Foróige participant Patrick O’Brien was a guest speaker at a National Conference on Social Farming in the Emmaus Centre in Swords Co. Dublin on March 23rd. 140 professionals from all over Ireland including delegates from Department of Agriculture and the HSE learnt more about the development of social farming and how it enables those who take part to do ‘ordinary things in ordinary places’.Patrick, an 18 year old from Foroíge’s West Limerick GYDP who took part in a 10 week social farming placement last summer had no previous experience of farming and spoke movingly about his time there. He reflected on how social farming gave him new confidence and belief in himself and taught him new skills in working with animals and in working as a team with Mike the farmer and the other three lads from the project. The days at social farming he got out of the bed early and couldn’t wait to see what the day would bring. His dream is to get work on a farm and one day own a small farm like Mikes with lots of different animals, where he will be able to bring young people like himself and “give them a chance like Mike gave me.”
Social farming is an outcomes focused programme and offers activity on ordinary working family farms as a form of social support. The farm is not a specialised treatment farm, but a typical working family farm where people can build relationships and take part in day-to-day farm activities in a relaxed and non-clinical environment.
Research on social farming was undertaken in 2017 and confirmed a range of benefits which participants experience from social farming; speaking at the conference, researcher Dr Aisling Moroney said; “people who took part in the research spoke to us of feeling much better in themselves, of feeling that they had an improved sense of purpose, wellbeing and a new confidence in their own abilities”.