AGM 2020 – Chair Report

ALWOODLEY ALLOTMENT SOCIETY LIMITED

Chair’s Report for AGM 2020

AGM Chair Report

Ken Mulley-Smith, Chair of Alwoodley Allotment Society Ltd

A Challenging year.

Welcome to this virtual AGM and chair report for the year ending September 2002.

I would like to start by saying thank you to every plot holder member and joint plot holders for the dedication you have shown in helping keep the site and plots up to a high standard.  It is my privilege to have been Chair this year, and I think it is fair to say that the last few months have been challenging in a way that most of us have never experienced before.  Thankfully we all have an allotment to visit and cherish. Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we are proud to say we stayed open, with restrictions applied.

Sense of achievement:  As many new plot-holders discover, growing vegetables requires acquiring new knowledge and skills and the satisfaction gained from eating their first home grown tomato or new potato makes them taste even more delicious!

I became chair in October 2019, following on from Derek which in itself was a huge task to take on.  The man is a mountain of energy,enthusiasm and knowledge.  I’m glad he accepted the role of President of our society and by default my ongoing mentor.  

I was reminded of the history of allotments while preparing this report and I would like to share it with you. “A Tenancy Agreement dating back to 1846 serving the Parish of Husbands Bosworth states “Every occupier is expected to attend divine service on Sundays; and any occupier who digs potatoes or otherwise works on his land on Sunday shall immediately forfeit the same.” Things have changed a little in the last 150 years, as Sunday’s are now the most popular gardening day of the week.”  

You all pay for the benefits of the Leeds Allotment Federation (LAF) and the National Allotment Society (NAS), this comes out of your annual rental fees.  Every year a LAF card is issued, which brings discounts to its members (you).  Local discounts can be found, so pick up a card.  We will inform you when the 2021 card is ready to be picked up.  The NAS fee covers off your liability of having a plot. 

If you didn’t know,  Education and training have become important to them lately, and they now run special training day events covering subjects like self management and general allotment practice.  Learning and training days have become a very important activity for the Leeds Allotments Federation lately. They began in 2013 with a day devoted to studying the future of allotment policy in Leeds. Since then, they have moved on to issues around setting up and running self-managed sites. More recently the learning days have expanded to include topics of more general interest to allotment gardeners, such as pest and diseases, composting, and growing techniques.  The free fish and chips also went down well in March!  

Rents and fees:  We try to be democractic while protecting the agreement we have with the local parish council and the fixed costs we have to meet, each year.  The committee has decided our fees this year are not going to change in 2021/22.  We propose to leave them as is.  I hope you approve.  As you will see from the financial report, we manage within our means.  Gill is our treasurer and provides financial management and oversight to our expenditures.

We manage within our fee income yearly and any funding we can obtain.  Unlike last year when we won a grant from Aviva to help fund the Borehole project, we have not chased any new funding grants this year.   It is our intention to buy a new ride on a mower either next year or the year after, if we can obtain the funding this coming year.  We want to move to the flair mowers you see the Leeds parks and countryside team use.  They are more robust than the one we currently have.  Your fees also give you access to manure, a couple of times a year.  On a first come first serve basis. 

Waiting lists.  As you can imagine, allotment plots have become a sought after prize.  We as a society would not recommend ever closing lists. Nick, our membership secretary has managed new requests for a plot every week since April.  Our intention is to help support the local community during these difficult times.  As well as the pandemic, we have been looking at how we can become an instrument for change.  Supporting the health in our community.  With this in mind, we propose to offer the last few available plots as quarter plots.  Thereby affording more people the chance to have a plot.  I hope you all agree with this approach. The impact of having an allotment can be decisive in the balance between being healthy and being ill.  

This leads me to the car park.  We need more spaces to accommodate the proposed influx of new plot holders.  It was always the intention for the spoil heap to be removed.  This we will do over the next few months.  Watch that space.  The soil will not disappear but will be distributed to two or three points around the site. Once the spoil heap has gone, the space will become the extended car park.

I have been so impressed by the way, the grass around the site has been cut religiously by a small group of volunteers this year.  I would like to see this group expanded.  If you are interested then contact one of the committee members or email me your wish to help.  

I know that too often this season we have had trouble getting to the paths to cut the grass safely.  The safety of the volunteers is paramount.  The paths around your plots are more problematic to always cut.  Consequently, to this end, you must cut your grass.  Please note you have always been responsponsible for cutting your paths.  Enough said.

Sadly, socialising in the real world has had to stop this year.  The pandemic has put an end to that.  In previous years we would have working parties, along with Graham’s famous barbeques.  They will start again when we are permitted to do so.  It is good for our mental well being.  There is a growing awareness of the role that gardening plays in both preventing and alleviating mental ill-health. Many allotment gardeners will tell you that a spell on the plot nurturing plants and contemplating nature makes them feel calmer and more hopeful and there have been recent studies that have measured this benefit.  

We communicate in a number of ways now.  We have a private facebook group and a public one.  We embraced WhatsApp this year.  It’s not everyone’s taste.  Again, it is an invite only group, and it does have its moments.  Derek’s humour and quizzes are enlightening and funny.  We have our website/blog, which is a strong reservoir of knowledge and information. If we want to communicate with everyone, we use the mailchimp email application.  By default you are added to the distribution group.  If you unsubscribe, then don’t say I didn’t know about x or y.  All of our Covid messages have been sent out via mailchimp, along with this report.  I encourage you to socialise on these virtual methods.

The big project of last year became the developing success of this year.  Never before have we had water on site.  The process of extracting and distributing the water from the borehole around to the site IBC’s is a learning curve.  We continue to refine the activity.  With your help, next year we will look for more volunteers to support the borehole water distribution.  I am looking for a larger team of helpers.  Wayne and Isabelle, and Derek have worked their socks off this summer.  I was glad to see the uptake in people buying IBC’s for their plot.  Capturing the water that falls from the heavens is the quickest way to obtain water.  If you don’t have an IBC, then contact Wayne and or Isabelle and they will be happy to serve and help you. It’s the cheapest way to get one by the way!

Due to the pandemic we had to close our doors to visitors, this is still the case.  I know how good it feels to show your extended family and friends the products of your labour.  Hopefully the key decision makers may change all of that, once it is safe to do so.

This is our fourth year as an allotment society.  We took on a long lease and we self managed and became a society incorporated, which allowed us to become a Limited Company to gain limited liability status via a number of options. We are managed by an elected committee. We asked you all recently if you wanted to be proposed as a committee member.  The response was none, however if anyone wished during the year to join the committee, just ask.  The current committee is happy to serve again in 2020/21,  but if you have any objections to this or would like to join the Committee please contact myself before 31/10/2020.

I couldn’t do this without you and the committee.  I value the insights and guidance you provide.  I truly appreciate the confidence you showed in me, this year.  I would like to thank you very much for your assistance.

Thank you again for all you do every day to support our allotment site

Ken Mulley-Smith, Chair of Alwoodley Allotment Society Ltd