Duhallow Social Farming

Social Farming offers people with disabilities the opportunity to spend time on a family farm, taking part in day-to-day farm activities. Social Farming activities focus on people’s potential, and encourages participants to socialise and gain confidence. Social farming also creates the opportunity for farmers to reconnect with their local communities by opening their farms as part of a social support system.

What is Social Farming?

Social farming offers people with disabilities the opportunity to spend time on a family farm, taking part in day-to-day farm activities. It is both a traditional and innovative approach to social integration, using agriculture and horticulture in local, rural regions to promote and generate social inclusion. It increases people’s self-esteem and capacity, improves community connections and relationships, as well as their health and well-being. 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.

Duhallow Social Farming operates as a voluntary model to enable real working relationships and friendships to develop. The Duhallow Social Farming programme adapts to each host farm environment and the needs of each individual participant. Host farms are supported with any maintenance and on-farm safety improvements, as well as access to relevant training opportunities. Our farmers have taken part in a first aid and safeguarding vulnerable adults’ courses, as well as an introduction to social farming online course.

Host farmer Aoife Lynch and Nora feeding the goats.

Participants go to the host farm once a week for 2-4 hours on average. A range of activities take place on our host farms, from feeding and checking in on animals, to planting and growing vegetables and plants. Of course, the most important job on all our host farms is the cup of tea before home time!

Social farming can take place in farms ranging from 1 acre up to several hundred acres in size and across all sectors, including mixed farms, dairy, suckler, sheep, equine, horticulture, etc. Each participant will be matched to the host farm depending on their own abilities and interests. IRD Duhallow will facilitate an induction day where the participant and farmer meet; the participant gets to see the farm and they both ensure they want to go ahead with the placement. Farmers and participants will continue to be supported by the social farming facilitator while on their social farming journey.

What are the benefits of Social Farming?

Social farming creates the opportunity for farmers to reconnect with their local communities by opening their farms as part of a social support system. The Social Farming programme can improve the farm work environment, with the participant providing the farmer with help and company. Social farming will give farmers a better understanding of disabilities, as well as giving them an opportunity to access relevant training and upskilling courses. Farm improvements are another benefit for farmers, with IRD Duhallow assisting with on-farm health and safety upgrades for social farming activities.

Social Farming activities focus on the participant’s potential and encourages them to socialise, aiding in the development of their life and social skills. The new challenges and experiences participants encounter while social farming improves their confidence, independence and wellbeing. The increased activity improves their physical health and develops their motor skills.

Hear it from one of our host farmers:

Social farming participant Martin sowing some beautiful flowers.

“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.

Want more information?

If you want more information or are interested in getting involved with social farming, please contact our social farming facilitator, Sheila Kelleher at sheila.kelleher@irdduhallow.com or call 029-60633.

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