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Social farming, at its heart, is the delivery
of social care services by Irish farm
households. It is the practice of offering, on
a voluntary basis, farming and horticultural
participation in a farming environment
as a choice to people who avail of a range
of therapeutic day support services. It is
a relatively new initiative in Ireland and
Professor Jim Kinsella, who is based at
UCD's School of Agriculture and Food
Science, has been centrally involved the
work that has been done to date to widen its
reach across Irish communities.
"Part of my role at UCD is to teach on rural
development modules and from a research
point of view I am involved in a wide range
of things that contribute towards rural
development," Prof. Kinsella explains. One
of the main things that he has been involved
with in rural development over the years has
been around supporting community groups
in terms of LEADER companies offering
training, and also with tourism related
services. "But social farming was the first
European research I got involved in," he
states. "About 15 years ago I was involved in
a pan-European piece of research on rural
development policy in Europe. In examining
that work we got to look at what was going
on in other countries and one of the things
that really caught my attention was the
existence of social farming in countries
like the Netherlands and Italy, and, as a
consequence, I became involved with a
number of European colleagues in social
farming research."
In Ireland, Prof. Kinsella found that
there were many people that were keen
to establish some kind of social farming
initiative. "We had a group of people, who
were representative from St John of Gods,
Brothers of Charity, Teagasc, UCD and
some individual farmers who had first-hand
experience of dealing with family members
with mental health issues and intellectual
Professor Jim Kinsella, UCD School of Agriculture and
Food Science, discusses the importance of the role
of social farming in Ireland and the strides that those
involved have made to develop the services it o ers
across rural communities
A social