Social Farming is an innovative use of agriculture to promote therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education and social services in rural areas. Within Social Farming, the farm is not a specialised treatment farm; rather the farm remains a typical working farm where people in need of support can benefit from participation in the farm’s activities in a non-clinical environment.It also creates the opportunity to reconnect farmers with their local communities through the opening up of their farms as part of the social support system of the community.
The Social Farming Across Borders (SoFAB) project (2011 – 2014) promoted Social Farming as a viable option for achieving improved quality of life for people who use health and social services as well as farm families, through enhancing social inclusion and connecting farmers with their communities. The project was a cross border EU INTERREG IVA Programme funded initiative, which piloted Social Farming on 20 farms – 10 farms in Northern Ireland and 10 farms in the border counties of the Republic of Ireland. In total, 66 participants (people with learning disabilities and those recovering from a mental health issue) engaged with the project, with on average 3 participants supported on each farm. The project produced evidence of the benefits for participants (empowerment; inclusion; self-actualisation) and farmers (personal development; work environment; farm family).
Since SoFAB finished in 2014, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has provided support for the continued development of Social Farming in Northern Ireland through the appointment of a Social Farming Service Co-Ordinator within Rural Support (www.ruralsupport.org.uk). Through this role, Rural Support will further develop the network of providers and users and provide new opportunities for individuals to avail of and benefit from Social Farming activities.
If you would like to hear more about the development of Social Farming or to express an interest in delivering Social Farming services, please contact Aoibeann on [email protected], T: 028 86760040, M: 07736158983.