A Cross border networking event took place recently for a group of farmers experienced in Social Farming delivery and those increasing their readiness to deliver a service. The event was jointly organised by the Social Farming Support Service for Northern Ireland and Social Farming Ireland, and was made possible through support from Trouw Nutrition, a global leader in animal nutrition with customers across the island of Ireland.
Trouw kindly made a donation for the benefit of Social Farming development on an all-Ireland basis in lieu of its regular Christmas hamper for customers.
The focus of the event was building the capacity of farmers to provide a Social Farming service by strengthening their experience through farm visits and coming together as a network.
The event consisted of two farm visits, one farm on each side of the border, and an evening meeting concentrated on the current and future development of Social Farming.
The first farm visit by the group was to Yellow Road Farm in Hilltown, County Down, a sheep and beef farm, with hens and a vegetable garden, it is owned by Marie and Paul Kelly with Social Farming happening one day per week currently.
The second farm visit was to Creag Ard Farm, in Riverstown, County Louth a sheep farm with mountain grazing, various poultry and a horse, it is owned by Matthew and Clodagh McGreehan with Social Farming also happening one day per week currently.
On both farms, participants get involved with all the usual farming activities under the supervision of the farmers. Each Social Farming day is very varied as different projects are undertaken and the seasons change.
Both sets of farmers are keen to increase their Social Farming delivery to allow more individuals to benefit from participation.
The group also heard from Social Farming Coordinators Helen Doherty (ROI) and Aoibeann Walsh (NI) who chaired an evening meeting and highlighted:
- The Referral fund in Northern Ireland
- Supporting multiple sectors
- Research in The Republic of Ireland (building the evidence base)
- Cross border co-operation going forward
- Development plans and the vision of Social Farming Ireland
When the floor was opened to farmers there were able to discuss some key areas that have contributed to their successful social farming placements including, working closely with SoFI, the importance of a coalition of champions within services, and reaching out to those who advocate for potential participants.