Friday, May 31, 2019

Social Farming

Social Farming is the provision of farm-based activities for people that have experienced social marginalization due to a diagnosed disability, mental health issue, asylum or refugee status as well as other issues that have brought about personal challenges for them. Daily activities and tasks at Cullenagh Farm Stables are shared with service users that have an interest in the care of horses and of their environment.

The Social Farming Handbook defines social farming as ‘both a traditional and innovative use of agriculture. It includes all activities that use agricultural resources, both from plants and animals to promote (or to generate) therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education and social services in rural areas’.(Di Iavovo and O’Connor)

Our social farming day generally runs from 10am until 3pm, with each group attending one day a week, generally over a twelve-week period. After the morning’s meet and greet, participants discuss the agreed plan for the day. This may include stable care, turning out the horses, checking paddocks and water as well as taking the horses for a walk. Participants are referred by agencies and service providers. There are also some self-referrals. After the twelve-week placement finishes, the participant moves on to another similar placement so that they can carry their knowledge and new skills with them.

The service is funded by Social Farming Ireland in association with its local government sponsored representative, which, in the case of Cullenagh Stables, is Waterford Leader Partnership. Further funding is matched by regional services, such as the HSE, Rehab Care Ireland, etc. A social farming coordinator from Waterford Leader Partnership liaises with the stables as well as with the interested participant and/or agency. Together, all three parties draw up a Placement Plan, setting out goals and interests, and ensuring that all appropriate information is gathered. The information considers the needs of the participant and the facilities available at the stables. It also looks at any mobility or communication issues for the potential participant and seeks to ensure they are facilitated within the yard’s daily activities timetable.

The routine followed at the stables is much the same routine that’s followed on an average day at a yard, with participants matched according to interests and experiences. When necessary, a care worker may attend with a participant. The focus throughout the day is on ability rather than on disability, with a recognition that each person has a unique role to play in bettering the environment for themselves and for others.

Cullenagh Farm Stables was approved as a social farming centre in early 2018 after we undertook social farming training with Social Farming Ireland.

Evie has since commenced therapeutic riding coach training at Festina Lente Equestrian Centre. We hope to incorporate therapeutic riding into the social farming day at Cullenagh during the summer of 2019.