The idea that working on the land can promote mental and physical health is not a new one, having been established more than 100 years ago but Scotland currently lags behind the rest of the country in supporting what is now called Care Farming.
Speaking yesterday at a conference in Birnam, the Rev Dr Gordon Gatward, the chair of Care Farming UK, said that, since the concept was revived in 2005, there had been a tremendous expansion in the number of farms in England and Wales that were now providing support and help to a wide range of client groups.
“We now have more than 200 farms involved and new ones are opening almost every week,” he said. “The range of support is also increasing with, for example, two farms now providing support for victims of combat stress.
“There are increasing numbers of military personnel coming back into civilian life who are finding difficulty in coping.
The main streams of Care Farming continue to be helping those with mental and physical problems but we also have farms aiding youngsters excluded from school and others helping long-term unemployed.”
Former NFU Scotland president John Ross, who is chairman of Care Farming Scotland, expressed his concern that Scotland was lagging behind in using land-based industries to improve the lives of people with problems, with only a dozen or so farms presently operating.
He described the current position in Scotland as a “chicken and egg” one where new farm providers needed re-assurance from health services, probation boards and education services that they would support them with clients.
“We have potential Care Farmers who would be interested in doing this type of work but we need to have assurances their services would be in demand.”
Both Gatward and Ross were convinced of the benefits of the scheme, with Gatward saying that one Care Farm in Shropshire with clients suffering from drug and alcohol problems had a more than 90 percent success rate for staying off drugs and staying in work.
Ross said that one Care Farm on the Black Isle helped long-term unemployed people back into the workplace by giving them confidence and support.
Another farm, in the Borders, is successfully dealing with youngsters who, for various reasons, have been excluded from school.
Gatward told delegates:“All we are doing is recognising now as people did [100 years ago] that it is good for people get out in the open air and do something practical such as working with animals or growing crops.”
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Source: the scotsman