Ballyhoura Rural Services CLG (BRS) as an organisation is dedicated to identifying and helping people who are affected by Social Isolation& exclusion. For the last number of years Ballyhoura Rural Services has worked predominantly with older adults. The organisation has of late identified a need for both an expansion of the type of service it supplies and an alteration in the means used to provide it. There is a desire within the organisation to respond to the needs of other people in society who are experiencing social isolation, particularly young people.
Inspired by the success of Social Farms (SF) in Holland and the United Kingdom, BRS has begun to develop an SF framework to address the causes of isolation/exclusion, and barriers to education for young people in the area.
What is Social Farming?
SF, (Also known as Care/Green Farming) is an emerging form of social enterprise that uses a farm environment to deliver health and education benefits to participants. It is defined in Di Iacocca & O Connor (2009) as:
“..Farming practices aimed at promoting disadvantaged people’s rehabilitation, education and care”
This multifunctional use of farms has been introduced from grass roots level in the form of both start up purpose built SFs, and as a form of farm economic diversification on existing farms. SFs offer opportunities (products) such as: education; social care; rehabilitation; and a range of health and well- being outcomes.
This farm environment offers a very diverse range of activities and opportunities to develop innovative activity based programs for its clients. Clients of SFs include: people with physical and intellectual disabilities; People with various stages of dementia recovering addicts; unemployed people, early school leavers; young offenders; and other marginalised youth.
This emerging form of education and care is being used to successfully integrate disadvantaged people by providing a, “living context, where their personal capabilities are valued and enhanced” (Di Iacovo et al, 2009). It allows for the building of relationships and trust between professionals, educators, and the target group. It offers participants a set of daily tasks which provide opportunities for teamwork and the development of a sense of shared responsibility. The care of animals, the raising of crops, and the potential for maintenance projects are just some of the rich opportunities provided by Care Farming models.
Doon Convent Farm
In 2015 BRS was approached by the Mercy Sisters regarding the possible delivery of our social farming services form the Convent Farm in Doon in County Limerick. This was immediately recognised by the board of BRS as a development which had great potential & have since come to an agreement regarding the future use of the facilities.
The project has in 2017 gathered pace and there has had considerable local input to progressing the project form the conceptual phase to actually making it a reality. It is planned that the physical redevelopment of the site will commence in Autumn 2017 and service delivery will commence on the Social Farm in Spring 2018.