BY BRIAN MOORE
MINISTER Jim Daly has given a commitment to fund the national social farming initiative, which supports those with mental health issues or intellectual disabilitites.
Speaking at a recent Social Farming Ireland (SFI) open day at Jerry Daly’s farm in the Mealagh Valley just outside Bantry, the Minister said that there was between €3 to €4m available in funding for initiatives such as social farming, which provides support for social service users such as people with intellectual disabilities, recovering from addiction or with mental health issues.
Jerry Daly is one of three farmers in the area along with Jerry O’Donoghue from Pairceanna east of Bantry and his neighbour Denis Minihane who have opened up their family farms to support the SFI initiative.
‘I am delighted to be involved,’ Jerry told The Southern Star. ‘We started with our first participant back in July this year and the whole process is very rewarding not only for us but for the people who come to the farm each week.’
Those participating in the social farming programme are not working for the farmer, the farm is providing social supports with each participant having a plan designed to meet their needs. Brian Smyth SFI National Project Manager said: ‘Whether it’s helping the farmer with the animals, or any other activities that the person would like to do, the process is designed to give them the time and opportunity to enjoy their time spent on the farm. The farm is not a specialised treatment farm; rather it remains a typical working farm where people in need of support can benefit from participation in farm activities in a non-clinical environment.’
Minister Daly said: ‘This is a wonderful initiative. The amount of therapy that is available on a farm is incredible, you have fresh air and the wonderful countryside. For too long the medicalised model has taken the lead in mental health issues and I am honoured and thrilled that down here in West Cork we have three family farms involved with the social farming programme.
‘I am thrilled as well to give the commitment, here on Jerry Daly’s farm in Bantry, that as a national government we will get behind this initiative and we will support it and the Department of Health will also support this programme.
‘As Minister for Older People, I think that a lot of elderly people, perhaps suffering from dementia, would benefit from the social farming initiative and I would like to see, as the programme develops, I think an awful lot of people would benefit from this form of therapy in their later stages in life.’