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“There is nothing like knowing where the food on your plate has come from, because you grew it yourself”


This summer, James Townsend, Head of Digital Channels, and his family will enjoy their summer evenings and weekends at their allotment, growing their own fruit, vegetables and wild flowers.

Over the last ten years, James Townsend, Head of Digital Channels at ÅF and Pöyry, and his family have cultivated their allotment: 250 square meters of common land in a village 70 km west of London. This year they will enjoy summer evenings and weekends at the allotment, growing their own fruits, vegetables and wild flowers.

“When our daughters were born some 11 years ago (yes, identical twins!), we had a vision of them plucking that first ripe, juicy tomato, straight from the vine that they had planted, tended to and harvested”, James says.

By encouraging their daughters to be part of the processJames and his wife wanted them to get connected to nature, respectful of the environment, to know where food comes from and, more importantly, to enjoy that moment when your hard work bears fruit, literally!

“An added benefit is the community aspect – a haven for them to explore, hunt for minibeasts and play with their friends. It’s quite nice for the ‘big kids’ too, sitting down in the setting sun on a friends’ allotment, cracking open a beer and celebrating a back-breaking day at the allotment!”, James says.

The land has to be taken care of even through the bleakest winter months. Even when everything is cold and wet, you still have to keep digging. Then, James says, you start questioning why you are doing it. But when summer arrives, it’s all worth it!

“Quenching your thirst with a blackcurrant cordial; a dollop of blueberry jam on your morning porridge; hot, buttered new potatoes that you lifted that afternoon; there is nothing quite like knowing where the food on your plate has come from, because you grew it yourself”, James says.

To grow your own fruits and vegetables, you don’t need an allotment or even a raised bed in your garden - a simple pot can yield succulent strawberries or sweet carrots. And the cultivation comes with lots of benefits.

“Besides the organic, locally sourced food and a sense of achievement, you are connected to nature, physically active and it’s good for mental well-being too. Truly a holistic therapy!”, James says.  

To cultivate 250 square meters of land also requires lots of water . But there are several ways to not waste our precious resource.

“On the allotment, water is pumped up from underground so it’s not using scarce, treated mains water. But you could also consider installing a ‘water butt’ to collect rain water or even use grey water, from washing machines and showers for example, on fruit trees or vegetables, so long as it does not make contact with the edible parts”, James says.

And everything doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’. Sometimes you should see the beauty and benefits in nature as it is.

“Us English, at least, seem to be obsessed with the perfectly mowed lawn but it’s great to see people making space for nature by keeping areas ‘wild’, planting indigenous wildflowers or sedum roofs on buildings that attract butterflies, bees and other insects.”

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