Voluntary extra fees and an irrelevant picture

Mark Carroll at BHAF writes in the latest newsletter:

In the last newsletter I talked about our idea to produce a mechanism by which plot holders who have more disposable income could voluntarily pay more in order to keep rental prices as low as possible for tenants who might struggle with a rent rise. We are still in talks with the Council, however the plan the Council suggested was, as far as the committee are concerned, too complicated a procedure for it to be successful.

We would like to see a very simple system, hopefully as simple as a check box on your bill and a space to enter in your voluntary payment. The Councils initial suggestion was a system by which people wishing to make a voluntary donation to the service have to phone the Council to make the payment. For smaller donations they suggested ‘cash donation boxes’ at sites. We feel that a voluntary payment system could work well if it was a seamless process in tandem with paying your regular bill.

We are worried that if it is introduced in a way that is not extremely simple that it would not work very well. We feel it would be best not to try it at all if it isn’t done simply, as this would give the impression, perhaps to other Councils that voluntary payments are not a viable way to increase funding. We have more talks planned and we will keep you informed.

Also in that newsletter in an invitation to the September forum if you have anything to say or you want to find out more about this or anything else.

You are invited to the September Allotment Forum Meeting. This meeting is open to all plot holders, site reps and co workers. It is a useful forum to chat about all allotment issues and also to strengthen the allotment community across the city.

Let us know if you have anything you would like discussed or included on the agenda. Please email us at

The Forum Meeting will be on

Wednesday 19th September 2018

at Patcham Community Centre

From 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

Here’s a picture that has nothing to do with the subject but shows how cool the Romans were.

Break-ins in September at allotment

Stacey writes:

There has been 5 break-ins between Thursday 6th September and Sunday morning 9th September.

I hope no more people were affected by this but let me know if you think you were and I can forward the police reference number for reporting it so they are linked.

This seems to be a surge – presumably the same perps. In any case, it’s very important calls are linked and that the police have as much evidence as possible. So please let Stacey or me know if you’ve been hit.

Stacey: stacey@tenantrydown.org.uk

Robert: webeditor@tenantrydown.org.uk

Feeding 9 billion humans

I offer this without comment.


Veganism has rocketed in the UK over the past couple of years – from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million – 5% of our population – today. Influential documentaries such as Cowspiracy and What the Health have thrown a spotlight on the intensive meat and dairy industry, exposing the impacts on animal and human health and the wider environment.

But calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertiliser, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonising sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.

In 2000, my husband and I turned our 1,400-hectare (3,500-acre) farm in West Sussex over to extensive grazing using free-roaming herds of old English longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies and red and fallow deer as part of a rewilding project. For 17 years we had struggled to make our conventional arable and dairy business profitable, but on heavy Low Weald clay, we could never compete with farms on lighter soils. The decision turned our fortunes around. Now eco-tourism, rental of post-agricultural buildings, and 75 tonnes a year of organic, pasture-fed meat contribute to a profitable business. And since the animals live outside all year round, with plenty to eat, they do not require supplementary feeding and rarely need to see the vet.

The animals live in natural herds and wander wherever they please. They wallow in streams and water-meadows. They rest where they like (they disdain the open barns left for them as shelter) and eat what they like. The cattle and deer graze on wildflowers and grasses but they also browse among shrubs and trees. The pigs rootle for rhizomes and even dive for swan mussels in ponds. The way they graze, puddle and trample stimulates vegetation in different ways, which in turn creates opportunities for other species, including small mammals and birds.

Our soils were almost dead. Now we have 19 types of worm, and 23 species of dung beetle in a single cowpat.

Much more at the link.

A largely ignored news story that may be the most important of the decade

I reckon this changes everything. Or it should change everything, if the powers that be allow it to and if enough people want it to.



Monsanto, which became a unit of Bayer AG in June, has spent decades convincing consumers, farmers, politicians and regulators to ignore mounting evidence linking its glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer and other health problems. The company has employed a range of tactics – some drawn from the same playbook used by the tobacco industry in defending the safety of cigarettes – to suppress and manipulate scientific literature, harass journalists and scientists who did not parrot the company’s propaganda, and arm-twist and collude with regulators. Indeed, one of Monsanto’s lead defense attorneys in the San Francisco case was George Lombardi, whose resumé boasts of his work defending big tobacco.

Now, in this one case, through the suffering of one man, Monsanto’s secretive strategies have been laid bare for the world to see. Monsanto was undone by the words of its own scientists, the damning truth illuminated through the company’s emails, internal strategy reports and other communications.

The jury’s verdict found not only that Monsanto’s Roundup and related glyphosate-based brands presented a substantial danger to people using them, but that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Monsanto’s officials acted with “malice or oppression” in failing to adequately warn of the risks.

Testimony and evidence presented at trial showed that the warning signs seen in scientific research dated back to the early 1980s and have only increased over the decades. But with each new study showing harm, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products, but to create its own science to show they were safe. The company often pushed its version of science into the public realm through ghostwritten work that was designed to appear independent and thus more credible. Evidence was also presented to jurors showing how closely the company had worked with Environmental Protection Agency officials to promote the safety message and suppress evidence of harm.

