The Devon capital intrigued a group of students from the United States so much they hopped on a plane and flew over here to find out more.
The 20 students from Arizona State University (ASU) have just wrapped up a short stay in Exeter, interviewing allotment holders as part of a study abroad course supported the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU. In the few days they have been here, they have carried out some 200 surveys.
They want to compare and contrast allotments and community gardens around the world and have carried out the same exercise in Denmark as well as back home in the dusty desert state of Arizona, where rains come less frequently than here in Devon. The course is called 'Building Community Resilience through Sustainability Planning'.
The group have also been looking at sustainable food projects in the city such as Love Local Food and Exeter Food Action.
According to Dr Jennifer Hodbod, a Walton Fellow and Assistant Research Professor in ASU's School of Sustainability, Exeter's high density of allotments made research ideal for the project.
"I think it’s a credit to Exeter and the City Council that they’ve re-invigorated the allotments program even during a period of such austerity measures.
"We know that interest in growing your own food is increasing in the developed world. The public is motivated by benefits from both a food quality and safety perspective.
Co-leader of the trip, Dr. Scott Cloutier, an Assistant Professor in the School of Sustainability, said: “Our research is supporting some of our initial hypotheses that urban agriculture promotes a connection to nature, and enhances biodiversity, wellbeing and happiness. Our students have gained valuable experience as researchers and ideas to take back home to the US during their time in Exeter and the city. Allotment Associations and participants have been incredibly welcoming.”
Cllr Rob Hannaford, Lead Councillor for Health and Place, said he was proud of Exeter's recent track record in delivering allotments in the city. He said he was delighted to have the group of students carrying out their research in Exeter.
"I'd like to welcome the students to Exeter. It's heartening that they see us a good example. In the last year, with improved working practices and better management in partnership with the Allotment Forum, we've managed to drastically reduce the number of people on our allotment waiting list from 804 last summer to just 131 in February!"
The reduction has been due to a quicker turnaround of vacant sites and the dividing up of plots to make them more manageable for first-time growers.
The City Council has a total of 1,550 plots spread over 26 sites across Exeter. In certain parts of the city, particularly west of the River Exe in Alphington, Exwick and St Thomas, waiting lists are down to just one or two names. People are invited to put their names down for these sites and others across the city.
For more information on allotments in Exeter or to apply for allotment go to www.exeter.gov.uk/allotments
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