Excellent turnout for Social Farming Open Day

The Heslin family, from Co Leitrim,  opened their farm to around 70 visitors on Thursday 20th March.  The open day was an opportunity for visitors and the local community to experience the concept of Social Farming which Michael Siobhan and family piloted during 2013.

Their farm is one of 20 family farms in the Border Counties of Ireland and the six counties of Northern Ireland which has opened its gates to people who use health and social care services. The pilot social farms worked in partnership with their local health services (HSE and Rehabcare Ballinamore) in meeting the needs of people who wish to be more fully a part of the farming and rural life of the community in which they live.

The open day was attended by people from services as far away as Galway and from more local services in Counties Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Cavan, Fermanagh and Longford.  Leitrim Development Company who are a project partner and a supporter of the concept for many years were represented by Brian Smyth.  Farmer interest was also evident with John Brennan of Leitrim Organic Farmers in attendance.  The pilot project is part of the Social Farming Across Borders (SoFAB) initiative, funded by SEUPB Lead partners are the School; of Agriculture in UCD, with Queens’ University Belfast supporting the learning and research aspects. Other partners are, DARD N.I. and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government RoI.

On the day the family, participants, and neighbours were there to welcome visitors and demonstrate the activities of the project. These ranged from the hospitality of the family kitchen where tea, soup, scones and a traditional bacon and cabbage dinner were served with the assistance of local chef John Gerard (‘the wrangler’) Reynolds. The outdoor activities of the farming project range from animal husbandry with poultry, ponies and a Suckler herd of commercial Aubrac cattle. Michael has also established a kitchen garden in the last year and has involved the participants in many other activities from wood craft to fencing, farm maintenance and saving turf. Restoration of old horse drawn equipment and appreciation of the general outdoor and wildlife of the area including a unique are around an old ring fort on the farm have all been part of the experience.