Social Farming Awareness Week is set to take place from October 2-6, showcasing various activities on social farms throughout Ireland. Helen Doherty, the national social farming co-ordinator at Social Farming Ireland, based in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, has noted the increasing interest in social farming from farmers, services, and potential participants. Doherty describes social farming as a significant innovation in farming, health, and social care. She explains that at the recent Ploughing Championships, more people than ever sought out and visited the Social Farming Ireland stand, demonstrating a growing curiosity about social farming and its benefits for participants, farmers, and rural communities.
Social farming is the practice of offering activity on family farms as a form of social support. It is not a specialised treatment farm, but rather a typical working farm where individuals in need of support can engage in everyday farm activities in a non-clinical environment. Doherty emphasizes that social farming provides people who use health and social services with the opportunity for inclusion, increased self-esteem, and improved health and well-being. Social Farming Ireland provides training, mentoring, and support for farmer participants and those who support them in getting involved in social farming.
In order to raise awareness about social farming and allow people to learn more about the practice, Social Farming Awareness Week will feature open days at various social farms around the country. These open days will provide an opportunity to meet the farmer, take a farm walk, and meet other local social farmers and Social Farming Ireland staff. Helen Doherty encourages anyone who is interested in participating, supporting someone who may be interested, or simply curious about social farming to attend these open days.
The first farm opening its gates during Social Farming Awareness Week is O’Mahony’s farm near Carrigaline in Co. Cork on Monday, October 2. Louise O’Mahony, along with her husband and three children, operates the farm in a scenic setting and offers a variety of activities for participants. The farm is home to horses, cattle, sheep, goats, hens, ducks, dogs, and even a peacock. Louise is also an avid baker and enjoys sharing her skills with participants. The O’Mahony family is new to social farming and is excited to welcome participants to their farm.
The second open day will take place on Tuesday, October 3, on the farm of the Galway family in Co. Kilkenny. Richard and Áine Galway operate an organic farm near Thomastown and engage in social farming. They raise beef cattle, including some rare breeds, and also share ponies and alpacas with a neighbor. The Galway family is active in their local community and offers a range of activities on their farm, including feeding the cattle, brushing the ponies, tending to the vegetable garden, and maintaining the forest.
On Wednesday, October 4, the Woods family near Crossmolina in Co. Mayo will share their social farming story. Alan Woods has been a farmer his entire life, primarily working with a suckler herd. In recent years, he has transitioned to dairying. The farm is located on the shores of Lough Conn, offering direct access to the shoreline. Alan and his wife, Vivian, have welcomed various visitors to the farm over the years and are now engaging in social farming. The Woods family provides different activities for participants and aims to create a welcoming and socially connected space.
On Thursday, October 5, Violet Kavanagh and her son Stephen will open their farm near Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, to share their social farming story. The Kavanagh family has owned the farm since 1960 and it is nestled in the Wicklow mountains. The farm is home to a flock of 78 sheep, along with two friendly sheep dogs and six cats. Activities on the farm include caring for the sheep, farm maintenance, collecting timber, and working in the polytunnel. Participants also have the opportunity to engage in farm-based crafts and cooking.
Social Farming Awareness Week provides an opportunity for individuals to learn more about social farming and its benefits. By visiting active social farms, people can gain a better understanding of the practice and its positive impact on participants, farmers, and rural communities.