Northern Ireland’s Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots and Minister of Health Robin Swann MLA have jointly launched Rural Support’s Social Farming Standards.

Social Farming is an innovative use of agriculture to promote therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education and social services in rural areas.

It is a unique on-farm support service that recognises the need to offer community-based choice to individuals in need of support.

Social Farming offers people who avail of a range of services, including mental health, learning disability and other aspects of care supports with the opportunity to spend time on a farm as part of their daily or weekly routine.

In support of this vital service, a set of Social Farming standards for Northern Ireland have been developed by Rural Support to enable social farmers to provide clear evidence of service quality excellence and to practically demonstrate their professionalism in delivering Social Farming.

The benefits of Social Farming

Minister Poots said:

“I am delighted to have had the opportunity to mark the launch of Social Farming Standards for Northern Ireland.

“My department has supported the development and delivery of Social Farming since 2015.

I have heard about the benefits of Social Farming for individuals whose lives have changed for the better and for the farmers on how much they get from delivering the service and how it has helped develop sustainability for their farm businesses.

“However, the effective delivery of Social Farming relies on collaboration with colleagues in the Health and Social Care Trusts, and other organisations who support people in need.

“Social Farming Standards will be important to this collaboration going forward.

“I commend my colleague Robin Swann, Minister of Health and his colleagues for their ongoing support and for opening up the options for accessing meaningful activities and personal development opportunities for the most vulnerable in society.

Rural Support’s vision is to contribute to a strong, healthy and resilient farming community and Social Farming is a core part of that vision.

“The Social Farming Standards provide a meaningful and supportive structure both for existing farmers delivering a service and for new farmers who are interested in doing so,” he concluded.