Care and the community
Tim Young - 05 May 2011
I spent yesterday on Top Barn farm near Worcester, attending a fantastic day about care farming. Care farming is a relatively new term for a practice that has been around for a while – using the farm environment as a therapeutic setting for people with a variety of educational, behavioural or mental health needs. By providing regular, structured activities on the farm that allow people the opportunity to participate in meaningful work in a natural environment, the idea is that the land can be used for therapy and training and build the confidence of those taking part. My words won’t do the concept justice, but the film below shows the project which we visited in a much more eloquent manner.
The event was organised by our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) team alongside Care Farming West Midlands, and the idea was to explore how the idea and practice of Care Farming might mesh with the kind of community farming projects that we’re trying to encourage through our CSA work. As well as the Top Barn Training project shown in the video, we also visited two more projects on the site. One, Skills Space, that worked exclusively with 11-14 year-olds at risk of exclusion from schools, and another, Good Soil, that worked with people with drug and alcohol problems.
It’s fair to say that all three projects were both inspirational and humbling in equal measure, and the connection between these kind of projects and the organic farming movement were obvious – both seeing farming as an opportunity to respect and connect with our community and environment and provide a social return that goes far wider than simple yields or profit and loss accounts.
Although a small event it was great to see a couple of our licensees attending, both of whom were keen to try and get some kind of care farming project going on their own land, as well as several community groups with the same idea. Thank you to all involved in putting on the day, and anyone who is involved in any kind of project like this...
One of the things the day brought into sharp relief for me was just how much work I need to do on the allotment. Though I haven’t blogged an update for a while (Easter, weddings and print deadlines have got in the way), we have been soldiering away. We’re still struggling with dandelion and bindweed roots (the dark side of the roundup force has been whispering its sweet nothings in my ear, though even before reading Lynda's blog we will resist) but we’ve managed to get some beans, peas, spuds, garlic and calabrese in, with more seedlings to plant. The biggest problem has been finding time without the kids to dedicate to the allotment, as we are fast learning that their attention span on the allotment is limited to about 20 minutes maximum.
We will persevere.
Tim is editor of the Soil Association's Living Earth magazine, and has written on food, health and consumer issues for the last ten years. When not at work Tim is normally being run ragged by his two young sons. In 2009 Tim started trying to grow vegetables, and last year he took on an allotment. Two years later he is still trying to grow vegetables, and is very hopeful that one day soon he will have some success.