Care farming combines care and meaningful work in the supportive natural environment of farms, woodlands and market gardens for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Care farming provides a healthy daily structure for the participant ‘farm helpers’, building confidence and supporting people to develop their social and practical skills.
Interest in care farming comes from a wide and growing range of people. From people and families who would benefit, health and social care professionals seeking ways that people can choose to improve their lives, Government departments searching for how changes in policy can provide better services and still meet their budgets, land based projects interested in new ways of working through to Universities looking for innovation in their social care, land use and sustainability programmes.
According to research conducted by University of Essex, people who attend care farms often report significant improvements to their health and well being. For many, care farming provides the central structure to support their recovery. Care farms achieve this by offering opportunities to connect with meaningful activities, training, caring people and the supportive natural environment. The practical nature of farm work improves physical fitness and encourages healthy sleeping patterns.
Few environments provide the breadth of new opportunities that a farm can. For example, people may get involved as part of small teams looking after horses, pigs or chickens, planting and tending crops, helping in the farm shop and office or learning mechanics on a farm tractor. Care farming provides an innovative pathway that allows people the chance to grow from the foundations of confidence building and daily structure through skills development and where possible, into voluntary work and paid employment. The pace of progress is different for different people.
People who attend care farms can come from a variety of backgrounds. Some may need some support to recover from mental health problems, some may be homeless or ex-services, some will have a learning or physical disability, some will be older people, others will benefit from care and structure to overcome substance misuse and some will be excluded or at risk of exclusion from school. Some farms provide opportunities for specific groups and some farms for a wider mix of people.
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