Despite the current pandemic Laois Connects is still making an impact online.
Recently, there was a very lively and informed discussion on Social Farming in Laois on Zoom with most agencies, farming organisations and farmers in the county taking part.
The program supported by the Department of Agriculture supports farmers to develop and to offer people who need some form of social care support, to experience farming and farm life through ‘Social Farming’.
The programme started in Ireland as a Cross Border project and is now developing in all counties across the country through the Social Farming Ireland network, with up on 100 farms actively involved.
Farmers are mentored and trained and must reach a certain standard before they will have any placements on their farm.
Participants come from many different sectors – intellectual, disability, mental health, youth, long term unemployed or Direct Provision to name a few – and the programme aims to respond to their individual needs.
One Laois farm owned by Nick and Dymphna Maher have been involved in social farming for a number of years now and have had young participants and have found it both challenging and rewarding.
Speaking about social farming Dymphna Maher has no regrets about getting involved in social farming.
She said: “Nick and I became involved in social farming about three years ago. We weren’t sure what to expect a that time.
“But one thing is now for sure, we never regretted that decision. We have had young boys and girls from various backgrounds attend our farm from time to time and it has to be said, we have each one.
“We have one young man who has been coming to us for a year and a half and it really feels like he had become one of the family.
“I would say to anyone who is thinking about getting involved in social farming to go ahead and take the leap. You will learn as much as you will teach.”
Social Farming Ireland would like to hear from Farmers and potential participants for Social Farming from Laois and would like to build on the existing success both with the farm in Laois and the many others throughout Ireland.
Please contact the Regional Officer – Andrew Chilton at 086 1448796 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Farming Ireland also recently launched a report on working with the Healthy Ireland Programme and this is available on their website at – www.socialfarmingireland.ie/resources/research-and-case-studies and they look forward to working with Healthy Laois in the future.