Threat to Seed Sovereignty

There is a new threat to our freedom to buy and share seeds of heirloom and less popular plant varieties.

The EU is considering a bill to tidy up lots of separate bits of legislation on plant reproductive material.  As it stands the bill would require even small seed companies and informal seed banks like Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library (HSL) to go through an expensive registration process for each variety to show that it meets a Europe-wide DUS standard.

“DUS” stands for “Distinct, Uniform and Stable”, which means that all seeds of a variety should be genetically nearly identical.  This standard suits the needs of large seed companies and industrial scale growers, but goes against small traditional farmers who save and exchange their own seeds, and anyone concerned about the longer term sustainability of agriculture, because it dramatically narrows the genetic diversity of the crops we depend on for our food.

Many small seed companies would likely have to stop trading, as they could not afford the registration process.  The HSL could face a bill of half a million pounds – an impossible amount.

Traditional, open pollinated seed varieties are the result of years of careful selection by generations of growers.  Control of this precious resource should not be expropriated by large corporations.  That would amount to a theft every bit as terrible as taking away a farmer’s land.

There is still time for us  to influence this legislation by writing to our MEPs, and to the Chief and Shadow Rapporteurs for Agriculture at the European Parliament.  You can find contact details for your MEPs at WriteToThem.  The Garden Organic website has details of the Rapporteurs, as well as more information on how to protest.

For more background see the Garden Organic page and the Campaign for Seed-Sovereignty, and particularly the text of the Vienna Declaration, from a meeting of twenty organisations from across Europe.

AGM 2013

Our Annual General Meeting was held on 14 November at the Meanwood Institute.

Reports

The Chairman reported that 2013 was a wonderful season for most of us, with many bumper crops.  Strangely, although we did not have a wet summer, many of the potatoes had slug damage.

We had plant Bring & Buy Sales on 9th June and 14 July, and our Autumn show on 8 September.  All three were well attended by plot holders and members of the public.

We had problems with the locks on the gates.  The old bronze padlocks were becoming unreliable, and then someone was able to open the gate and steal a greenhouse frame.  We decided it was time to change the locks.  A new set of trouble-free locks plus keys would cost about £500, so we are trying combination locks, as some other allotment sites seem to have success with these.  These have their own problems:  the numbers can be hard to see in poor light, the numbers don’t get scrambled sometimes, and one lock had to be destroyed because someone tried to move the numbers when the lock was not properly closed.  This had the effect of changing the combination, and no one could open the lock afterwards.

A big concern this year has been the Council’s “Allotment Consultation” and then their decision to raise our rents.  The way in which this was done has caused much ill-feeling on all sides, and there has been a breakdown in communication between LDAGF and the Council officers involved.

As things stand, our rents will increase each year until 2016-2017:

Year 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Full plot rent £38.50 £58.00 £65.00 £72.00

At present we keep 2/3 of rent collected + give LCC 1/3.  By 2016-17 we will keep just 32% and give LCC 78%.  The total value of our share stays about the same, but theirs will be four times bigger!

Concession for pensioners will be just 20%, instead of 50% as before.  A concession of 50% will still be available for people in receipt of certain benefits.

Our old lease has been cancelled, and the new one has to be signed by Oct 2014.  The new lease lasts 25 yrs, not just 6, so it will be better for getting grants.  Need to read new one carefully before signing.

LDAGF has started proceedings for a  judicial review to try to overturn the Council’s decision.  Even a favourable judgement will only cover this current decision, though.

We need to raise public awareness of benefits to the community of allotments.  Good news stories are needed!

The Treasurer reported that our finances were in a good state, with about £1500 more in our current account than at this time last year.

The Trustees carried out plot inspections on 1 March, 15 April, 3 June and 16 Sept, looking at health & safety issues and the state of cultivation of plots. Five people were evicted or voluntarily left their plots.  Not all plots have compost bins, and they should.

Election of Officers

The officers elected for 2012-2013 were

  • Chair: Joe Foster
  • Treasurer: Ness Clark
  • Secretary: Louise Allen
  • Committee: Rosie Hall, Ness Clark, Donald Hood, Gillian North, John Oughton, Pat Shore, Jenny Ward, Angie Willshaw.

Rosie Hall agreed to act as letting secretary.

David Jones stood down as Treasurer, and has been helping Ness Clark to take over.  Many thanks to both.

Peter Blakey retired from the Committee after serving for more years than anyone can remember. We will miss his steadying hand and wise contributions.

