Kerry Social Farming Project supports people with physical or intellectual disabilities and those engaging with Mental Health Services (participants) to avail of social farming opportunities on farms in their local community on a long-term basis (for as long as farmer and participant are happy to continue). Each farmer offers their time on a voluntary basis, typically for 3-5 hours once a week supporting 1-2 participants on the farm. The host farms remain a working farm at its core, and through the voluntary effort of farmers and their families, participants are supported to participate in the farming activities and in getting to know people in their wider community. Farmers are fully supported in terms of operational supports, health and safety, training, and no farmer is out of pocket in terms of any farm upgrades required, any additional insurance cost, hosting farm walks and any travel necessary for social farming.
The model of Kerry Social Farming is such that we aim to support participants to avail of social farming on a long term basis, where both the host farmer and participants are happy to continue, rather than short-term pilot placements. Accordingly, great care is taken to ‘match’ participants with host farms and farmers. Additionally there is a structured trial period whereby participants and host farmers get to know each other, and the participant gets a clearer understanding of the host farm activities.
Currently the selection process for participants is through referrals from the service providers and voluntary organisations. Referred participants complete an application form, with the support of an advocate where necessary, regarding their preferences, requirements and understanding of social farming and the KSF facilitator meets the participants and their advocates to explain more about the project and what’s involved. Likewise, recruitment of host farmers has been achieved through presentations at Rural Social Scheme meetings, linking in with IFA and media sources.
Following an expression of interest, the KSF facilitator liaises with potential host farmers on the farm to discuss the project and the farmer also completes an application form, if they are happy to proceed.
Farmers are fully supported by the Kerry Social Farming Project and the facilitator in getting set up as a social farm. Operational support is provided by the facilitator, along with labour support where required to make any farm upgrades/adjustments. Farmers are also fully supported financially to make any necessary farm upgrades to ensure the health and safety of the participant and/or provide different activities Following initial contact being made, the local KSF facilitator visits the farm. Following this meeting with the potential host farmer and an initial site inspection, the garda vetting process is commenced and a safety audit is conducted by the KSF facilitator and SKDP Rural Social Scheme (RSS) SKDP supervisor and host farmer. The audit is conducted to Health and Safety Authority (HSA) standards, and the host farmer is given a copy of the farm safety statement, along with a summary list of recommended Health and Safety (H&S) adjustments that are required. The H&S farm adjustments are for the safety of the participants on the farm and also to make farmers aware of hazards on site. The funding for necessary farm adjustments are from the DAFM (via CEDRA funding). The participants’ support workers (from the service provider) are also at hand to advise regarding safety of participants on the farm.
Ongoing support for the farmers is provided by the Kerry Social Farming Facilitator and Project Manager, with the backing of the working group. The facilitator is available for occasional farm visits and available by phone if the farmer has any queries. Also the facilitator provides an important link to liaise farmers with participants’ support workers and families. Host farmers are also represented on the KSFP Working Group and are there to ensure that host farmers are fully included in the steering of the project.
Financial support is provided for both the set up phase and ongoing supports. For instance, after a while it may come to light that additional adjustments may need to be provided to the farm, either to provide additional activities for the participants and/or safety adjustments. The importance that ‘no farmer is out of pocket’ and that funds are there to continue to provide social farming activities for people with disabilities is fundamental to the operation of the KSFP, as farmers offer their time to the project on a voluntary capacity. Expenses for farmers to attend other KSFP activities are also provided.
The KSFP facilitator liaises with participants and their support workers to ensure that participants are placed on farms in accordance with their own person centred plan (PCP). The person centred approach of the KSFP is another fundamental aspect of the project. Participants are placed based on what activities, goals and farming activities they might like to be involved with and what kind of supports they might need. Participants are typically supported on the farm by the individuals support worker for the trail period (normally 4-8 weeks) as well as the host farmer.
A review at the end of the trial period is a collaborative approach between participant, host farmer and the service provider, which is coordinated by the Kerry Social Farming Facilitator.
After the trial period the additional support provided by the support worker may be phased out, if that additional support for participant and host farmer is no longer required in these instances. However, the support worker staff remain in contact with the KSFP facilitator and host farmers to provide support on an ongoing basis.
Occasionally a support worker may continue to work alongside the participant and host farmer where additional assistance is required. The KSF Framework of Support Plan ensures that the participants’ progression is evaluated on an ongoing basis. Not only are the participants central to the ongoing reviews of the support plans, these evaluations are conducted in a collaborative manner whereby host farmers and support workers can make an important contribution.
The KSFP is working with Local Link Kerry to develop a social car model to assist with participant transport to farms. Ongoing financial support is also provided to the KSFP to purchase equipment, PPE and protective farm clothing for participants.
One of the targets of the KSFP set out for the Oct 2016-Oct 2017 period with the DAFM was to hold 8 farm walks/knowledge transfer events. A total of ten host farm walks/knowledge transfer events took place during this period. A host farmer meeting took place in Listry at the beginning of 2017. Two host farm walks took place on Ger O Sullivan’s farm in 2016 and 2017, one on Patricia and Anthony Kelliher’s farm in Faha, one on Christy and Mary McDonnell’s farm and one on George Kelly’s Hazelfort Farm.
