A recent report shows the value of care farming both to the community and the farms that provide it. It was produced by Robin Asquith, a young and energetic farm manager at Botton Farm in Yorkshire, who recently completed a three month overseas study tour, as part of a Nuffield scholarship, to investigate the role UK agriculture can play in the delivery of social care and mental health provision through care farms.
He found care farms (often called social farms) in Europe and North America using agriculture and horticulture activities as a means of delivering support for people’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as building learning, self-confidence and wider social skills which were addressing issues of social inclusion and cohesion. Robin’s report highlights the contribution care farms can make by offering places for people who don’t want to be inside, but need that little bit of help and support to get back on track with life; or in the case of dementia, provide safe meaningful care in the latter stages of life. In a society which is increasingly detached from food production, Robin believes care farming can also play an important role in helping to reconnect consumers and producers.
Robin argues there is a strong economic case for care farms. He believes that they not only offer alterative income streams for the farm business, but they also support the wider rural economy creating additional jobs such as those related to transport, support worker roles and support services and can improve job prospects particularly for younger people.
His report makes three key recommendations:
• increase awareness of the green care sector, including care farms, so more people can benefit
• highlight the benefits and outcomes of attending care farms
• share evidence of the socio-economic benefits that care farms bring to rural communities
Currently 240 care farms in the UK provide places for 8,400 people per week or over 330,000 people per year. Care Farming UK has an ambition to triple the number of care farm places in the next three years through supporting the set-up of new care farms, maximising places on existing farms and developing a credible quality assurance scheme for commissioners and users. This ambition has been recognised and is supported in the recently announced 25 Year Environment Plan with funding from the Department for Education.
Expanding care farming could provide valuable health and wellbeing benefits to service users, engage more people in agriculture, and create income diversification independent of farm prices and the weather, whilst retaining and developing rural skills, local employment and associated services. You can see Robin’s report and a short video here.