Prizegiving

This year three of us entered the Leeds and District Allotment Gardeners Federation city-wide Best Plot competition.  Ros Dunlevey won a special merit certificate for “effective and innovative use of terracing on a very challenging plot.”  Joe Foster and Peter Blakey also entered.

The Hollin Lane Best Plot competition was judged by Joe Maiden 15 July:

  • 1st place:  Ros Dunlevey (plot 37) and Peter Blakey (plot 13) tied.
  • 2nd:           Joe Foster.
  • 3rd:            Malcolm Coles (plots 19B, 22B, 34).

The best Best Newcomer competition was judged by the Trustees, and this year’s winner was Jess Poole (plot 4BR).

The overall points winner at this year’s Autumn show was Rosie Hall (plots12B, 23B), and the best exhibit in the show was Pat Shore’s onions (plot 25).

Many thanks to Joe Maiden for judging both the Best Allotment and the Autumn Show.

These year we were able to give some attractive prizes.  Thanks to John Oughton for arranging this, and to our sponsors for their generosity.  Please support them:

  • Glendor DIY, 2-4 Weetwood Lane
  • The Secret Garden Cafe, 6-8 Weetwood Lane
  • Maria’s, 4 Green Road, Meanwood
  • Fobi’s DIY 44-50 Grean Road, Meanwood
  • Woodies Ale House, 104 Otley Road
  • The New Inn, 68  Otley Road
  • Giorgios Ristorante Italiano, 72 Otley Road
  • Floral Expression, 86 Otley Road
  • Fancy Dress Experience, 88 Otley Road
  • Unwin’s Seeds
  • Steven H Smiths Garden Centre, Pool Road, Otley
  • Kings Seeds

Discussion

The meeting closed with an open discussion. Several points and suggestions were made by members of the audience:

  • C Foren suggested that we could make our perimeter more secure by planting blackthorn (sloes) along the bottom fence. Young blackthorn whips are not expensive, but we would need some volunteer labour.
  • M Coles suggested that we should be quicker to evict people who are not using their plots, and that paths around some plot are badly overgrown.
  • R Hall inquired about plans to replace the communal hut. We need to decide on a design, and get some idea of cost.
  • E Walton asked if we planned to paint the hut. We should have a work day to do this.

AGM 2012

The 2012 AGM of Hollin Lane Allotments was held on 8 November at the Meanwood Institute.

Reports on 2012

Don’t even mention the weather!

There were a number of break-ins, and an arson attack which was attended by the fire service. The police stepped up patrols in the area. A new, more secure, gate at the Highbury end was installed with funding help from the Council.

Successful plant Bring & Buy sales were held in May and June, attended by plot holders and members of the public.

The autumn show was held on 9 September, with many good exhibits despite the awful summer, a ‘Bring Your Own’ barbecue, a garden bric-a-brac sale and a thrilling snail race.  Many thanks to Joe Maiden for judging the exhibits.

Hollin Lane Allotments was one of the sites studied in the Urban Pollinators Project by a group of UK universities.  Preliminary results show that allotments offer very favorable conditions for both honeybees and many species of wild bees.

Scheduled Trustees’ inspections were carried out at the start of March, June and September.  Plots were generally in a good state, but one tenancy of terminated because of non-cultivation.

The Treasurer presented the accounts for 2011-2012, which showed our finances to be in a good state.

Election of Officers

The officers elected for 2012-2013 were

  • Chair: Joe Foster
  • Treasurer: David Jones
  • Secretary: Louise Allen
  • Commitee: Rosie Hall, Ness Clark, Donald Hood, Gillian North, John Oughton, Pat Shore, Jenny Ward, Peter Blakey

Rosie Hall agreed to act as letting secretary.  Many thanks to Peter Blakey, who did the job for many years!

Prizegiving

Prizes for the best plots were awarded as follows:

  • First: Joe Foster
  • Second: Malcolm Coles
  • Third: Malcolm Slade
  • Best Newcomer: Jointly Clare Simpson and Mary Davis

Many thanks to Joe Maiden for judging the best plots.

The overall winner of the autumn show was Rosie Hall, who also won the prize for the best exhibit in the show.

AGM 2011

Our Annual General Meeting was on Thursday, 3 November 2011 at the Meanwood Institute, Green Road at 7:30 pm.

Last year’s officers were all re-elected, except that Donald Hood stood down as Treasurer.  He is still on the Committee, and our new Treasurer is David Jones of plot 11TL.  Many thanks to Donald for all those years of excellent service as Treasurer, and to David for taking the job over.

