The rapid development of the UK's pioneering care farming movement gets a boost in June, when a new organisation is launched to increase support for care farmers.
The principle behind care farming is simple: using structured, supervised farming activities to provide health, social or educational care services for vulnerable people. The movement has grown quickly in the last five years and there are now more than 170 care farms in the UK with more being set up all the time.
Called Care Farming UK, the new organisation will be launched by Sir Don Curry, Chairman of the UK's leading rural insurer NFU Mutual, at the Royal Norfolk Show on June 30. Invited visitors to the launch will be able to meet care farmers at the NFU Mutual stand and learn about the benefits of their work and how they can get involved.
The new organisation has evolved from the National Care Farming Initiative, which was set up in 2005 to provide support services for care farmers as well advocate on their behalf with policy makers. Care Farming UK aims to take the work of the initiative further as the movement takes off with both the farming industry and care commissioners.
Care Farming UK's co-ordinator Gaynor Orton said: "When you visit a care farm and see for yourself the tangible benefits for clients of taking part in farm activities, then you quickly discover that care farming is a great way to improve an individual's well-being."
"What is unique about care farming is that no two farms are alike - each one works with clients in slightly different ways. This means they can benefit a very wide range of people, for example a young person with autism, young offenders, those recovering from addictions, and people with mental health problems - the list goes on."
The farms provide anything from therapeutic environments to qualifications that can lead on to employment, Gaynor added.
Care Farming UK has been set up as a limited company with charitable status. It is the result of extensive consultation with the care farming community by the four founding partners of NCFI - Harper Adams University College, The Arthur Rank Centre, the University of Essex and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.
In addition to the launch, care farms across the country are throwing open their gates to the public and care commissioners this summer, to help raise the profile of the movement. More information is available from www.carefarminguk.org