SF&G Bids Farewell to Director Chris Blythe

chris-blythe.jpgChris Blythe, Social Farms & Gardens Director since April 2017, has left the organisation for new and different opportunities.    
Preceding his appointment as Director Chris served as a trustee, and along with the board helped oversee the organisation, then named The Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens, merge with Care Farming UK, to become the charity we now know as Social Farms & Gardens. 
During Chris's time as Director the organisation has grown in terms of membership, staffing and turnover, whilst navigating the very challenging issues created by the Covid-19 pandemic.  
With a passion for the community growing groups in his home town of Birmingham, Chris will be remembered especially for his fondness for a certain allotment cat! 
We would like to thank Chris for his time with Social Farms & Gardens, and for the part he played in all that the organisation has achieved over the past five years. We wish him all the very best for the future.

Care farming for dementia and older people

Watch our video to find out how care farming can help older people and those living with dementia. 

Care farming for dementia and older people

Care farming for dementia and older people

Care farms can improve the quality of life for older people and those living with dementia. Some care farms run specialist dementia services which are adapted to suit people living with the condition.  

People who have been diagnosed with dementia can often be at risk of social isolation and declines in mental and physical health. Research has shown that regularly spending time in nature can slow progression of dementia. It can also improve sleep, concentration, appetite and communication skills.

Research by the charity Dementia Adventure shows that people living with dementia and their carers often face barriers to accessing the outdoors. Care farms providing dementia services offer vital local support to their communities. 

Read our case studies to find out more about farms offering dementia services and our partnership project with Dementia Adventure. 

“The greatest achievement is getting to know the real person behind the disease, their personality, their humour, their life story.”

Geoff Stevens, Pathways Care Farm

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Learning Bubbles

We are pleased to announce that SF&G will be part of a new European Erasmus Plus project called Learning Bubbles: an investigation into potential collaborations between schools, community gardens and the digital world. 

The project will take place between 2021 and 2023.

The new project seeks to utilise the unique educational setting that community gardens and city farms can provide, and results from observations made during the Covid-19 pandemic, where teachers and students from all over Europe were forced to rapidly find new ways of teaching and learning. 


The Learning Bubbles project will:

  • Develop and test systems for outdoor learning
  • Develop a planning system for the creation of learning pathways
  • Provide training in blended learning systems that support pupil needs

Project Marerials:

  • Training course suitable for both educators and community growers
  • Project toolkit
  •  Programme evaluation nvolving students, education professionals and community growing groups

International Partners:

  • Replay Network (Italy)
  • Pistes-Solidaires (France)
  • Institut Jean Errecart (France)
  • Piaget-Diaz (Italy)
  • Gloverspiece School (UK)
  • UC Leuvenlimburg (Belgium)

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Productive Community Orchards


Social Farms & Gardens is calling out for Welsh communities who want to plant edible fruit and nut trees or begin processing new fruit and nut products! 

The call-out is part of the Productive Community Orchards strand of their £1.27 million Resilient Green Spaces project.

Resilient Green Spaces is a partnership project being led by Social Farms & Gardens to pilot alternative re-localised food systems using communities and their green spaces as a driving force for change across Wales until June 2023. The project is funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union.

“We’re thrilled to launch our call-out for Productive Community Orchard sites,” said Gary Mitchell, Joint Social Farms & Gardens Wales Manager, “this work comes on the back of our hugely successful Orchard for Wales project in 2020. This time, we’re looking to support ten existing or new community sites to plant around 100 edible fruit and nut trees each and help them to store and process their produce. Please get in touch with us if you’ve been thinking about either.”

Interested community sites or organisations can find further information here, or by contacting wales@farmgarden.org.uk.

Groups that wish to be considered for the 2021 season need to apply by November 29th.

For more information about the wider Resilient Green Spaces project, and for other opportunities for communities as part of the project, please go to the Social Farms & Gardens website.

