All About Allotments and Community Gardens

by Ann Hayward 05/16/2021

Photo by Zen Chung from Pexels

Despite the more recent interest in sustainable lifestyles, the practice and concept of urban agriculture has been around for centuries. Two of the most common forms of urban agriculture are allotments and community gardens. The term allotment is a term originating in Britain that refers to a piece of land cultivated by many people. Many use the terms interchangeably but there are some key differences. Both are important examples of urban agriculture and worth considering as part of a sustainable modern lifestyle.

What Are the Differences?

Though there are some fundamental differences in the setup of allotments and community gardens, both work toward the common goal of small-scale local agriculture on otherwise unused land. While community gardens in North America are managed and maintained by an entire collective, allotments have specific “tenants” who lease their own small portion of the land.

In an allotment, each tenant has their own small piece of something big. According to TripSavvy, the land is usually owned by local council churches, allotment associations or private landlords and leased out to local individuals or families. They cultivate their own particular plot of the land but help maintain shared spaces.

American community gardens are on public land or land owned by non-profit entities. The labor is largely volunteer-based with varying levels of organization depending on the specific garden.

What Are the Benefits?

Urban agriculture has multiple benefits regardless of location. Some of the biggest advantages include:

  • Allotments and community gardens help foster a sense of teamwork and pride among residents and neighbors working on a common goal.

  • Urban agriculture can increase the air quality by releasing oxygen and filtering toxins from nearby pollution. While it might not be a large-scale impact, it can positively affect microclimates and improve quality of life.

  • Community gardens provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables to “food deserts” and low-income areas. Allotments produce food for tenant families and other members of the community at large.

  • Urban agriculture provides a sustainable alternative to foods with high transportation-energy costs. In many urban areas you might have to drive or take public transportation to reach your nearest grocery store. Even organic foods you buy have probably traveled a long way to make it there. If you get your fruits and vegetables in a community garden, it not only saves time but saves energy as well.

  • Both allotments and community gardens offer an opportunity to teach gardening skills and share knowledge with those who might otherwise never have access to it. Children and others who have lived in cities their entire lives can benefit from useful skills and nutritional knowledge. Residents with mobility issues or disabilities can become involved in the garden's care to stay active and social.

  • Urban agriculture puts “unusable” land to good use without loud construction or outside business involvement. This means more peaceful neighborhoods and a cleaner environment while eliminating waste.

While urban agriculture has been around for a long time, it’s more important now than ever. The rise in awareness and popularity of sustainable living and food habits has made them easier to find and gain support for. This makes it easier for you to get involved in one yourself—or start a new one for your own community.

About the Author

Ann Hayward

Born in Philadelphia and raised in the suburbs, Ann Hayward got her Pennsylvania real estate license at age 18 even before going to college. This second-generation real estate professional followed in the footsteps of her father and two uncles, inheriting their passion for the business. Licensed in DC, Maryland and Virginia, Ann is accomplished in her career, with numerous designations including SFR, SRES, PSA, WHC, and multiunit Housing Development Finance Professional (HDFP) from the National Development Council. She specializes in Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties, Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, all jurisdictions where Ann has lived and knows very well. In addition to her professional expertise, she owns and manages personal investment property, understands and has been involved in the renovation/remodeling process, and has great resources which she shares with clients. When you hire Ann to represent you, she will make your buying or selling experience an enjoyable, rewarding one. Her compassion, sensitivity to her clients’ needs, eye for detail, and ability to see the big picture when guiding you through a purchase or sale are unique assets that will ensure your success. A diverse and relevant background also gives Ann a distinct edge. For 30 years, she worked in fast-paced, high-pressure television and theatrical production, attaining the highest achievement – DGA membership as a Director, and as an award-winning staff and freelance writer. Her keen audio visual skills and design sense benefit sellers in marketing their properties, and are invaluable in helping buyers see the potential of space. A true renaissance woman, Ann was also an income tax professional and office manager for H&R Block, so she thoroughly understands the tax and financial implications of acquiring and selling real estate. Her superior organizational skills are further evidenced as owner of a downsizing/professional organizing business, Managed For You, which allows her to connect with everyone from millennials to boomers and seniors, whether for small space planning or assisting with major decluttering and transitioning. Ann holds an AB in American History from Simmons College, Boston, plus attended Robert Wagner Graduate School of Public Administration where she was a candidate for Doctorate. She additionally studied Film Direction at the American Film Institute in LA, and was a Stanford University post-graduate Professional Journalism Fellow. Personally, Ann is an avid if not very good golfer, and the co-founder of a nonprofit 501c3 organization offering educational guidance, tutoring and counseling for youngsters from elementary school through college admission. She sits on the board of trustees of a nonprofit educational film production corporation as well. (202) 494-6252 [email protected]