The allotment gardens of Europe always interested me and I find it incredible that many have been farmed by the same person/family for decades. They have small sheds any will spend the whole day at their allotment cooking lunch and enjoying their time outside.
I'm thinking about offering raised beds for rent but with additional communal benefits. The beds would be 3'x12'x8" with the 12' running east-west, this would take about a yard of material to fill. Between each bed on the long side would be a 3' path covered in wood chips and on the short side would be a path 6' wide so a trailer and small tractor could go down it (think delivering mulch or compost). The north side of each bed would have trellis for climbing plants.
As part of your yearly rental you would get access to tools, water and included would be seeds/starts. A person gardening at this scale doesn't need a whole pack of seeds unless it is something like lettuce. Seeds could be saved for the price of a little labor or bought in bulk at a significant savings. With a soil cube press and a small hoop house starts could also be created for very little cost, all of which raises the value to the person renting the plot for the beginning gardener. For the advanced gardener just having access to the soil cube press and seeds bought in bulk will be an advantage. Further I would entice an experienced gardener (either with $$ or a free plot) to help the beginners so everyone will have a high chance of success. Of course you would have the option to get the same bed year after year.
Additionally those that rent plots would get a share of some perennial items planted around the edges of the garden area, things like fruittrees, rhubarb maybe some berries. Further there would be a flock of chickens to consume any waste and there would be an option to get eggs every week. Also I'm thinking a small pavilion for shade with a couple of picnic tables, a grill and a washing station. The one problem I have to solve is bathroom facilities. Aside from a tree in the woods I could do a porta-john, but that creates a monthly expense. I doubt I can do an outhouse due to the area I live and various departments of making you sad, maybe a composting toilet.
I'm wondering what I could get for rent for one of these plots? Considering the value adds (fruit, nuts, seeds/plants included, park like area to relax) I wonder if I could get $200/year? Maybe more? There are plenty of apartments withing 10 miles plus other rentals, so that is the group I am targeting. This is more than just a plot in a city park, there is support provided to you and a sense of permanence.
When I was renting my house I think I seriously would have considered paying 200 a year for such a service although there are community gardens here offering pretty much the same service. There is a really nice one downtown here. I don't know if it costs money here for the community garden and they don't have chickens. Some have a green house for seed starting and some don't and many have long waiting lists which is why I never joined one.
A good way to get your charge right is to call up local community gardens, and ask how much they charge and how long the wait list is. In my area all community gardens are around 50-100 a year with long wait lists. Plus a downside is the only cater to the summer growing crowd, as they are only open to garden from April-october.
My friend pays $65 a year for this 1200 sq ft plot. That's less than the tax on this much land. It includes water and the city dumps loads of leaves and grass clippings. A few people have lawn chairs, a table for tea etc.
This is on the edge of the city. Closer to the core, little 150-250 sq ft plots can cost $50 per year. These things are subsidized around here. A decent building lot is worth $400,000.00 It would never make economic sense to buy land for the purpose. Most allotments belong to government and to developers who have no immediate use for the land. Garden societies agree to keep it clean until it is needed. One 15 year old garden is closing, to make way for a building. There has been talk of moving them to a much bigger place a few blocks away.
You'll meet lots of nice people and many will over produce certain items. This leads to lots of swapping and giving. Several people at the garden have given us things. I wild harvest hundreds of pounds of apples. Some will go to fellow gardeners. We've given away lettuce and cucumbers that grow like weeds.
You need clear contracts that state what can and can't be done. Make it clear that things happen one year at a time and they aren't establishing any rights into the future. Some will grow a nice garden and some will fail completely, in my experience.
Our community garden runs from May until the middle of October.
A plot is 20'x20' and it costs $25.00 for the season
If you are a returning gardener, you get first dibs on your old plot.
It's fenced to protect from deer and drunken nightlife.
It has an underground sprinkler system provided by the town that waters twice a week.
There are manual taps and hoses as well.
There is a small shed with tools, stakes, twine, and some seeds. We also have a barbeque.
There are sidewalk blocks laid down for a community area with a couple picnic benches.
This area is used for the odd weekend workshop.
There are also compost bins.
They till every fall. There is no option for no till on your plot.
It's a great deal if you ignore some of the bugs still being worked out among the garden community.
My advice is make sure you have a trial year for anyone joining.
Many people think they would love to garden and then realize it's work.
They don't weed and they don't take care of their plots or tools.
You don't want that.
Also be clear about things like watering (like no sprinklers/hoses left on and unattended to be forgotten), weeding, mulching, how to use the compost bins and so on.
A few rules at the start can make things go a lot smoother.