Why allotments are so important to women

BY Kate Beeden

24th Feb 2023 Life

Why allotments are so important to women

With women now renting half of the allotments in the UK, what is it that is so appealing about growing your own food?

Throughout the covid pandemic much was made of the surge in demand for allotment plots across the UK. With waiting lists of ten years or more not uncommon, the pull of a patch of land specifically for growing produce continues to draw in both the green-fingered among us and those looking for a place to escape the busyness of 21st-century living. Differing from a community garden, which is usually a local project, an allotment is a piece of land hired on an annual lease from a council or private company.

"Traditionally allotments have been associated with older men, but half of all allotments in the UK are now rented by women"

Traditionally allotments have been associated with older men (think Arthur Fowler from Eastenders or One Foot in the Grave’s Victor Meldrew), but half of all allotments in the UK are now rented by women.

So, what is it about allotments that the women of the UK find so appealing?

Sense of history

British women have a longstanding tradition of tending the land. During the First World War and the Second World War, the Women’s Land Army (WLA)—or “Land Girls” as they were commonly known—adopted the roles of male agricultural workers who were called up for service. By 1944 there were 80,000 women in the WLA, as well as many following the “Dig for Victory” campaign in gardens up and down the country. As men were fighting, women contributed by producing food—a vital act, as prior to the Second World War most of Britain’s food was imported.

Stories of the Land Girls in television and popular fiction continue to inspire women to learn more about self-sufficiency, particularly during times of hardship such as the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.

Peace and quiet

Why allotments mean so much to women—Woman planting tomato seedlingsAllotments provide calm and a quiet break from hectic modern life. Photo: Hakase_

The solitude of life on the allotment is a huge draw for women looking for a space to call their own. In a world where the pressures of the mental load continue to fall on women, a place to retreat to away from the demands of work, family and social commitments is an appealing prospect. From building compost bays to sipping steaming-hot coffee in the shed, allotments offer a chance to step back from the hurried nature of modern life.

Community spirit

Three older women working together on an allotmentWorking together on a community plot brings people together. Photo: Halfpoint

As well as being a quiet space, there are opportunities for those seeking a community to become involved with the social aspects of allotmenteering. From joining a committee, allotment society or governing body to sharing skills on a community plot, it’s easy to create a sense of togetherness on an allotment site. Plot holders often share excess seedlings, cuttings or produce, which is particularly encouraging for those starting out on their grow-your-own journey.

Women looking for community spirit will find it on an allotment site in abundance, and allotments attract people from all backgrounds and of all age groups. This makes them an ideal place to forge multi-generational friendships, where children can learn from experienced gardeners. This family-friendly environment is appealing to women, particularly if they have youngsters or older relatives who will visit their plot.

mother and daughter on allotmentAllotments are family-friendly places to enjoy growing vegetables together. Photo: monkeybusinessimages

Healthy hobby

We are increasingly aware of the importance of looking after both our mental and physical health, with initiatives such as “1000 Hours Outside” designed to get us away from our screens and back to nature. Gardening is an excellent form of exercise, can be adapted where necessary to accommodate all abilities and has the benefits of reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which reduce the likelihood of developing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Who needs the gym?

"Gardening is an excellent form of exercise, can accommodate all abilities and reduces cholesterol levels and blood pressure"

Many women also find gardening a mindful activity. Processes such as sowing, digging and planting are repetitive, giving the brain all-important downtime.

Not only that, if your parents ever told you that you needed some fresh air, it turns out they were right. Fresh air increases your oxygen flow, which has the benefits of helping you think more clearly, strengthening your immune system and purifying your lungs. Even your digestive system will work more efficiently.

Women as nurturers

Although often thought of as a stereotype, psychological studies do suggest that women are more nurturing and compassionate than men. This ability to care deeply and give wholeheartedly makes an allotment a fruitful pastime for women and allows them to use their nurturing side away from the traditional roles of mother or carer.

Environmental factors

Woman holding a box of vegetables on an allotmentGrowing your own vegetables is good for the planet. Photo: fergusowen

The impact our lives have on the environment has become headline news, with many people choosing to adapt their lifestyles for the good of the planet. Knowledge of the air miles our food travels and the effect this has on our carbon footprint has led to a boom in the grow-your-own and “Shop Local” sectors. The number of vegetarians and vegans continues to increase, with statistics showing twice as many women as men are vegan. The rise in plant-based diets could explain the influx of women keen to take on allotment plots.

"The rise in plant-based diets could explain the influx of women keen to take on allotment plots"

Pride accompanies the growing process, along with a specific type of joy as a single seed develops into the cornerstone of a meal. Plus, with a wide variety of inexpensive seeds available to purchase, allotment growing offers a greater choice of fresh produce than a supermarket shelf.

Although loved for varied reasons, an allotment’s impact on wellbeing is one of their biggest selling points. Add to that their affordability compared to buying a property with a garden of a similar size and it’s easy to see why these special patches of land continue to captivate women all over the UK.

Banner photo: julief514

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