Pioneering social farming scheme for county rollout
A PIONEERING social farming scheme is to be rolled out in County Wexford, offering activities to people as a form of support service.
It will provide social, educational, therapeutic and rehabilitative opportunities for a wide range of people who need support to contribute to the positive social fabric required for society to be truly inclusive.
Participants include people with intellectual, physical, mental disabilities, older people, those with addictions and in need of rehabilitation and those with sensory and financial difficulties.
Tom Bermingham, from Wexford Local Development, which is overseeing the project in the county, said those taking part will benefit from the value of physical work, learning new skills and reconnecting with food, nature and rural life.
He said social faming is widely practiced by farmers in many parts of Europe and is part of a mainstream social or community inclusion activity in some countries.
Mr Bermingham recently attended the national launch of the scheme by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed on the farm of Michael and Siobhan Heslin at Gortlettragh near Mohill, County Leitrim. The Heslin family farm hosts nine participants, many with mental health issues, on their 55-acre farm each week.
As a farm diversification tool, social farming offers the opportunity to enhance the rural economy through the development of a multifunctional service role on farms such as Heslin's, helping to combat the effects of rural isolation as well as offering a solution to some of Ireland's health and social care needs.
Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food & The Marine, a national Social Farming Support Office has been established by Leitrim Local Development company to provide coordination, support and training services to four regional hubs, with the South East region (Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, East Cork & South Tipperary) led by Waterford Leader Partnership in close cooperation with Wexford Local Development
Each regional hub has now engaged the services of a Development Officer to facilitate the roll-out of the service across the country. John Evoy has responsibility for Wexford and the South East region.
The concept of Social Farming dovetails well with the objectives of both the LEADER & SICAP Programmes currently being delivered by Wexford Local Development.
'Thanks to the work of the Social Farming Network to date, there is now an awareness and knowledge of the concept and potential of social farming among farmers, social service providers and statutory services in the South East,' said Mr Bermingham. Wexford Local Development said it was delighted that funding is maintained for continuing to build the structures and networks required to ensure sustainability of the service in to the future. Any farmers in Co Wexford who would like to discuss the potential for becoming 'social farmers' are encouraged to contact John Evoy by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tom Bermingham at Wexford Local Development: email email@example.com or call John on 087 2311061. Further information is available at www.socialfarmingacrossborders.org