Probably the most important factor in starting up a care farm is motivation - you have to really want to do it (and not purely as a business activity).
Does it really matter to you, over and above all, to provide health and social care services for individuals from one or a number of vulnerable groups? To provide a meaningful environment where people can spend time, gain confidence, new skills and experience how a farm works?
Obviously for many people economics plays a part and some farms are keen to broaden the income stream by setting up as a care farm. It is possible to earn a reasonable income by mixing farming and care, but it is likely that there will be extra costs involved too.
If your motivation is primarily economic you may want to think about doing something else. In the first instance it may be worth asking yourself some searching questions to see if you’re really ready to take your idea further:
What is my motivation - How long have I been thinking about this and why do I want to do it?
Have you thought about which client group/s you would like to welcome to your farm and why?
What activities could be done on your farm and would the potential client group/s be interested or suited?
Is it possible to find activities to do all year round, rain or shine?
Do I have facilities for people to get warm and dry, eat their lunch etc or would I need to build/convert somewhere?
Do I have the money to invest into that or would I need to find funding?
Would all the family welcome this plan?
Do I like spending time with people and do I want them on the farm every day or just a couple of days a week?
Do I have good social skills, patience and empathy?
Is my site/farm fairly accessible as it is likely that a significant number of participants will be coming from more urban areas?
Would my neighbours/parish council/local community be supportive?
Am I happy handling paperwork or would I need to employ someone to help with this?
If all these questions seem rather overwhelming, try to picture it on your farm and see if you can see yourself in that picture. If you can’t but would still like to see the farm being used as a care farm perhaps you should think about letting a group come in and use some of the land and buildings? - This can work very well as the group/project leader will have the background and experience to ensure that the participants are looked after and engaging with the activities, and you can advise on the farming/horticulture/animal side of things.
Either way, you are going to need to get a potential purchaser of your care farm service on-side. You and the organisation paying for the services also need to consider the issues in the Code of Practice (see here).
In the meantime, for general business start up advice and information on legal structures you can check out Gov.UK website (which incorporates the previous Business Links advice).
If you become a member of Social Farms and Gardens as a prospective care farm, you will be able to access other resources that you might find useful, including the Starting a Care Farm checklist. Taking part in CEVAS training (see point 3) is also recommended for people wanting to start in the care farming sector.