Women’s group gathering to focus on social farming

Social farming will be the topic for discussion at the next meeting of the South East Women in Farming which will be held in the Woodland Dolmen Hotel, Carlow, on Tuesday, May 22, at 7:30pm.

Paul Kidd, social farming development officer with Waterford Leader Partnership, will explain what social farming entails.

Two farmers who have already signed up to the initiative, Simone Webb and Renata Anukuaite, will share their experiences.

The current programme in the south-east is underway since January 2017. Last year 44 people from various services – including intellectual disability and mental health facilities – participated in social farming in the region.

Social farming is the practice of offering activity on working family farms as a form of social support.

The farm is not a specialised treatment farm but 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.

Participation has been found to provide people who use health and social services with the opportunity for improved community connections, increased self-esteem and improved health and well-being.

It provides participants with the opportunity to do ‘ordinary things in ordinary places’.

“There is a rural development benefit, but the real impact is on the participants. The feedback from parents of participants has been very positive. The change for participants in some cases, has been incredible,” said Paul.

He said that eight farmers are fully commissioned as social farmers in the south-east at present, with 22 having attended training in 2018.

“We have linked up with the HSE to deliver healthy eating seminars for the social farmers which give the farmers the narrative to develop conversations with participants around healthy eating and physical activity.”

South East Women in Farming group co-founder Lorna Sixsmith said: “We’ve recently seen Agri Aware work with farmers to provide open farm days so non-farmers can learn more about where their food comes from.

Social farming benefits so many within the community as well as the farmers themselves. We’re looking forward to finding out more on the night of the meeting, particularly from the two farmers already involved.

Meanwhile, social farming will also be the focus at a gathering in the Clayton Hotel, Galway, on Tuesday, May 29, from 10:00am to 1:00pm.

The event will hear insights and learning from service providers, participants and farmers who are already engaged in the programme across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. It will also disseminate the results of research undertaken in 2017 across the country.

Upcoming events

Other upcoming events in SE Women in Farming will include a visit the visual arts centre in Carlow on June 21 to view the ‘Encountering the Land’ exhibition.

There will also be a talk by Annette Fox of the Carlow Development Plan on proposed collaborative projects.

June will also see ‘Twitter for beginners’ training which aims to alleviate isolation, encourage networking and provide women with social media skills to publicise their own businesses as well as to ‘agvocate’ or actively support agricultural issues.