Perllannau Cymunedol Cynhyrchiol Mewn Mannau Gwyrdd Gwydn 

Mae Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol, yr elusen sy’n cefnogi cymunedau i ffermio, garddio a thyfu gyda’i gilydd, yn galw ar gymunedau yng Nghymru sydd am blannu coed ffrwythau a chnau bwytadwy, neu ddechrau prosesu cynhyrchion ffrwythau a chnau newydd!

Mae’r alwad yn rhan o elfen Perllannau Cymunedol Cynhyrchiol ei brosiect Mannau Gwyrdd Gwydn gwerth £1.27 miliwn.

Mae Mannau Gwyrdd Gwydn yn brosiect partneriaeth sy’n cael ei arwain gan Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol er mwyn cynnal peilot o systemau bwyd ail-leoledig amgen ledled Cymru, gan ddefnyddio cymunedau a’u mannau gwyrdd fel sbardun dros newid, a hynny nes mis Mehefin 2023. Ariennir y prosiect gan Lywodraeth Cymru a’r Undeb Ewropeaidd drwy’r Gronfa Datblygu Cymunedau Gwledig fel rhan o Raglen Datblygu Gwledig Llywodraeth Cymru.

“Rydym wrth ein boddau’n lansio ein galwad am safleoedd ar gyfer perllannau cymunedol cynhyrchiol” meddai Gary Mitchell, Cyd-reolwr Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol Cymru. “Mae’r gwaith hwn yn dilyn ein prosiect Perllan dros Gymru hynod lwyddiannus yn 2020. Y tro hwn, rydym am gefnogi deg safle cymunedol sydd eisoes yn bodoli neu ddeg safle cymunedol newydd i blannu oddeutu 100 o goed ffrwythau a chnau bwytadwy a’u helpu i storio a phrosesu eu cynnyrch. Gofynnwn i unrhyw un sydd wedi bod yn ystyried y naill neu’r llall gysylltu â ni.”

Gall cymunedau â safleoedd posibl neu sefydliadau sydd â diddordeb gael rhagor o wybodaeth ar wefan Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol, neu drwy anfon e-bost at wales@farmgarden.org.uk.

Mae angen i grwpiau sydd am gael eu hystyried ar gyfer tymor 2021 wneud cais erbyn Tachwedd 29.

I gael rhagor o wybodaeth am y prosiect Mannau Gwyrdd Gwydn, a chyfleoedd eraill ar gyfer cymunedau fel rhan o’r prosiect, ewch I wefan Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol.

Integrated Care Systems and care farming

Integrated Care Systems and care farming 

The UK healthcare system is always evolving. It can be hard to keep pace but it's useful for care farmers and green care providers to understand how it works.  

Understanding healthcare provision and the allocation of resources means you can be part of the process. It can also help you to secure more funding to provide your care farm places.  

Local services for patients were once commissioned by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Now, Integrated Care Systems (ICS) are replacing Clinical Commissioning Groups.  

Integrated Care Systems plan heath and care services to meet the needs of their local area. They include providers and commissioners of NHS services local authorities and local partners.  

Integrated Care Systems are an important shift away from traditional models of healthcare. Each ICS will use local health and social care data to guide partnerships. They will also collaborate to deliver health improvements to places and populations.

Find out more about integrated care in your your area on the NHS website

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COP26 Northern Ireland Film

As part of their response to the COP26 Glasgow Climate Change Conference, the SF&G Northern Ireland team have released this short film demonstrating the power of NI's community growing spaces and the work they are doing to bring people together in their communities to help fight against climate change.

FSSSE Report Launched

The SF&G Northern Ireland Team have released the year one report from their Food Security Through Seed Saving & Exchange project.

The project, delivered by Growing Resilience Project Officer Conor O'Kane and funded by Necessity, has engaged with over thirty community gardens and hundreds of individuals in both the first phase of educational videos and webinars, and the second phase of the Seed Saving programme itself.

Click the icon below to read the report.


Updated advice for allotments and community growers in Wales

The Welsh government has released updated advice aimed at making it easier for people in Wales to grow their own food.

Social Farms & Gardens worked with the Welsh Government on the second edition of guidance for allotments and community growers across Wales. The guidance was successfully introduced in 2016 and has now been updated. It is hoped that the new second edition will continue to help more people to share good practice and get involved in growing. 

