11th September 2017

Ralph Hare interview

Ralph Hare is one of the five site managers at the Butts Park Allotments in Topsham, Devon, UK. My goal during this interview was to understand the organisational structure in place at the allotment, and how this interfaces with the local city council, which owns the site. Ralph was clear that the allotment committee takes the form of a flat hierarchy and that the site managers are informally engaged with fellow allotment holders as equals, not superiors. Each site manager oversees around 30 plots. The five site managers communicate by email with an allotment manager at the city council, Dan Smith, when issues arise (for example, when the roadside hedge adjoining the allotment becomes overgrown). The only structured communication between allotment holders and the allotment committee is through a number of bulletins during the year, and an annual general meeting. The committee manages the provision of contracts to new gardeners, and processes these with the council.

As a rule of thumb, Ralph calculated that a gardener should typically allow one hour of gardening input per rod, per week. The cost of allotment leases are approximately £7 per rod, per year – so very affordable, in other words.

If an allotment holder repeatedly breaches the terms of the contract and/or breaks the site rules, despite informal verbal warnings from the site managers, then a notice period of 28 days to vacate the plot may be served (though this is most unusual). A waiting list of interested local residents hoping for plots to become available is maintained by the committee, and would be referred to subsequent to a termination of this kind (as well as in any instance where an allotment holder decides not to renew of course, which could be due to old age and reduced mobility, lack of time etc).

The communal hut, from where gardening supplies are sold at discounted prices.