A few years ago on my 39th birthday I got myself an allotment. It was a great birthday present and, if you're in the Tunbridge Wells area, Hawkenbury allotments still has plenty of plots spare.
The allotment is one of life's great pleasures; simple; (almost) free; great food; outdoors; in nature and doing something that makes you feel great. My wife often says it's fantastic to be producing rather than consuming (i.e. shopping) and I couldn't agree more.
There's a little secret about growing food that I think farmers probably keep quiet about, its not that difficult! The sun and rain do most of the hard work. Once you start, your relationship to not only the land, but the weather changes too; I find myself wishing for rain after a long dry spell.
There are definitely a few tricks you have to learn; I never throw cardboard or old carpet away now, it's simply the best at covering the land to suppress weeds; manure, not oil becomes black gold; and I tend to plant stuff that produces without much effort (e.g. soft fruit, potatoes, beetroot, leeks, onions). I also practice permaculture as much as possible, stuff like this...
This summer we've had more strawberries than our family of four can eat and also eaten fresh artichokes, potatoes, gooseberries, carrots, mint tea and beetroot in abundance. It's a delight to return with a rucksack full of food.
We're not self sufficient by a long way but we're getting a lot of food now and we know that its completely organic.
The great thing about an allotment (or growing your own) is how many healthy boxes you tick at once.
- Exercise... there's a great combination of aerobic and weightlifting (watering cans can be pretty heavy)
- Vitamin D. Sunshine is great for you, don't believe the scare about it being causing cancer! There's a reason why 'tan' and 'healthy' go together. Just like plants we need the sun and our 'house, car, office, car, house' lifestyle just doesn't give us enough.
- Food. Modern (industrial) food is de-vital-ised. Start growing your own and you realise it. WIth GYO you need to eat less because its more concentrated, it tastes better and its not laced with sterilising and cancer causing chemicals.
- Money. You save a bomb! You can cancel that gym subscription.; you can cut those trips to the supermarket; you no longer need to pay for spa's to 'relax'; all-in-all you pay less tax too. Growing your own saves you money, and being richer makes you healthier (so long as you don't behave like a columbian drug lord)
- Environment and social fabric. Growing your own pulls you back into the real fabric of our world, connects you to the earth and your local community.
So what has this got to do with being fat? Surely more food will make you fatter?!
No! A lot of obesity in the country is not simply from over-eating. Yes, people eat too much but I think it's because the food they eat is so devitalised, so stripped of its nutrients by modern farming and processing, that people still CRAVE more. Their bodies are crying out for nutrition and so they eat more.
But! The food they eat is full of empty calories; fat, sugar, and protein that lack the trace elements and minerals that only slow-grown food will absorb.
We have hundreds of members on the allotment and there is one interesting character they share - none of them are overweight.