Farmers from the KSFP
also attended the South Kerry Ploughing Championship and the National Ploughing Championship in 2017 as well as the 2017 Burren Winterage School. An extended host farm walk/open
day too place on host farm, Hazelfort Farm to launch the
2017 KSFP Evaluation Report.
The opportunities for organised events were greatly curtailed during the first half of 2021. Host farmer meetings were held online to help keep farmers connected and aware of that was happening in the project. Social farming activity gradually returned to farms in late Spring. In June, some new host farmers and KSF staff made a welcome trip to Field of Dreams, in Curraheen, Cork which is run by Down Syndrome Cork. Two successful host farm walks were held over the summer, at John O’Shea’s sheep farm in Blackwater and Maura Sheehy’s flower farm near Tralee. KSF have not as yet been able to return to hosting large scale in-person events due to restrictions. Kerry Social Farming returned to Kingdom County Fair on 8th May 2022. Later that month social farming participants completed a week of training and recording with Radio Kerry studios in Tralee. Their programme was broadcast on May 21st and you can listen back to it here.
During the period Oct2017-Oct2018, a number of farm walks took place. In March we held our first farm walk in the NEWKD area, hosted by Helen and Danny O’Mahony, Castleisland. In April Breda O’Sullivan had a walk on her farm at Glencar and in October a farm walk was held as part of an Open Day on Rena Blake’s farm near Ballybunion.
Farmers also attended the Kingdom County Fair in Tralee in May, National Ploughing Championships at Tullamore in September and Women and Agriculture Conference in Killarney in October.
A farm walk was held on the farm of Des Cronin, Ballinskelligs in July 2019. During August, in an innovative collaboration with Cahirsiveen Festival of Music and the Arts, a Farm Walk was hosted by Ger and Mary Anne O’Sullivan on their farm outside Cahirsiveen. Kerry Social Farming also had a stand at the annual Puck Fair in Killorglin.
Puck Fair was filmed for the TV Series Beidh Aonah Amárach with Kerry Social Farming host farmers and participants featuring prominently. The series was broadcast on TG4 and BBC Two in Spring 2020.
Breda O’Sullivan hosted a successful event on her farm in Glencar in November 2019 in conjunction with the formal launch of the UCC Certificate in Practice Support in Social Farming.
Public Health restrictions due to COVID-19 have impacted greatly on farm events which were to take place during 2020. However, a successful host farmer gathering was held at Gortbrack Organic Farm, Ballyseedy, Tralee on 28th September. There was a limited attendance, with social distancing being observed in line with HSE guidelines. New and existing host farmers were hosted by Ian McGregor and Eileen Carroll. The event provided a valuable opportunity for meeting and networking safely and in person, following many months of online communication.
The opportunities for organised events were greatly curtailed during the first half of 2021. Host farmer meetings were held online to help keep farmers connected and aware of that was happening in the project. Social farming activity gradually returned to farms in late spring. In June, some new host farmers and KSF staff made a welcome trip to Field of Dreams, in Curraheen, Cork which is run by Down Syndrome Cork. Two successful host farm walks were held over the summer, at John O’Shea’s sheep farm in Blackwater and Maura Sheehy’s flower farm near Tralee.
Kerry Social Farming featured on Agritime on Radio Kerry on 9th September with host farmers and participants sharing their stories, as we endeavour to recruit more farmers. You can listen back here
KSF were then delighted to be in a position to host the FARCURA National Social Farming Conference on September 24th at the farm of Mike O’Sé in Canuig, Mastergeehy, in South Kerry. This was a great success and a large crowd, including participants and their families, host farmers, service providers, public representative, community leaders, neighbours and friends enjoyed the day.
This was our first large scale, in-person event since 2019. Kerry social farming facilitators and some host farmers attended an information day for IRD Duhallow ‘s new social farming project in Newmarket, Co. Cork in mid- October 2021.
Kerry Social Farming featured on the Saturday Supplement Show on Radio Kerry on New Years Day 2022. Seven host farmers, participants and their families as well as KSF staff were interviewed for the two hour show. You can listen back on the podcast https://www.radiokerry.ie/podcasts/saturday-supplement/saturday-supplement-january-1st-2022-264789
The initial targets for Kerry Social Farming 2017-2018 were informed by the agreed targets with the DAFM, as set out in the KSF/SKDP proposal to develop the KSFP model. These targets are primarily informed by the recommendations made in the evaluation report on KSF, conducted by Dr Brendan O Keefe (then of Mary Immaculate College), Dr Caroline Crowley (Crowley Research) and Dr Shane O Sullivan (Limerick Institute of Technology).
A link to the report can be accessed here:2017 KSFP Evaluation Report. These targets are achieved across a wide range of actions including the enhancement of input by participants, provision of training opportunities for participants and host farmers, the enhancement of social farming activities on host farms and increased clarity on the roles of all project partners through the updated Memorandum of Understanding. Our ongoing objectives are also guided by KSF Development Plan 2020-2024 which was drafted and approved by KSF Working Group in 2019 and by our contract with Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.