The advice covers:

  • different growing models
  • allotment law
  • animal on allotments
  • planning guidance
  • establishing a new site
  • good group governance
  • funding 
  • biodiversity
  • risk assessment and insurance

Since the advice was first introduced allotments and community gardens have become even more important in creating a healthier, happier and more sustainable Wales. Allotments and community gardens can help to tackle some of today’s most urgent priorities, from health and wellbeing to the climate and nature emergencies. 

The Welsh Government aim to create one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 sets out a clear obligation for public bodies to enable the positive change that leads to a more resilient, secure and healthy Wales.

The benefits of gardening on individuals and the environment are clear. Increased physical activity and mental wellbeing, access to fresh fruit and vegetables and well used and cared for public spaces, are natural by-products of growing your own. 

Gardening on an allotment plot or community garden means closer community relationships, reduced social isolation and the chance to work together and celebrate with your neighbours. It can make a dramatic improvement to quality of life. For many, allotments and community gardens are seen as essential elements of living happier, healthier and more sustainable lives. 

The updated guidance follows the Welsh Government’s publication of small-scale agricultural planning rights for sheds and greenhouses in February 2021. 

The story of Clynfyw Care Farm webinar

Care farmer Jim Bowen speaks about his journey in farming from the family run organic farm to what is now Clynfyw Care Farm CIC. Watch the webinar now

Care farming for education webinar

Hear from Dr Rachel Bragg about our partnership with the Countryside Classroom website and CEO of Lambourne End Centre Rob Gayler about care farming for education. Watch our webinar now

Resilient Green Spaces

Welsh Government Funds Landmark New Local Food Scheme

SF&G is delighted to announce that a new £1.27m partnership project that will support community-led food growing spaces has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. 

We are delighted to launch our new partnership project; Resilient Green Spaces! The £1.27m partnership project is being led by Social Farms & Gardens to pilot alternative re-localised food systems using communities and their green spaces as the driving force for change across Wales until June 2023.

The Resilient Green Spaces project, being led by us at Social Farms & Gardens, will pilot alternative and re-localised food systems using communities and their green spaces as a driving force for change across Wales. This exciting project will empower growers across Wales and lead the way for change for the benefit of communities, consumers and the climate. 

The project has six pioneering strands of work delivered in partnership, that will test what communities can achieve given the right support, access to land and freedom to do what they do best: 

  1. Building a National Allotment Development Team - Wales’ first Allotment Development Team will be convened to support landowners and managers in meeting the growing demand for adequate allotment provision and to improve access for those who are often marginalised from green spaces and healthy food. 
  2. Innovative Food Hubs - five enterprising and sustainable Food Hubs will be established in communities across Wales to provide food that is good for people, good for the environment and good for local business by promoting short supply chains. 
  3. Productive Community Orchards - hundreds of new orchards will be planted and monitored across Wales, provide economic benefits to communities in addition to the well-recognised social and environmental benefits of community green spaces. 
  4. Greener Corridors and Spaces - communities will be empowered to take control of their public green spaces so they are better connected for nature and people. 
  5. Exploring Community Access to Farms and Land – new approaches to meeting the challenges and opportunities of access to land for new entrants to agroecological farming and local communities will be explored. 
  6. Building Horticultural Future Farming Skills - a pilot training package will be developed to cover the skills needed to run horticultural farming businesses. 

This groundbreaking project is the result of a partnership between 8 organisations – Social Farms & Gardens, the Landworkers’ Alliance, Development Trust Association Wales, Open Food Network UK, Lantra, Shared Assets, Cardiff University and Gwynedd County Council.

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Care farming narrated presentation

Find out more about care farming with our narrated presentation. 

Health and wellbeing benefits of care farming research

View or dowload our useful list of key health and wellbeing care farming research sources. 

What does care farming look like around the world?

What does care farming look like around the world?

Care farming or social farming has been practiced around the world in different ways for generations. 

Modern care farming is understood as ‘the therapeutic use of farming practices’ for people with a defined need. It is primarily practiced In the UK and Western European countries but is also growing in popularity around the world.  

