Transcript of Expert Podcast
The UK podcast interviews Dr Aoibeann Walsh, Head of Social Farming and Innovation from Rural Support based in Northern Ireland. Social Farming began in Northern Ireland in 2012 through a cross-border project and from 2015 the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland funded a Social Farming Support Service managed by Rural Support. Social Farming in Northern Ireland is defined as an innovative use of agriculture to promote therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education, and social services in rural areas. There are currently 15 active Social Farms in Northern Ireland, with more in development. The Social Farming Support Service provides farmers with training and preparation for delivery, including safeguarding, First Aid, police checks, and support in getting and managing referrals. To date the main service user groups have been learning disability and mental health recovery, with work in smaller numbers with brain injury, refugees and asylum seekers, and early on-set dementia. The hope for the future is to expand into more service user groups and to make Social Farming an opportunity for anyone who is interested.
The farms and farmers delivering Social Farming are all unique and offer their land, experience, and expertise in different ways. All of the farms are working family farms. The farmers want to use their farm for social good, and in return receive payment for their time and resources which helps towards sustaining the farm.
Social Farming is based on core values – a person-centered service, a place for all, and a safe environment. These values are upheld by each farm and how they deliver Social Farming. The values and quality of service delivered by farmers are demonstrated and recognised through the Social Farming Standards awarded by Rural Support.
If anyone is interested in delivering Social Farming, they can complete an Expression of Interest form on the Rural Support website or contact the Social Farming Support Service directly. The hope for the future of Social Farming in the future is to increase the number of farms delivering and giving all individuals who could benefit from the engagement the opportunity to do so. Also, to have Social Farming recognised widely and supported more broadly.