NHS Highland is working in partnership with Care Farming Scotland in a bid to increase the availability of social farming in the north of Scotland. Social farms provide health; social or educational services for a range of vulnerable groups including those will mental ill-health, adults and children with learning disabilities and people living with autism.
Clients and participants attend the farm regularly as part of a structured care, rehabilitation, therapeutic or educational programme. They provide a structured programme of farming-related activities such as rearing livestock, crop and vegetable production, and rural crafts.
Caroline Matheson (pictured, at the Royal Highland Show) works on Ballicherry Farm – one of the eight social farms and crofts in the Highland and Islands, and hopes to attract other farmers in the north to sign up.
“Social farming helps make a difference to disadvantaged people’s lives by giving them an opportunity to work on the land and land-based activities. It combines care of the land with care of people by helping them to become fitter, gain confidence, learn new skills and be part of a team.
“Social farms are usually commissioned to provide care farming services by referral agencies such as Local Authorities, the NHS or education services. Clients can also be self-referred as part of their Self-Directed Support scheme, or referred by family members.
“Care Farming Scotland and NHS Highland are hoping to increase the availability of social farming for people in rural and urban areas across the Highlands and Islands. We are looking to work in partnership with a network of farmers and crofters across the area that can support this service.”
John Ross CBE, chairman of Care Farming Scotland, said: “I see this as an exciting step forward for the social farming movement, and I hope to see increasing numbers of social farms and crofts developing in the near future.
“It would be great to see social farming as a mainstream social service in Scotland, just as it is countries such as Norway and the Netherlands. The Highlands and Islands are leading the way in the UK, but there is plenty of work still to be done.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a social farmer or crofter, or to find out more about the referral process, please contact Caroline Matheson at email@example.com .