Care Farming is well established in many European countries, though it has developed in differing ways. The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Italy and the Republic of Ireland have well-developed care farming sectors. In these areas, green care is becoming more accepted and integrated as part of farm diversification. 

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What are the health and wellbeing benefits of care farming?

What are the health and wellbeing benefits of care farming?

There has been much research published on the health and wellbeing benefits of green care interventions such as care farming.  

Care farming combines contact and connection with nature, social interaction and farm-related activity. All these things are beneficial for general health and wellbeing in themselves.

There is also a benefit from the combination of these elements together. Where people have a defined need, this combination of benefits can create a complex intervention. These interconnected physical health and mental wellbeing benefits can help many different people.

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International care farming research

View or dowload our useful list of key international care farming research sources. 

What are the economic benefits of care farming and green care?

What are the economic benefits of care farming and green care?

As well as improving the health and wellbeing of service users, care farming and green care can benefit local and national economies.

This can be directly through providing access to countryside and natural spaces. It can be also through rural economic opportunities and indirectly via societal improvements and cost savings. 

There are relatively few studies that have explored the financial values to the wider benefits of green care. However, existing research shows a clear economic benefit. 

In the UK there have been a number of SROI (Social return on Investment) studies and other types of analysis, but these are generally case studies of sites rather than sectoral evaluations. Social Farms & Gardens has gathered data on the fees and cost of services via our regular ‘state of the sector’ surveys.

What research there is shows us that economic benefits represent excellent value for money through outcomes for service users and those commissioning care farming services, along with farmers and rural economies.

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New London Staff

We are delighted to welcome new members of staff to our London team: Richard Choksey and Talent Moyo, who join Amber and our freelance Community Grower Ellie.

Richard comes from a background in botanical horticulture and became involved in the London community gardening network whilst researching for a dissertation on how botanic gardens might participate. He has an ongoing association with Meanwhile Gardens in North Kensington, has a predilection for rare whitebeam species, and his proudest horticultural achievement to date is having grown a collection of desert ferns from spore. Richard is working on the City Bridge Trust programme. Do email him with your training and networking ideas Richard@FarmGarden.org.uk.


Talent is a Carpenters Estate resident with real flair for getting the local children involved in gardening activities. They are a qualified gymnastics coach and will be leading garden-themed exercise with local residents this summer, alongside growing food, flowers and plants for dyes, working alongside Ellie - our freelance community grower - on our programme in Newham, where we are supporting residents of Carpenters Estate to create a new community garden from scratch.


Talent and Ellie working together in Newham.

Wellbeing Garden Launch

Nature's Path competition winners Lavender Place Community Garden will be unveiling their new "Nature's Path Wellbeing Garden" at a launch event on Friday 20th August in Reading.

Social Farms & Gardens partnered with Nature's Path to support the development of a new community space around the theme of "Grow Your Own".

Everyone is invited to the official opening to see the newly installed garden, enjoy a free Nature’s Path breakfast and have some garden based fun! 

Event Date: Friday 20th August
Event start time: 08:30
Event end time:  11:30 
Venue address: Lavender Place Community Gardens, Queens Walk, Reading RG1 7AE

•    Free Nature’s Path cereal and granola breakfast bar. Gluten free menu available. 
•    Planting Play Bed – we’ll have a play flower bed perfect for anyone who just can’t resist getting stuck in. 
•    Potting Table - Strawberries are the perfect fruit to accompany your brekkie. At our potting table you’ll find everything you need to grow them from seed.
•    Garden Find and Seek game – will you be able to follow the trail to find items around the garden and get your name on the hay bale of fame?
•    You can also find out more about Lavender Place Community Gardens, Food4Families and Nature’s Path’s involvement from our team.
•    Grand unveiling: take a moment to ‘toast’ the opening of the new Wellbeing Garden with us at 11am



Care farming and green care survey open

If you're a care farmer or green care provider, our care farming and green care annual survey is your chance to tell us about working in the sector. 

