of fruit ,vegetables and plants. A big thank you and a wonderful well done to everyone involved for their efforts and donations.
However, we are a community and whatever we think about the
initial practical aims written above, we think the bigger impact has been contact with people who have missed contact with others through this pandemic or who have seen the light in terms of the value of gardens/allotments/fresh food and the need for charity. The reception from locals has been wholly positive with most asking when we will be doing this again, the majority exclaiming how wonderful it is to see such fresh produce that looks like it comes from a garden not a supermarket and folks of all ages enchanted by our range of vegetables, preserves plants and bunches of flowers.
We kept the money very simple 50p £1 or £1.50 with deals on buy one get one free or such like and many customers simply handed over a note and instructed us to keep the change as a donation. We have had many requests for more of the same .
Thus we now have to decide what to do in future and we aim to do the following.
We will continue to collect fresh produce at the Hub—meet Foodworks every Sunday on Abbey Lane at the same time and handover a box of fresh donated produce until there are no more donations which just needs a few people for collection.
Hold a further pop up stall—WOODSEATS ALLOTMENTS AUTUMN HARVEST SALE. Sale of apples (rather than an apple pressing day which we have done for the last 2 years) plus other surplus produce such as pumpkins and cabbages, preserves, possibly cakes. Whether we include a plant sale, to be decided
When: Sunday 4th October
Where: Abbey Lane entrance
When: 10.30 – 12.30Monies divided 50:50 between WAS and a designated charity
Build awareness amongst all our allotment holders of this way of dealing with gluts and plan to do it every year-same plan—similar growing schemes—and make our society more focussed on working with a charity that fights food waste—which is surely what we are aiming for anyway and continue to enrich community life— remember—once/if covid goes away, people can come to the hub again and we could maintain our seed swaps, plant swaps and seedlings swaps plus our shop , activities and Open Days.
However, if covid does not go away, we will be prepared to continue our efforts next year in similar ways in the firm knowledge that our local communities welcome and enjoy all that a local allotment society has to offer.