Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
201. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine what action his Department is taking to support and expand the scope of the social farming Ireland initiative, in view of its continued success and benefits to participants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50321/23]
202. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department is engaging with key stakeholders regarding the social farming Ireland initiative to ensure continued success of the model and the potential for expansion in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50322/23]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 201, 202 and 203 together.
Social farming has been shown to provide benefits to participants such as improved community connections and relationships, increased self-esteem and capacity, improved health and well-being as well as providing the opportunity to develop occupational and life skills from engaging in farm-based activities.
In recognition and support of all these benefits, my Department provides funding under the Rural Innovation & Development Fund (RIDF) for the development of the national Social Farming Network known as 'Social Farming Ireland' and for a number of social farming model projects across Ireland.
Funding of €400,000 was provided by my Department last year to Leitrim Integrated Development Company towards the development of the National Social Farming Network (Social Farming Ireland). This funding enables Social Farming Ireland to provide a wide range of services and initiatives which support the development of social farming nationally including dissemination of information, farmer engagement / recruitment, training and development.
The Social Farming Ireland network has some 150 registered social farms to deliver support to people with at least one farm in every county. In excess of 600 people have been trained by Leitrim Development in the principles and practices of Social Farming. In 2022 alone, 6,867 placement days were delivered. The Social Farming Ireland Network has engaged with in excess of 120 organisations across Ireland this year many of which are supporting participants in placements and funding placements. Furthermore, the range of services with whom Social Farming Ireland is working is growing and reaches across many sectors where vulnerable people are in need of support. Social Farming Ireland held a series of open days in 2023 and during Social Farming Ireland Awareness Week in October 2023 to showcase what Social Farming is all about.
My Department has also provided funding of approx. €377,000 last year for the development of the following social farming model projects:
- Leitrim Integrated Development Company CLG – for the provision of a Social Farming Model Project where social farming is mainstreamed as an option for people accessing supports across a range of sectors and services and where placements are fully commissioned.
- Down Syndrome Ireland (Cork Branch) – to provide opportunities for participation in a purpose-built farm - the Field of Dreams - with horticulture and animal care elements which will bring long lasting wellness benefits to participants.
- South Kerry Development Partnership – for a Social Farming Model Project which will increase participant and host farmers engagement so that the social farming opportunity is available to more people in Kerry and to offer choice to people with disabilities to engage with farm families in meeting their personal life choices.
- IRD Duhallow – for a Social Farming model project which will promote rehabilitation, social inclusion, training and improved quality of life in a non-clinical setting using agriculture including plants and animals for people across a wide spectrum of disability.
A similar level of funding is being provided by my Department this year for the extension of all of the above contracts.