The launch of the Kerry Social Farming Evaluation Report took place on one of the Kerry Social Farming host farms in July 2017. There was a large turnout of almost 300 people who were representative of a whole cross section of the wider community. The purposes of the event was for Minister Creed, Minister for the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine to officially launch the Kerry Social Evaluation Report and to present the key findings of the report to the Minister and the wider farming, statutory, public representative, research, educational, and social care communities, along with persons with disabilities and their families and the general public as a whole. Thus, the launch was geared toward raising awareness, particularly of the benefits and the success of KSF, driven by bottom up community collaborative spirit; highlighting the issues relating to the requirement for the long term investment into KSF going forward; and to provide a platform to present the research based findings of the KSF project, the multitude of benefits from the project along with key recommendations.
Above all it provided guests with the opportunity to meet those who are at the heart of the project, the host farmers and the participants and to experience what the project is about from them in their own words.
The day involved guests arriving and meeting and greeting on the farm, and going on an extended host farm walk around the farm. The positive atmosphere was enhanced by a large marquee on the farm to accommodate guests, refreshments, a buffet lunch for all, and a local family, the local musical family, the Kellihers entertained guests with traditional music on the day.
The host farm walk consisted of different stations, 6 in total: host farmers and farm families, participants, families of participants, partner service providers and support workers, mixed group (host farmers, participants, families, support workers) and SoFI also had an information stand on site to inform guests about the national social farming project SoFI. Information boards marked the host farm walk so as to further illustrate KSF to the guests.
The large 4x4, colourful information boards consisted of providing general background information about KSF and social farming in general, as well as quotes taken from the interview transcripts that were included in the KSF Evaluation Report, consisting of quotes from host farmers, participants, families and support staff, placed at the respective stations (see Appendix 16 for an example of one of the boards, which is a large welcome information board that was placed at the entrance to the farm near the road, along with a large Pride of Place sign, so as to inform arriving guests of the farm location). The KSF host farm walk signs were placed at the entrance to the farm and the farm yard (Appendix 1b). The host farm walk at the launch day gave guests the opportunity to get a real understanding about the project. Minister Creed, DAFM, also was taken on the host farm walk, along with Sean Kelly MEP who were accompanied by George Kelly (KSF Working Group Chairperson), Noel Spillane (SKDP CEO), Joseph McCrohan (Rural Development Manager SKDP). Minister Creed took great time to talk to farmers, participants, families and support workers to learn more about the project.
As well as all those directly involved in KSF, host farmers, participants and working group members, there was a great turnout of families, and partner agency personnel, along with many service users interested in undertaking social farming.
Rural Social Scheme staff (supervisors and participants) from SKDP were vital to ensure the smooth running on the day, from manning the registration, to the car park, to guiding guests on the host farm walks.
The cross section of guests included Kerry Local Community Development Committee representatives, Kerry County Council representatives, along with TDs, and Kerry County Council elected members. Representatives from businesses such as Community Finance Ireland, the Kerry Group and FEXCO and the IFA were also in attendance, along with the Department of Social Protection and the HSE. Farmers who were interested in social farming were also present. A bus, supported by Local Link Kerry, transported interested farmers from North Kerry/Listowel area (organised by Dave Fitzgibbon NEWKD and KSF Working Group member) along with SJOG service users, their families and staff.
Agencies that are not currently a member of KSF Shared Services came on the day with interested service users: Cope, An Cuan, National Learning Network, Rehab Care, and Kerry Mental Health. Educational representatives were also present on the day from Kerry Education Training Board, Mary Immaculate College, University College Cork and Limerick Institute of Technology.
Representatives of other Local Developments and Social Farming Ireland were also present.
The presentations were given by Gloria O Driscoll (Chairperson of SKDP), who highlighted the involvement of SKDP and the governance of Kerry Social Farming. Following a welcome address by Chairperson and host farmer George Kelly, Joseph McCrohan, who has been involved in the Kerry Social Farming Project since the beginning, outlined the establishment and development of the project. Dr Brendan O Keeffe gave a presentation on the evaluation of Kerry Social Farming, highlighting that Kerry Social Farming "…offers people with disabilities greater choice and greater options and opportunities for progression and self-actualisation. It does so in meaningful and constructive way'.
Additional speeches were made by Pat Spillane (Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Ireland, who also wrote a Foreword for the report) and MEP Sean Kelly. Various representatives of social farming, gave their input regarding their involvement with the project: Ger O Sullivan (host farmer), Earl Leahy (participant), John Spillane (parent) and Domonic Kiely (support worker, St John of God Kerry Services)
The moving video on Kerry Social Farming which was filmed on Eamonn Horgan's farm (see link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voB4gAjQuLs&t=259s) was also shown to Minister Creed and the wider audience and was very well received. Eamon Horgan (host farmer), Mags O' Donoghue (Participant) and Tim Heffernan (Participant) had the opportunity to reflect on how important social farming is to them.
Minister Creed, Minister for the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, gave the final speech. The Minister stated that he was very pleased to be at the launch because real inclusion is about action rather than words and that Kerry Social Farming and SKDP are more about actions than words.
Minister Creed said it was a humbling experience to walk through the farm and meet all those involved who make it happen, including the participants and host farmers and that it's a fantastic example of collaboration. He also stated that the findings from KSF Evaluation Report will help inform social farming in Kerry and nationally.
Overall, the feedback on the day was highly positive and a lot of effort over several months was put into making it the success that it was. Videos of the day (highlights and ‘complete version' with all speeches) are on YouTube, which can be accessed here.
Two key messages from the launch and Kerry Social Farming Evaluation Report are that social farming works and that the Kerry Social Farming Project requires more long term sustainable funding. South Kerry Development Partnership CLG distributed a press release to all mainstream local/nation press and media, following the launch of the report.
Further coverage of the launch can be accessed here & here.