Farming from the Heart

Groundbreaking Care Farming Initiative Launched in the West Midlands

A health and social care innovation has been unveiled, creating 20 working care farms across Worcestershire, Shropshire and Herefordshire in the UK.

Care farms are social enterprises, that assist people with learning difficulties, individuals experiencing mental health problems, those who are recovering from substance misuse, excluded youth, the homeless and long-term unemployed.

By combining care with meaningful work in the supportive natural environment of farms, woodlands and market gardens, the scheme is offering many benefits. As farm helpers’, participants are given a healthy daily structure, that builds confidence and supports people in the development of their social and practical skills as part of a working team.

‘It’s such an exciting development for us,’ says Will Tooby of The Fold Care Farm, near Worcester. ‘Care farming is providing a healing vehicle that delivers social, environmental and economic sustainability in a balanced way, through the medium of food. It’s wonderful to see people’s health improve, see them find new meaning and see their possibilities blossom through coming here.’

Care Farming West Midlands is the first regional organisation of its kind in the UK. It was set up with an investment worth £400,000 from Advantage West Midland’s Rural Regeneration Zone. The concept has already been proven in the Netherlands, where there are now more than 1,000 enterprises providing rehabilitation and support to people who have been referred through social care, legal or medical channels. Dutch research has shown that there is a strong relationship between the ethos of real work’ on the farm and its therapeutic quality.

Policy Manager, Jon Dover says: ‘The model is still embryonic in the UK but it’s set to spread rapidly. If it grows at the same rate as it has done since 1998 in the Netherlands, the UK will have over 3,000 care farms in 10 years time.’ Jon adds: ‘The framework delivers personalised care and helps support a different style of farming, where traditional skills are now being fully recognised for their therapeutic quality.’

The organisation is always interested to talk to people and families who may benefit from connecting with a care farm and to those involved with commissioning health and social care in the West Midland area.

Contact: Care Farming West Midlands,
Unit 5, Top Barn Business Centre,
Holt, Worcestershire, WR6 6NH
Tel: +44 (0)1905 622218

Right: care farmers Gareth Ellis,
John Dover and George Glide
Photo: © Will Tooby