A WOMAN attending homelessness services in Limerick and another who attends a day service in the county are just two of the local people who have benefited from a nationwide farming work scheme.
The Social Farming programme gives people who experience challenges in life the opportunity to spend time on ordinary family farms, where they take part in everyday farm activities.
Participants have formed lasting friendships with each other and with the farming families they spend time with, all while enjoying the outdoors environment and the countryside.
The story of the involvement of Healthy Ireland in Social Farming is described in a new report launched by Social Farming Ireland this September.
At the heart of the report is a case study of Social Farming activity in Limerick which has been funded by Healthy Limerick.
Margaret from Rehab Care in Limerick, who carried out her Social Farming placement at Rebecca Hussey’s farm in Killaloe said the “memories of social farming kept me busy and going during lockdown”.
Farmer Rebecca described her role as facilitating two kinds of connection – connection with the land and nature and the cycles of life and connection with one another.
“Once we put our wellies on, we go out, we have a common purpose, we do jobs, there’s no hierarchy. People forget their mental health issue or their limitations, whatever they might be, and we work together,” she said.
Healthy Limerick is part of the Healthy Cities and Counties programme which promotes lifelong health and wellbeing and takes a whole-system approach to planning for health and wellbeing, where health is everyone’s business.
A key theme of the programme is social connectedness. Social Farming provides this sense of social connection in a natural and homely way with additional health and wellbeing benefits in terms of increased levels of physical activity, improved mental health and reduced stress and anxiety levels and increased feelings of purpose and belonging from carrying out socially valuable activities.
33 people from eight different services in Limerick had the opportunity to take part in Social Farming between 2017 and 2019.
Tony Quilty, who chairs the Healthy Limerick Steering Group, commented: “Social Farming is really positive and has tremendous potential. We need more of it, we need more farmers, more access.”
For more information about the scheme, contact the Southwest Regional Development hub for Social Farming Ireland at West Limerick Resources at [email protected] or at 087 3663842.