Allotment joy for a community signed up to plots on the farm

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two years since farmer Tamara Hall turned one of her fields into allotments, she is calling on other landowners to follow her lead.

The project is now starting to come into its own, with those signed up having established the layout of their plots and what does and does not grow well in the field on the corner of the Beverley Eastern Bypass and the A1035 Beverley to Bridlington road.

“I knew from friends in Leeds and London that allotments have long waiting lists and so I thought why not turn a field into some plots?” Tamara explained.

“The field was the obvious choice as the farm water supply is nearby, so we could easily put water tanks in. I was surprised by how popular the plots were, not only are they all full but we have a waiting list of 40-50 people.”

Tamara provides free horse manure for plot holders and recently organised three seminars to teach them more about crop varieties, rotations and growth.

“The allotments are part of a not-for-profit company I have set up, Molesfarm Community Projects, so any profit made is put back in. This year it has paid for the seminars, but it will also go towards helping to bring schools on-site for the Open Farm week.”

The 67 plots are offered as either full plots, measuring 10m by 24m, or half plots. They opened in spring 2012 using an Awards for All Lottery grant, which funded a community container, a shelter for the entrance and planting a fruit orchard.

“In the future we hope to make more of the orchard, as it matures, with fruit picking and jam-making workshops.”

Barry Love, the allotment’s secretary, said: “We’d been on a waiting list for another allotment for six years when my wife heard that the farm was thinking about making some new ones so we put our names down and got one of the first plots. When we first came it was hard work. It was simply a grass field and we each had to dig the earth over. We had to work in manure as it is very heavy clay loam.”

Barry says plot holders have formed a community of their own. “We have people from all ages and backgrounds, young families and retired people.”

Plot holders grow everything from flowers to fruit and veg, and are allowed to keep up to six chickens per plot. All woodwork has to be painted green, no structures can be higher than 2m and all sheds must be a set size.

Steve and Dee Rix took on their plot in November.

Steve said: “We don’t know anything about gardening so we’re just asking for advice, the three seminars the farm put on were really useful. Everyone has been really helpful and we’ve spent all winter getting it ready. We thought it would be nice to bring the grandchildren down.”

There is also a community plot which can be used by schools and community groups. So far elderly people from a nursing home and children who don’t attend mainstream school have benefitted.

Lesley and David Joyce say they’re nearly self-sufficient in vegetables: “The first year we just grew everything but now we’re more selective. It’s a lovely place, we all walk round and have a look what others are growing and learn from each other, we share tips and seedlings and whenever someone has a glut of produce they offer it around.”

Lucia Sanders and her husband Charlie have recycled everything from pallets to shower screens to build the raised beds and hot boxes on their full-sized plot.

Lucia said: “When you eat the produce that you get it is worth every hour you’ve spent, because the taste is amazing.”

Tamara adds: “I feel very passionate about educating people about farming and food and where their food comes from, how much effort and energy goes into food production and why food costs what it does. I hope the allotments help people to appreciate food and eat home-grown locally produced food.

“With waiting lists being so long for allotments I think more farmers should be turning land into allotments.”