Duhallow Social Farming

Duhallow Social Farming

Nora, Louise and Martin (social farming participants) with host famers Peggy and Aoife Lynch.

IRD Duhallow’s Social Farming Project is a voluntary, locally led, community-based initiative supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

What is Social Farming?

Social farming provides opportunities for people with additional needs to experience day-to-day life on a working farm. It is a voluntary programme led by people in the community who want to give back and donate their time to those who wish to participate. We believe the voluntary model enables the development of real working relationships and friendships. It is a person centred approach which aims to match participants with suitable host farms based on their personal interests, goals and desires. Social farming focuses on an individuals abilities and possibilities rather than limitations. It supports people with additional needs and enables them to become more involved in their communities, develop valuable skills and extend their social circle. It provides farmers with the opportunity to give back to their community, to support and enable others to grow and develop and to form bonds and lifelong friendships with members of the community.  Social Farming increases both participant and farmer’s self-esteem, it aids health and well-being and improves community connections and relationships. The farm is not a specialised treatment farm; it remains a typical working farm where people in need of support can benefit from relationship building through farm activities in a non-clinical environment.

Martin sowing some beautiful flowers.

About Us

Duhallow Social Farming was established in the summer of 2021. The programme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We have made significant progress with the programme to date and have engaged with 10 host farms and 27 participants.

How It Works

The voluntary model of social farming enables us to engage with individuals who are genuinely interested in supporting others as farmers are not paid for their time. Volunteers, however are never left out of pocket for their efforts as safety adjustments as well as additional insurance costs on the farm are covered through the programme. Typically, a participant will visit the farm one day per week for an average of 3-5 hours and engage in day-to-day activities on the farm. This could consist of feeding animals, cleaning and maintenance on the farm, helping with milking cows, collecting eggs, and planting and taking care of vegetables. Of course, the most important part of the day is the cup of tea before home!

What You Need

  • Any size farm; husbandry, poultry or horticulture
  • A desire to give back and support others
  • A commitment of time (one day per week, 3-5 hours)
  • Kindness, patience and empathy.
Host farmer Aoife Lynch and Nora feeding the goats.

The Process – Farmers

  • Expression of Interest
  • Initial visit/ Application Form
  • Farm Safety Inspection
  • Garda Vetting
  • Matching with Participant
  • Meet the Participant
  • Trial Period
  • Continuous Review

The Process – Participants

  • Expression of Interest
  • Initial Meeting/ Application Form
  • Matching with Suitable Farmer
  • Meeting the Farmer
  • Trial Period
  • Continuous Review

Health & Safety

All host farms undergo a health and safety inspection using the HSA approved Farm Safety Code of Practice Risk Assessment document before any social farming commences.

Host farmers are also Garda vetted by Duhallow Social Farming or the participants service provider.

Participants will never use dangerous machinery such as chainsaws etc.

Farmers will have amendments made on their insurance policy to facilitate social farming, the costs of which will be covered by Duhallow Social Farming.


Training is provided through Duhallow Social Farming for First Aid, Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults and FARCURA Social Farming Training.

Benefits For Participants

  • Useful training, education and development of new skills.
  • Physical health benefits, increased activity outdoors in the fresh air.
  • Improved wellbeing, confidence and independence, new experiences and challenges.
  • Making friends, extending social circles and taking part in teamwork.
IRD Duhallow’s STRIVE group digging potatoes in the kitchen garden

Benefits For Farmers

  • Improved work environment – help, company and teamwork.
  • Farm improvements e.g., health and safety.
  • Sense of satisfaction from giving back and making a difference in the community.
  • Increased connections in the community through other host farmers, service providers and supports within IRD Duhallow.
  • Training in First Aid and Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults.

Our Farms

James O’Keeffe Institute

We have established a social farm on the grounds of the James O’Keeffe Institute here in IRD Duhallow. We are very fortunate to have ample space for polytunnels, a kitchen garden and a therapeutic garden on site. The participants have been highly involved in the planting, care of and harvesting of vegetables in the gardens and have experienced the enjoyment and satisfaction of consuming their own produce. They report that they enjoy the fresh air and being out in nature, spending time with their friends and the individual activities such as digging potatoes or carrots.

Louise petting the ponies at the Lynch farm

The Lynch Farm, Ballingeary

Michael & Peggy Lynch have a suckler farm in Ballingeary. They have four daughters: Caitriona, Roisin, Aoife and Aisling. Catriona is a nurse, Roisin is a healthcare worker, Aoife is a beauty therapist and Aisling is in secondary school. Michael drives the local school bus and sells timber. They also keep goats, ponies and dogs on the farm.