The prize for best allotment this year went to Malcolm Slade on plot 8B and 8TR.  Second prize went to Joe Foster on plot 30, and third to Ros Dunlevey on plot 37.  The prize for overall winner at the autumn show went to Gillian North on plot 46.  The ‘best newcomers’ prize was shared between Andrew Tocher, plot 7BR and Kate Rosenberg, plot 11TR.  Congratulations to all of the winners, and to everyone whose hard work is helping to transform our site into something to be proud of.

The Chairman gave a short talk on Making Compost.  There seem to be quite a few plots where no compost is being made, and they are missing out on an easy and sustainable way of getting rid of most garden waste and improving their soil.

Rosie Livingstone introduced her report on peat free compost.  Peat mining is very damaging to the environment, and supplies are limited.  We need to find a way of gardening without it.  The trouble is, most peat-free ‘all purpose compost’ is of variable quality.  We agreed that the Association would purchase stocks of several of the best peat-free composts for members to buy and try out.

Many thanks to John Oughton for rounding up lots of valuable prizes for the prizegiving and raffle.  Please support the following shops and businesses who have generously donated:

The meeting ended with a raffle and mulled wine.  Many thanks to everyone who came out and supported our Association.

Annual General Meeting

The AGM is on Thursday 3 Nov. at Meanwood Institute, Green Road at 7:30 pm …

Our Annual General Meeting will be on Thursday, 3 November 2011 at the Meanwood Institute, Green Road at 7:30 pm.  There will be election of officers, prize giving, reports on the year at Hollin Lane Allotments and discussion of our aims for 2012.  All plot holders are very welcome to come along and have their say.

Please support the following shops and businesses who have generously donated prizes:

New Fence

A sturdy new metal fence has been built along our eastern boundary …

A sturdy new metal fence has been built along our eastern boundary, next to Harry Jackson’s old pig farm. Many thanks to Councillor Sue Bentley and to Tom Peacock of Parks and Countryside for their help at all stages of this project. We also received a Well-Being Fund grant, awarded by local Ward Members through the Inner North West Area Committee.

There is a gate next to the stables to allow us to collect horse manure. The key is the one you already have for the other gates.

Threat to allotments averted

The threat to allotments from the Government’s review of the 1908 Allotments Act has been averted, thanks to the huge response from the public and the media …

The threat to allotments from the Government’s review of the 1908 Allotments Act has been averted, thanks to the huge response from the public and the media.  The Prime Minister was asked about this in parliament, and said

” … It is extremely important that allotments are made available. Many Members will find that when they ask about that in their constituencies there are massive queues for allotments, as many people want to grow their own vegetables and food and understand more about where food comes from. It is a great movement, and it has my full support.”

You can read more at the Independent on Sunday and at the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners site.

Many thanks to everyone who filled in the survey form or wrote to their MP.  Your actions really made a difference.

Urgent! Allotments under threat.

The Threat:
The Government has announced a “Review of statutory duties”, aimed at identifying and removing duties from local authorities which are a “burden”. One of the duties they are considering removing is the duty to provide sufficient number of allotments for people in the area who want one. This means ALL allotments, including existing ones, not just new ones. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners has some information about this.

What You Can Do:

  1. Write to your MP and point out that allotments are not a burden.  We have compiled some useful background information for you to use.
  2. Look at the Government’s web page on “Review of statutory duties placed on local government“.  Then fill in the “Statutory duties webform” which is in the top right-hand corner.  Time is short. We have only until 25 April.  The webform is a bit confusing, so here are some model answers which you can use.  Better still, write your own. But do fill in the form!

Boundary Fence Update

We have been awarded a Well-Being grant of £219 to make up the last bit of the cost of a new fence along our eastern boundary, where Harry Jackson’s pig farm used to be. The Well-Being Fund grant is awarded by local Ward Members through the Inner North West Area Committee, part of Leeds City Council.

We have been awarded a Well-Being grant of £219 to make up the last bit of the cost of a new fence along our eastern boundary, where Harry Jackson’s pig farm used to be. The Well-Being Fund grant is awarded by local Ward Members through the Inner North West Area Committee, part of Leeds City Council. The rest of the £5177 for the project will come from a Weetwood Ward based initiative (many thanks to Councillor Sue Bentley) and from the Parks and Countryside allotments budget (many thanks to Tom Peacock, the Allotments Officer). We expect the work to be completed by April 2011. It will be a metal round-bar fence, like the one at the western side of the site, by the main gate. We hope will make a real difference to the spate of thefts and vandalism we have suffered lately, and will help us all to feel more secure when we are on our plots.