Farmers and services share learning on creating new rural opportunities

6th June 2014

The Social Farming Across Borders (SoFAB) project is offering a 10 evening training course at CAFRE College Greenmount  Antrim, and Fermanagh House  Enniskillen from June  to the end of August. The course requires a commitment of an evening a week and is aimed at farmers and health and social care providers, carers and other interested parties from within the community.

The SoFAB project has supported over sixty people who avail of health and social care services in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the RoI to take part in the everyday activities of life on 20 family farms. The project is funded under Interreg IVA through the SEUPB.   People who engaged with the project took part in the farming, social and community activity associated with each farm. Feedback from people has been really positive with new people looking to learn more about the concept and to become part of this experience in rural Ireland.  The training will build on the practice and the learning from the project, it will describe the steps that went into establishing the social farms, to offering the opportunity to people and in building partnerships with local services.  Two of the training evenings will be farm based with the remainder being delivered by trainers associated with the pilot project including the core partners of UCD, Leitrim Development Company and Queens University Belfast.  The course will offer the opportunity for people from different backgrounds to share experiences and learn together. 

Linda who took part in the project describes coming to the farm and working alongside the family as giving her a ‘new sense of achievement and freedom’. Health and social care services on both sides of the border have been most supportive of the focus of connecting people into the activity and life of rural communities. On the farming front the concept has been well received by all pilot farmers. Robert who farms part time in Co. Monaghan noted how the concept ‘brings new life to the farm on the days the lads are there’. 

The 10 evening training course is intended to open the concept beyond the groups and people who have been involved in the pilot project. There were many questions posed by both farmers and service providers at the start of the project two and a half years ago which have been worked through and resolved during the project. Shared concerns arose around farm safety, managing risk and acquiring insurance for supporting people to participate on farms. These and other questions will be addressed over the training evenings.  One of the core principles has been that the social farming option is offered in response to a real choice made by the person who avails of services. A HSE manager in Donegal stated ‘I was sceptical at first but to see it working for people has been unbelievable, it has changed around lives’.  The training comes at a time when there is real commitment to support people to live fulfilled and contributing lives in ordinary communities. This objective while simple to state and hugely valuable in doing doesn’t happen without thought and planning. The training opportunity on offer will be valuable resource to building knowledge, establishing contacts and forming relationships with others who have commenced this journey during the pilot SoFAB project.  Details and application forms are available online at,  by email from, or by contacting the project office at SoFAB, Laird House,  Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim on 00353(0) 71 9641772.