The Lynch family have three participants from COPE foundation Cork on their farm: Louise Hogan, Martin Condon and Nora McCarthy. They go to the farm every Thursday, they usually arrive at 11am, have a cup of coffee and a chat and then spend some time on the farm feeding the goats, petting the dogs, feeding silage to the cows and naming the calves. During the rainy days they bake cakes and pot plants in the garden room. They also enjoy dancing and playing music on Peggy’s banjo and bodhrán. Both the farm family and the participants look forward to their weekly visit and this placement has proved to be a great success. The participant’s time on the Lynch farm is entirely person-centred as the first thing Peggy asks them every week is what they would like to do on that day.

Shauna and Caroline digging vegetables at the James O’Keeffe Institute

“My husband Michael and I wanted to do something to help people in need. We discovered IRD Duhallow were doing this social farming programme and I knew in my heart straight away this was the perfect opportunity for us. We contacted IRD Duhallow and now have three participants from COPE foundation coming to our farm and we absolutely love them. They’ve become part of our family, part of our week and part of our lives. We love seeing their smiles and hearing their jokes and laughter. It’s in giving you receive, and I would highly recommend social farming to everyone”. ~ Peggy Lynch, host farmer.

The Jarvey Farm, Kanturk

Kate Jarvey and her husband Frank own Monymusk stud and work with mares and foals, young national hunt and sport horse stock. Kate has a wealth of experience working with people with disabilities and is the founder of the Crann Centre Ltd, in Ballincollig, County Cork. She has developed a wheelchair friendly conservation area at her farm, which has beautiful wildflowers, a pond and a willow maize.

IRD Duhallow’s STRIVE participant, Kevin O’Connor spent time on this farm helping out with the maintenance of the conservation area, painting fences and caring for some of the horses. He was matched with Kate because of his love of horses and nature. He commented that he enjoys “the craic and meeting new people. I like painting and working outdoors on a fine day. I like the pony and looking at the results of my work”.


The Keane Farm, Dromtariffe

Nora and Donie Keane have a short-horn suckler herd in Dromtarriffe. They have a beautiful kitchen garden with a polytunnel to grow fruits and vegetables. They have some hens and a puppy called Patch. The farm is wheelchair accessible. Nora is a yoga instructor and has worked with St Joseph’s foundation and the Irish Red Cross.

Participant Richard from Marina House in Rathmore is visiting the Keane farm and is enjoying feeding the cows, collecting the hens eggs and going for walks around the farm.

The Kelly Farm, Bweeng

Sean Kelly has a beef and sheep enterprise at his farm in Bweeng. At his home in the heart of the village, Sean has free range hens and a great vegetable patch for homegrown produce.  Sean was keen to get involved with the social farming programme when he read the feature in the Discover Duhallow magazine. He often takes his grandchildren out to show them the animals and teach them about where their food comes from and how it is produced, and Sean was keen to pass on these skills to someone else. He is a lovely man who is very involved in the community, so will have plenty of activities for a participant to get involved in!

The Linehan Farm, Millstreet

Nora cuddling the puppy at the Lynch farm

Nora and Billy Linehan live on a dairy and suckler farm in Millstreet. They keep hens, ducks, dogs and cats and they also have a polytunnel in their garden. Billy is a full-time farmer while Nora is retired from the HSE where she worked as a clerical officer. She is now farming part time and babysitting occasionally. They have two children Denise and Kevin. Denise is a social worker and worked with the COPE foundation in Cork for three years. Kevin is a PHD student in Teagasc. They are a warm and inviting family and would like to help others.

The White Farm, Millstreet

Kathleen White has an Alpaca farm in Millstreet where she lives with her husband, Ger who is an engineer and their two “gorgeous, if sometimes mischievous” children Teagan (10) and Riley (7). Kathleen is in the process of starting a business where the Alpacas will be used as a therapeutic tool visiting residential settings and individuals. Kathleen got involved with social farming as she wanted to do some good in her community and starting such a business has opened her eyes to the potential benefits of working with animals and nature.

The Martin Farm, Newmarket

Natalie Martin owns a small farm holding in Taur, near Newmarket. Natalie and her husband moved to Ireland four years ago. She has a wide variety of animals on her farm, including two donkeys, soay sheep, milking goats, pigs, hens, geese and four pet dogs. Natalie previously worked in social care in the UK and has seen the benefits of inclusion programmes for people with disabilities. Natalie is passionate about nature and animals and would love to share the skills she has built up over the years.



Kevin painting a fence at Kate Jarvey’s farm

Want more information?

If you want more information or are interested in getting involved with social farming, please contact our social farming facilitator, Sandra Jones at sandra.jones@irdduhallow.com or call 029-60633.

Duhallow Social Farming is financed by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine.