Posted 17 May 2010
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales recently welcomed more than 100 care farmers and their supporters to Highgrove for a lunch reception marking the National Care Farming Initiative’s five-year anniversary.
The NCFI was set up in 2005, inspired by a conference at Harper Adams University College that revealed the potential social and economic benefits to be gained from projects that allow people with physical and mental health problems to participate in normal farming activities.
The Prince’s reception was attended by representatives from the NCFI and its partners: The Arthur Rank Centre, The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, the University of Essex and Harper Adams University College; care farmers from across the UK and others representing the statutory, commercial and charitable sectors.
Gordon Gatward, Chief Executive of the Arthur Rank Centre and Chairman of the National Care Farming Initiative, said: “It hardly seems possible that it’s been only five years since we held the first national care farming conference when NCFI was born. So much has happened since then.
“From being largely unheard of, care farming is now widely recognised across the UK as a valuable tool in the delivery of a wide range of social, health, educational and therapeutic benefits. I believe that the future of care farming in this country is exciting and challenging and that the implications in terms of helping thousands of people who can benefit from it are tremendous.”
Debbie Wilcox, National Coordinator for the NCFI, said: “The reception was a wonderful opportunity for all the hard work that care farmers do around the country to be recognised and appreciated. Acknowledgement by HRH the Prince of Wales of the inspiring work that is undertaken on care farms and his heartfelt speech to those present was a great boost for the care farmers, as was the opportunity to meet others from around the UK involved in similar work.”
Helen Bailey, from Farm2Grow, a care farm in Staffordshire said: “It truly was a fantastic day and one with memories to be treasured forever. It was lovely to see so many people with common goals, hearts and passions,”
John Iles, from Uncllys Farm, a care farm in Worcestershire, said: “We enjoyed the day tremendously and made new friends and felt that our work here at Uncllys was very much appreciated.”
The National Care Farming Initiative (NCFI), which is based at Harper Adams, in Shropshire, was established to raise awareness of the benefits of care farming and to provide practical support and advice to farmers and agencies that wish to become involved. It is supported by its four partners and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
Care farming projects involve commercial farms, woodlands and market gardens working with health and social care agencies to provide normal farming activities to improve participants’ physical and mental health and well-being.
Farming activities and the connection with nature in the rural environment are proven to improve the quality of life for suffers of mental health issues and depression, work-related stress, learning difficulties or those with a drug or alcohol history. Becoming involved with activities on a working farm can also be very beneficial for rehabilitation and re-education for disaffected young people.
The third National Care Farm Conference, organised by NCFI, will take place on September 16, 2010, at Harper Adams University College.