What does harvest festival mean to you?

Three people intimately involved in the world of allotments share their views:

First, Crispin Kirkpatrick – allotment officer.

What does Harvest Festival mean to you (in terms of being an allotment holder)?

I'm not an allotment holder..... although I hold a lot of allotments (about 2500).

What's your favourite autumn/winter crop?

Fave winter/autumn crop gotta be apples, sweet chestnuts (my countryside roots coming out) and maybe curly kale. Thinking about it, one could probably live solely off the above for ages. It’s been an odd year for plot holders- never going to get one that's good for everything. There are great plans afoot for allotments … watch this space- can't give any more clues, but could be exciting!

Second, poet and allotment holder Ellen de Vries who says she has a love-hate relationship with her allotment. She's written several poems set there, on the valley side at the edge of Brighton. The poems 'Longitude, Latitude' and 'The problem with imagination' can be found in her recently published collection 'Girl in the air' (Pighog Press) illustrated by Patrice LeGarrec. Visit her website at www.ellendevries.org or get the collection from Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/3dlqbn).

What does Harvest Festival mean to you (in terms of being an allotment holder)?

I'm not especially religious. I don't hang out with religious people, but I don't like to think of myself as aethiest either. Last year I went to church with a friend who wanted to restore his faith in God and it happened to be the harvest festival. My allotment harvest hadn't been too bad, for a first year. A few knobbly turnips, some tiny, partially munched spinach leaves, quite a few stumpy carrots. I was glowing with pride. I did realise however, that our soil probably needed more 'feeding' as everything we harvested was like a miniature version of the vegetable it should have been.

So there we were, in church, and along came the parade, all God's sons and daughters bearing the fruits of the harvest: Tesco baked beans, Pasta from ASDA, Sainsbury's value flour. Upon arrival at the pulpit the priest asked the kids '...and what do we make bread with?' and the kids were stumped.

So it seemed that I'd missed the point. I was wanting to celebrate the joy of germination. In a basic way, I kind of hoped God, or mother nature, or whatever, might see reason to give us another year based on my devout praise and thankfulness for the beauty of growth, and the joy of plucking my little miracles from the soil.

I felt like I'd come to the wrong party. Though I guess we were all still being thankful for abundance, despite it being non-organic highly corporate supermarket produce.

How was your harvest this year?

I don't know if it’s because the communication lines with 'God' have gone down, but this year has been a dreadful year for crops. In April the soil was parched, in June and July the Size 12 slugs (shoe size) munched their way through the lot, and then there was the Blight. I did everything I could, I fed the soil with everything I could think of. Dung, old fruit, toenail clippings, leaf-mould, anything... At harvest time I only got a few semi rotten potatoes, some partially munched strawberries and four blighted tomatoes.

Perhaps allotments aren't high on God's agenda anymore now that church services concentrate on big-chain supermarket farmed produce.

Not sure what to do about the allotment now. Time to start again and hope for the best next year. I'd like to post a quiet little non-ceremonial 'thanks for the bits, God' in his comments box for when he gets round to it. Just in case it could influence the weather next year.

Finally, Andrew Faulkner, Chair of the Allotment Association:

What does Harvest Festival mean to you (in terms of being an allotment holder)?

The Catholic Church doesn’t have a Harvest Festival service but it means the fruits of the season to me. I see myself as working in partnership with God in the garden.

How was your harvest this year?

Excellent – the fruits, especially apples and soft fruits, were fantastic and I’ve had a bumper crop of potatoes.

What is your favourite autumn/winter crop?

The apples from my Bramley and Cox trees. My friend Flo makes me apple pies through the winter, from apples she stores in cool, north-facing room and that’s one the things harvest suggests to me!

Harvest festival photograph from Bert Hay's allotment!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, October 4, 2007


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