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Care Farming is worth £149m to UK Rural Economy

Posted 8 January 2008

Care Farming

The National Care Farming Initiative UK (NCFI), based at Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, has revealed that a single care farm operation could generate an average revenue of £52,517 per farm per annum at a meeting where twelve of the most experienced care farming practitioners were welcomed to the ‘Care Farmer Practitioner Steering Group’.


The Care Farming Practitioner Steering Group, that was formally established at the Farmers Club, London in December 2007 and jointly chaired by Gareth Gaunt of Carlshead Farm Wetherby and Beren Aldridge of Growing Well, Low Sizergh Cumbria, will be instrumental in the development of one of the most exciting farm diversification opportunities available to UK agriculture.


The potential development of care farming in the UK is huge. Dutch research published in November 2007 has shown that care farming is by far the fastest growing farm diversification in the Netherlands. In just under ten years the number of farms becoming involved has increased from 75 farms to over 800 farms providing care.  Projections have shown that, if developments in the UK follow a similar model to that in the Netherlands over the next ten years, the 315,00 farm holdings in the UK could be generating £149 million per annum.

Average revenue for care farms in the Netherlands is currently £52,517 from providing care alone. At a regional level, benefits to the rural economy could be as much as £12.3 million in the West Midlands and £10.2 million in Yorkshire and Humber.


Mr. Gareth Gaunt commented “Farming and rural communities can uniquely help and improve the health and social well-being of many individuals in need of assistance and support. Visiting and completing tasks on a working farm can be life changing for many people with special needs. However, there is a greater need for co-ordination on a national scale. The new steering group has been formed to support the monumental work of the NCFI where they have established networks, increased public and government interest and commitment and benefited the lives of many.”


Beren Aldridge added “As well as being most beneficial to participants care farming is good for rural economies and communities. The research from the Netherlands is most encouraging and demonstrates the financial advantages. The steering group will also assist farmers to consider and understand the wider social benefits resulting from such enterprises. Care farmers receive a deep sense of satisfaction through helping improve lives through farming.”


WHAT IS CARE FARMING
Essentially care farming programmes are where commercial farms, woodlands and market gardens work with health and social care agencies to provide basic farming activities to improve participant’s physical and mental health and well-being. Care farming offers a new alternative remedy. The farming activities and the rural environment are proven to improve the quality of life for sufferers of mental heath 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 beneficial for rehabilitation and re-education for disaffected youths. Care farms in the UK are very varied in nature, covering all different types and styles of farming. They vary in size from under 1ha to over 360ha and offer care to 3,500 participants per week.   


NATIONAL CARE FARMING INITIATIVE (UK)
The National Care Farming Initiative (NCFI(UK)) was formed in response to feedback following a national conference which took place at Harper Adams University College in November 2005. It aims to highlight the work taking place on farms offering health, education and welfare services for people with a range of specialist or particular needs. This type of service offered on farms is known as "care-farming". The NCFI(UK) provides networking, research, mutual support and events for its members.


NCFI partners: Harper Adams University College, Arthur Rank Centre, University of Essex, Functional Shift Consulting Ltd and Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.


Further details on the National Care Farming Initiative (UK) are available on www.ncfi.org.uk


Contact:
enquiries@ncfi.org.uk or telephone Debbie Wilcox on 01952 815335

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