Posted 17 September 2010
More than 100 delegates have met at Harper Adams University College to discuss the progress of care farms which help those in social margins get involved with the community.
The third National Care Farm conference was held at Harper Adams yesterday, bringing together about 110 people including both care farming and commissioning speakers, alongside representatives from care farm support and networking groups from across the UK.
Keynote speaker was Tom Heap, presenter of BBC Radio 4s rural and environment series ‘Costing the Earth’.
The purpose of the Care Farming – Working Partnerships conference, organised by the National Care Farming Initiative (NCFI), was to discuss how farming communities can ‘help to meet the health and social care needs of our society’.
The event examined the practical issues facing care farmers, the importance of partnerships in developing successful care farms, and developing an organisation to support the movement across the UK.
Brian Revell, Professor of Agriculture & Food Economics at Harper Adams, opened proceedings. He said: “We place a great deal of importance on the fact that the NCFI is a partnership between ourselves, the Arthur Rank Centre, Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and the University of Essex.
“It is an initiative which links town and country in a very practical and socially aware way. Harper Adams is centred in the land based industries and businesses, but we recognise that farms and the countryside are about more than just food production and leisure. It can also help to provide an environment in which the lives and wellbeing of vulnerable people in our society can be enhanced.
“Care farming is therefore fulfilling an important social need and our purpose is to support landowners and farmers to become involved in it. We are proud to assist not only rural and farm businesses to do this, but also the not-for –profit and social enterprise sector.”
Tom Heap spoke about how the media could help or hinder care farms. He said: “I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of why some of these care farming activities can help some of those who are marginal in society and I think it’s that they have either failed in society or society has failed them.
“They are not thriving in the eco-system we have established and it might be possible that a slightly different eco-system that is represented in nature, looking after animals or plants might suit them better.”
Speaker Michael Lishman gave an account of his own experiences of working on a care farm. He spoke so well that he received a standing ovation from the audience.
Reverend Dr Gordon Gatward OBE, Director of the Arthur Rank Centre and Chairman of the NCFI, said: “What I thought was great about today was there’s been such a spread speakers – conceptual, practical and inspirational. To have a speaker move everyone so much he gets a standing ovation is wonderful.”
NCFI Co-ordinator, Debbie Wilcox said: “This conference was an opportunity to examine how these partnerships work in practice and in turn encourage the development of future care farms. It has exceeded our expectations.”
To find out more about the NCFI, go to www.ncfi.org.uk