A course that aims to upskill farmers to assist people with disabilities on their farm has been launched by University College Cork (UCC).

UCC’s Adult Continuing Education and Applied Social Science departments in conjunction with the Skellig Centre for Research and Innovation have come together to offer a certificate in Practice Support in Social Farming.

The one-year programme will provide students with the skills to work with people with disabilities both on social farms and in a community setting.

Commenting on the course, Belinda Gascoigne, manager of the Skellig Centre for Research and Innovation, said: “We listened to the farming community and they wanted a course that gives them the confidence to work with people with disabilities.

We are half-way through our first course and it is inspiring to see the interest and community being grown around social farming in Ireland.

For the past three years, Kerry farmer Breda O’Connor has been participating in social farming alongside Breda O’Sullivan.

Host farmers Pat and Breda O’Sullivan from Shronaree, the Bridia Valley, Glencar, with Social Farming participant Breda O’Connor. Image source: Valerie O’Sullivan

Every week for the past three years Breda travels to the farm in Kerry and spends time with the O’Connor family and the animals on the farm.

Speaking at the launch, Breda O’Sullivan said: “Rural Ireland has been getting lonelier and lonelier and as one thing after another closes, social farming has drawn our community together.

Breda has become part of our family and you just have to look at the scrapbook she keeps of her visit here to see how much it means to her.

“Every week I participate in UCC’s new course and it has helped build my confidence and understanding.”

The course was officially launched by the Minister for State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin.

Image source: Valerie O’Sullivan

Social Farming Ireland has grown out of a cross-border project in which farmers from six counties in the Republic of Ireland trained with farmers in six counties in Northern Ireland to become social farmers.

Social Farming has seen growth across Ireland and it currently operates on farms in counties: Kerry; Tipperary; Carlow; Kilkenny; and Waterford.