Care farming took centre stage at last week’s 2013 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC). The OFC, an annual conference for the UK’s farmers, was framed by its report ‘Farming’s Value to Society: Realising the Opportunity‘ [PDF] that seeks to capture the full range of values that farming delivers to the nation. It is great to see that it includes a section entitled ‘Farming as Therapy’
Farming as therapy
The report begins by defining care farming and explains that it:
…involves sustained encounters with farming people, land and production, and represents, perhaps, the quintessential experience of farming’s total value…Care farming is a poignant symbol of just what farming can do for society, in a total sense.
Apparently, there are now 189 care farms in the UK and another 206 in the making (it doesn’t say, but these numbers must come from Care Farming UK). And in trying to measure the value that these farms have to society, the OFC have turned to a recent Social Return on Investment (SROI) study [PDF] that found that for each £1 investment in a care farm, £4 of social value was created in return. While that number probably needs to taken with a pinch of salt, we know from first hand experience that care farming does people good and reduces the burden on education, health and social services.
The Prince of Wales
Summing up the situation of care farming quite nicely, Prince Charles, in a recorded statement, said:
I am hugely encouraged that the restorative, health and educational values of farming are beginning to be recognized. As your report suggests, Care Farms are bringing to vulnerable people a sense of well-being and self-worth which many have never experienced before. The connection with animals, with the soil and with Nature can have the most profound impact. This is why I have long held a particular admiration for the immense value of school farms. Apart from the importance of reconnecting young people with Nature, the soil and where their food actually comes from, they can give to children of every ability an experience of growing and an understanding of farming which will serve them throughout their lives, especially when they begin to make decisions as consumers. For those students who struggle academically, the school farm can often be the lifeline that keeps them in education. Time and again I have seen how those who struggle with books often have a real talent with animals and for gardening. So instead of being a failure, they shine. And I know there are countless farms around the country that welcome children and the wider public to learn more about what they are doing. I have seen for myself the impact this can have and how it can provide a long term investment in terms of helping society as a whole to appreciate properly agriculture’s crucial role in producing food for the nation.
So what do you think? Let us know in the comments box below: