Care farming as therapy and respite
There are approximately 250 established care farms in the UK and more in development. Through a mixture of commercial farms, charitable organisation and non-profits, care farming delivers multiple benefits to those who run them and those who work on them.
No one can argue against the therapeutic benefits of getting back to nature and participating in agricultural and livestock management. Care farming is beneficial to a broad range of demographics, such as psychiatric patients, people with moderate to mild mental health issues, recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, those suffering with dementia, and people experiencing stress or ill-health through work.
Owner occupiers, tenants, participants in existing agricultural concerns, and recipients of gifted land have been running care farms throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland since 1960. Care farming has been transforming lives and connecting people through specialist education in both rural and urban settings following a movement to allow members of society to become invested in working on a piece of land. The first community garden was established in Kentish Town, London, in 1972.
Care farming has been categorised as a type of ‘green care’, promoting nature-based health improvements within a community setting, and also structured therapy and rehabilitation. The community element to care farming is a key feature of its essential appeal. No only does it provide opportunity create and nurture food crops and tend to animals, it provides a setting for human interaction and assists participants in learning how to rebuild relationships based on a mutually satisfying and beneficial activity.
One such care farm that I have had personal involvement with, as a volunteer, is Clinks Care Farm at Toft Monks in Norfolk. Run by Doeke Dobma and Iris Van Zon, Clinks Care Farm is part of Social Farms and Gardens. Established nearly 10 years ago, the 143 acre farm has adopted a health and social model from Norway and the Netherlands whereby local GPs refer patients as part of their therapy. After participating in the programme patients have returned to work or gone on to adult education, or volunteered their time working with other adults undergoing therapy or carried out work experience to help them gain employment.
Clinks has also opened its programme to refugees, many of whom are from rural backgrounds. Working on the farm reminds them of home and provides a rewarding alternative to the struggles of being a refugee and also a sharp contrast to the harrowing experiences undergone by many prior to leaving their home country.
Whomever care farming benefits, working as part of a team and seeing the results literally growing before your eyes or animals living fit and well, is something people can share no matter what background they are from.
For more information about care farming, see Care farming UK
Image: Care Farming UK