Farm News  |   January 12, 2024

Community Allotments & Growing Your Own in 2023

Take a look back at a productive and fun 2023 growing season in the Community Allotments and Garden…

Five people stand by a raised bed in the allotment plot triumphantly showing their potato harvest, which is in boxes at their feet.

It was a good year in the Community Allotments and Garden, with 100+ people getting fresh veg and fruit from the plots, more growing their own food at home following our workshops, and great progress on the Community Kitchen.

Community Allotments Serving 100+ households

In 2023, we expanded the number of allotment plots from 12 to 31, including the community garden. All the plots are managed by groups of people, so there are now at least 100 people benefiting from the growing space. But it’s is likely more, since many plot holders have households of 2-5 people, and they also share their veg with their neighbours and community, so the actual number of beneficiaries is likely to be well over 200.

Three people in the allotment plots with gardening tools smiling and giving thumbs up

The different plot holders are also forming a strong community together. This year we ran a series of allotment socials, and the plot holders formed a new Allotment Coordination Group. 2023 also saw the  start of a small group of Compost Champions, who are supporting everyone to make more compost on site.

Drop-in Volunteering Sessions

We held a total of 68 drop-in sessions in 2023, with volunteers coming along to enjoy working together on the Community Garden. For most of the year we had two drop-ins a week, going down to one a week as winter came in. We have a regular bunch of 10-15 volunteers come to these sessions, as well as folk who just come occasionally, or just the once to have a taste of what it’s like. Food from the community plot goes to the volunteers as well as towards the lunch at Granton Community Gardens.

Progress on the Community Kitchen

two people in mud-covered welly boots and waterproof trousers tramp straw into mud to make cob for the walls of a wooden framed structure visible behind them, along with others volunteer builders.

Thanks to a grant from Edinburgh Community Climate Fund, we have been able to bring this idea from the allotment holders to life. Volunteers from the farm worked with Edinburgh Tool Library and their volunteers to put up a wooden frame and roof. Earlier in the year, a group from The University of Edinburgh had helped dig us an allotment pond. We mixed the subsoil from the new pond with straw from wheat we had grown in the allotments to make cob for the walls. We then inserted a lattice of willow and hazel where the wall panels would go, and wrapped, draped and pushed the cob mix onto this lattice to make the walls. So far, 60+ volunteers have participated in 15 sessions to build this kitchen. By the end of 2023, the walls and windows were all in place, as well as a rainwater collection system. We’ll have more workshops in 2024 to finish it and add a clay oven.

Here are some comments we got from volunteer feedback:

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It felt therapeutic to me, stomping in the mud, rolling the mud and hay over, getting to know others etc… Welcoming, informative, fun, inspiring, and educational. I felt a real sense of connection with the community – both the group and the farm… Sense of purpose, community building something together, meeting people, learning new skills, sharing soup, getting muddy… For me it was a fantastic way of learning some down-to-earth skills from others (free of charge too)

Grow Your Own Food Workshops

In May and June, we ran three courses on how to grow your own food. One was specifically for women from Pilton, Muirhouse, Granton and Drylaw, the other two were open to all. Each course was six weeks long (one session a week), and we ran them at different times of day to make them accessible to more people. A total of 42 people did the courses in 2023 – and many more applied for a space, but we had to limit numbers to make sure it was a good learning experience.

We ran the courses for free, with optional donation for those who could afford it. Several of the participants went on to apply for group allotment plots after completing the courses.

The whole experience was quite wonderful. It felt like being in a class that was practical and there was plenty of opportunities to ask questions. It was hands-on, as we were able to look at the different plants, and we were shown various things that I never knew of before! I enjoyed learning about using weeds and making a “tea” for the plants/soil! Our 5 year old daughter also attended and says she really enjoyed the harvest meal with the group at the end 🙂

A group of people sit in a circle on chairs in the allotment plots, looking at the teacher, who is holding a bare root tree

Plans for 2024

We’ve got lots of plans for the new season. We will be able to open additional allotment plots to groups and organisations. Drop-in sessions will re-start on Thursday 18th January, 1pm-3pm. We hope to see the community go from strength to strength, and will be supporting the plot holders to work together and develop their sustainable and organic growing practices. We’ve got ideas for new initiatives (a chicken coop, communal polytunnel, mushroom production, wormery…) and we’ll be developing the perennial areas (pond with wildflowers, windbreak hedgerows, fruit trees and fruit bushes as well as herb beds).

We’ll also be improving accessibility in this part of the site, and we’ll be continuing and extending our collaborations with other community groups.

We’d love to see you there – please come along to a drop-in session to get involved, or email Lisa on if you have any questions.

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