The ramifications, however, are much broader and have global implications. Another trial is set to take place in October in St Louis and roughly 4,000 plaintiffs have claims pending with the potential outcomes resulting in many more hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in damage awards…

This is a well-written and sourced essay (see the original for sources) and I really can’t understand why it isn’t top billing on all the news networks. Actually, I can, unhappily.

BHAF newsletter

Many of you will have had the BHAF newsletter a few days ago from the always excellent Mark Carroll. The following few paragraphs are perhaps particularly interesting…

Allotment Rents

We are trying to address the perennial thorny problem of allotment costs and allotment rents. As you are all aware, according to the Council its costs more to provide the service to us than we raise in allotment rent. There is a deficit which we have been trying to reduce. Allotments in the City in general will be in a much safer position if they are cost neutral to the Council.

Whenever we ask plotholders the question about the amount of rent they pay we are presented with two opposing views. Some plotholders tell us that they already struggle to pay the fee each autumn, and any increase along with the other costs of compost, tools and seeds could possibly make them give up their allotment. They point out that allotments were intended for people on low wages and should be kept as cheap as possible.

We also have other people telling us that allotments are unbelievably cheap  and that they would gladly pay double! Allotmenteers these days come from a much wider spectrum of society than they have historically. We have plot holders who work on the minimum wage and on zero hours contracts and we also have allotmenteers who are doctors and lawyers earning substantially more, but they all pay the same rent.

While it is impossible to ‘means test’ people to work out their allotment rent, we feel that people who would ‘gladly pay double’ should perhaps consider making voluntary over payments in order to keep allotments affordable for all sections of society. To this end, and after consulting Site Reps on the idea, we have approached the Council and asked them to look at a payment system that would allow people on higher wages to voluntarily over pay their allotment rent. The amount would be ring fenced to the allotment service and would not disappear into wider Council coffers! Some people are sceptical that many people would overpay, however I am optimistic and I think we should at the very least test it and see what happens.

A preliminary look shows that if just 15% of tenants voluntarily overpaid by £40 a year it would raise around an extra £15,000! Together with our water savings, improved letting rates and the money raised from the waiting list payments, it’s possible that we could see the deficit shrink to almost nothing or even disappear.

Mark always has interesting ideas, and it’d be nice if this one flew…

A day on the streets with the urban forager

Saw this article by Nosheen Iqbal in the Guardian this week and thought it might interest some of you. I think it’s probably strictly for people who know what they’re doing, esp when it comes to things like ragwort. Even Topham has poisoned himself twice. Be careful!



“Smell this!” Chef and wild food enthusiast Nurdin Topham is inhaling a lungful of shrub called pineappleweed, picked fresh from a stretch of east London formerly known as Murder Mile. He hands me a couple of yellow buds with an instruction to sniff; sweet fruitiness floats under my nose. Topham takes a chew. I gamely follow suit. The clue, it seems, is in the name: we’re eating what vaguely tastes like pineapple and feels a lot like chewing grass. “This is food,” he explains, as we ramble on, to forage for a lunch he will be cooking later.

The future of food and our relationship with nature is at the core of Topham’s philosophy for what he calls “nourishing gastronomy”, a subject he will deliver a lecture on this week at FutureFest in London. He has two decades of experience in the field, first as a qualified nutritionist and personal development chef for Raymond Blanc, and later as head of NUR, his own Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong.

“Wild food is about connecting to our ancestors and to the earth we’re living on,” he says, as we tramp past the early morning joggers and dogwalkers of the local park. “It’s a struggle living in the city – I long for a more outdoors life – but picking food in an urban setting helps.”

Although he was born in London, Topham grew up, I’m not surprised to learn, surrounded by rolling fields, forests and orchards in the Brecon Beacons. His father, Anthony “Top” Topham, who was the lead guitarist in 1960s band the Yardbirds before Eric Clapton joined, converted to Islam and moved his young family to the good life, where they had a Muslim upbringing, grew their own food and made their own jams.

Nurdin’s first wild food experiment was with nettle soup, made outdoors in the dark with his best friend, aged around eight or nine, and hastily gulped down. “We proudly took it indoors to show our parents – under the light we discovered it was crawling with caterpillars.”

Since then, he has managed to poison himself twice but also to establish himself as an authority on cooking more closely with nature. “I wouldn’t force foraging down anyone’s throat,” he says, by way of joyful apology.

Continue reading at https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/30/urban-forager-nurdin-topham-wild-food-plants-herbs

Tubers of Oca

Elizabeth writes:

Some of us have tubers of Oca, thanks to this year’s seedling swap. I have found a useful website, see below, explaining how to grow these but the key points seems to be:

  1. Do not harvest the underground tubers until the last remnants of foliage has become frosted and died off from late November and into December.
  2. Each tuber makes quite a bushy plant so allow at least 90cm (36″) between plants


Good luck!