Department announces over €700,000 in support of social farming

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has announced that it will provide over €700,000 for social farming projects under the Rural Innovation and Development Fund in 2020.

Projects will receive funding to “promote and develop social farming projects in rural areas”.

Social farming is the practice of offering, on a voluntary basis, farming and horticultural participation as a choice to people who avail of a range of therapeutic day support services.

Following a “competitive public procurement procedure” for a social farming network, a contract has been awarded to Leitrim Integrated Development Company CLG to continue to develop the national social farming network, Social Farming Ireland, with funding of €400,000.

In addition to the Social Farming Network, contracts have been extended for a period of one year with associated funding of almost €360,000 for: the South Kerry Development Partnership for the ‘Kerry Social Farming Project’; Leitrim Development Company for development of a ‘Social Farming Best Practice Model’; and Down Syndrome Ireland Cork Branch for the ‘Field of Dreams’ project.

Social Farming has ‘grown rapidly’

According to the department, from a low base predominately in the border counties of the Republic of Ireland, social farming has “grown rapidly” in the last two years.

The farms used for social farming are not specialised treatment farms; rather it remains a typical working farm where people “in need of support can build relationships and take part in day-to-day farm activities in a non-clinical environment and can be used as a form of social support”.

Social Farming Ireland is expanding to include sectors such as youth, education, homelessness services, services for refugees and eldercare services.