The farm is not a specialized processing farm; rather, the farm remains a typical working farm where those in need of assistance can benefit from participation in farm activities in a non-clinical environment.
It also creates the opportunity to reconnect farmers with their local communities through the opening of their farms as part of the community social support system.
Rural Support is committed to the continuous improvement of the social farming sector for the farmers providing a service and the participants benefiting from the engagement. As such, the charity has developed social farming standards for the social farming sector in Northern Ireland. The Social Farming Standards involve an application process coordinated by Rural Support’s Social Farming Support Service.
The Social Farming Standards are awarded by Rural Support in recognition of the high quality of service delivery provided on farms in Northern Ireland.
The standards assure participants, family members, referral organizations and funders that the farms provide a person-centered service that provides a place for everyone and takes place in a safe farm environment. It establishes an accountability framework that encourages professionalism in the sector. The standards process involves registration and application stages before a farm is presented to a panel of representatives from the Rural Support board, the health and social care sector and the Health and Safety Executive NEITHER.
All farmers involved in delivering social farming services or planning to start delivery in the near future will require compliance with the social farming standards.
There are currently 15 farms offering a social farming service across Northern Ireland and all farms are committed to meeting social farming standards.
On Friday, Rural Support marked a special day for the Social Farming Support Service where the first four farms received the Social Farming Standards badge.
Annagh Social Farm, Derrylin; Social Farm Gortilea, Claudy; Butterlope Farm, Plumbridge; and Yellow Road Farm, Hilltown all received their standards during the morning presentation after completing the application process. Rural Support welcomed Elizabeth McIlwaine from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, who was instrumental in funding and supporting the development of the standards, Camilla Mackey from HSENI and Peter Boyle from rural support board, who played an important role in being on the award panel with Hugh Nelson of the Health and Social Care Trust who was unable to attend.
Annie Mullan from Butterlope Farm explained why having the Social Farming Standard is so important for anyone involved in Social Farming “Since we started Social Farming seven years ago, we have always wanted to provide a high quality, safe and enjoyable experience for our farm participants. It’s great to have achieved the standards now, which shows participants, families and referral agencies that we’re doing it. Our participants get a lot out of it. of their time on the farm, building their confidence, making friends and knowing they are doing meaningful work, as we love having them here and look forward to working with them every week. calm !
To find out more about the range of services and programs available from Rural Support, visit the NI Farm Support hub at www.ruralsupport.org.uk or call the helpline on freephone 0800 138 1678 available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.