Posted 25 January 2008
Yorkshire is the very first county to host a regional conference that has introduced the concept and practice of care farming. The pioneering event, held at Bishop Burton College, was a huge success with delegates learning of the relatively new concept that is a significant diversification opportunity to farmers and landowners in the UK. In Yorkshire alone Care Farming could contribute a staggering £10.2m to the county’s rural economy.
Essentially care farming projects are where commercial farms, woodlands and market gardens work with health and social care agencies to provide normal farming activities to improve participant’s physical and mental health and well-being. The farming activities’ connection with nature in the rural environment are proven to improve the quality of life for suffers 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 very beneficial for rehabilitation and re-education for disaffected youths.
The National Care Farming Initiative UK (NCFI), which is based at Harper Adams University College, is assisting Yorkshire to lead the way in highlighting the benefits of care farming.
Keynote speakers Gareth Gaunt of Carlshead Farm Wetherby, Beren Aldridge of Growing Well, Low Sizergh, Cumbria and Nigel Lowthrop of Hill Holt Wood, Lincolnshire each addressed delegates, who had travelled from as far away as Hampshire and Snowdonia, shared their own experiences of setting up and providing facilities at a care farm, gave practical advice and talked of both the financial and social benefits and considerations. Brian Firth, Managing Director of Education Other Than at School from Leeds gave a commissioning perspective.
Peter Reed, Development Co-ordinator for the ‘Growing Social Enterprise in the Humber’ project at East Riding of Yorkshire Council said: “We are delighted with the level of interest the event generated, both locally in the East Riding and the Humber, and also further a field. We are excited about the future possibilities for rural development and social enterprise and also about the health gains, skills building and life changing potential care farming offers to people who use them. We want health, care and other agencies to take a serious look at what care farming offers.”