About Us.

Kerry Social Farming is a voluntary, locally led, community based initiative.

What We Do

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.

Selection and Approval of Participants & Host Farmers/Farms

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.

Supports & Setup for Host Farmers

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 Farmers

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 For Farmers

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.

Supports for Participants - Initial set up & trial period

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.

Ongoing Support For Participants

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.

Transport and Financial support For Participants

Kerry Social farming operates a social car service with Local Link Kerry which assists with participant transport to farms. Ongoing financial support is also provided to purchase essential equipment, PPE and protective farm clothing for participants.

Host Farm Walks/Knowledge transfer events

Throughout the 10 years in which KSF has been in operation, farm walks and knowledge transfer events have been held on host farms. Farmers have attended the Kingdom County Fair in Tralee, South Kerry Ploughing Championship and National Ploughing Championships, as well as the 2017 Burren Winterage School. An extended host farm walk/open day took place on Hazelfort Farm to launch the 2017 KSFP Evaluation Report. KSF also has a stand each year at Puck Fair in Killorglin. In 2019.. Puck Fair was filmed for the TV Series Beidh Aonach 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 impacted greatly on farm events during 2020. However a successful host farmer gathering was held at Gortbrack Organic Farm, Ballyseedy, Tralee in September 2020. There was a limited attendance, with social distancing being observed in line with HSE guidelines. The event provided a valuable opportunity for meeting and networking safely and in person, following many months of online communication. Host farmers met online to help stay connected during the early months of 2021. Social farming activity gradually returned to farms in late Spring. In June 2021, 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 was delighted to host the FARCURA National Social Farming Conference on September 24th 2021 at the farm of Mike O’Sé in Canuig, Mastergeehy, in South Kerry. This was a great success and a large crowd attended, including participants and their families, host farmers, service providers, public representatives, community leaders, neighbours and representatives of all other social farming projects in Ireland.. During 2022 host farmers and participants were part of the Kerry Eco-Social Farming project with several training sessions and work meitheals held at various farms across the county. In October we had an Open Day at Kerry Creamery Experience Listry as part of Social Farming Awareness Week. In May 2023 KSF hosted an open day on the Murphy Farm, Kilgarvan during the visit by the project team for FARMEDLER Erasmus+ project. Full details of all farm walks and events can be seen in our News section which also contains all our KSF Newsletters.

Our Targets

The initial targets for Kerry Social Farming were informed by the agreed targets with 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 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 DAFM.

Contact Kerry Social Farming with any queries.

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