The survey means we can build a picture of care farming and green care across the UK. The more data we have, the more powerful and credible our voice - we want to make sure you're heard by policy makers and funders.

If you run a care farm, green care site, or are thinking of setting one up, then please have your say and complete the survey now. 

After a challenging year, it’s more important than ever that we understand your experiences and represent your needs. We'd like your help to make sure as many care farmers and green care providers as possible take part.

Help us to: 

  • Find out what effect the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our sector
  • Continue promoting care farming and lobbying on your behalf
  • Highlight the role that care farming and green care can play in the nation's mental health recovery post-Covid

There's also a free prize draw for taking part, so please get involved and share widely. Thank you! 

The annual care farming and green care survey is open until 31st July. It's produced by the Growing Care Farming project team at Social Farms & Gardens. The team have been tracking the scale of the care farming sector since 2007. 

Dr Rachel Bragg receives OBE

Social Farms & Gardens is delighted to announce that Care Farming Development Manager Dr Rachel Bragg has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's birthday honours for services to academia and Green Care - congratulations Rachel!

Rachel has been a driving force in the development of the care farming sector in the UK for the last 15 years and is a passionate advocate of green care – ‘nature-based treatment interventions for people with a defined need’. Rachel and the SF&G team, in partnership with Thrive, are delivering the Growing Care Farming project (part of the Government’s Children and Nature Programme), which aims to transform the scale of the care farming sector in England and provides supporting services to the 300 care farms in the UK..

Rachel also remains a Visiting Fellow in the Green Exercise Research Team at the University of Essex, where she was a senior researcher for 17 years, with research interests including the relationship between nature, human health and mental wellbeing, specifically ‘green exercise’ and ‘green care’; care farming; walking and wilderness therapy; and sustainable agriculture.  Rachel is well known for her Participatory Appraisal and Action Research training; questionnaire and fieldwork design; she is considered an expert in the evaluation of nature-based green care interventions; and is also research advisor for other charities.

On receiving the news Rachel said: “I am feeling very proud and delighted to have received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to academia and Green Care – it’s great to get recognition for our inspiring care farming sector & for the amazing work to transform people’s lives – nature is more important than ever for our mental health, and we’ll need all the opportunities we can get to help people feel better post Covid”

Find out more about Rachel's work developing care farming at www.farmgarden/GCF, and her academic work at https://www.essex.ac.uk/research-projects/green-exercise.


New film shows impact of care farming on education

A new film from Social Farms & Gardens Growing Care Farming team highlights how care farming can help young people in education. 

Care farms help people of different ages, including young people who may be struggling to learn in mainstream education. Care farming is one of a range of nature-based interventions available in the UK that can boost prospects and change lives. Through a supervised, structured programme of farming activity, young people can improve health and wellbeing or gain qualifications and skills. For some young people, care farming can be a path back to mainstream education. 

Over half of UK care farms work with young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and learning difficulties or as part of Alternative Provision, with 40% working with under 18s with learning disabilities, mental ill health or physical disabilities. Referrals to care farms can be part of SEND, part of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or as Alternative Education Provision. Care farms also help young people with mental health and wellbeing or rehabilitation.

Care farming is a powerful mix of being in nature, working as a group and meaningful activity. Young people can get closer to nature and do something with real purpose, whether it's animal care, horticulture or a range of farming-related tasks. Whatever the activity, young people play an important part in the day to day running of a care farm. Activities are tailored to an individual’s specific needs, so everyone is able to take part in farm life in a safe and supported way.

Increased self-confidence, self-worth and better communication skills are just some of the positive outcomes for young people attending care farms regularly. 

Speaking about care farming for education in the film, Emma Thomas from Bridge School in Malvern, said: "We have found that care farming is a really effective service for those who perhaps struggle with schooling, because it offers them an opportunity to do something different to academics, it's that hands-on work and sense of purpose. It's been great at helping to improve their confidence and prepare them for life after education."

Parent Belinda Philpotts talks about the positive changes she has seen in her son Aiden:"School was always hit and miss with him but now he wants to learn, he wants an education. He's now thinking of a future, it's really changed him. With the help of the farm he's becoming my son again."

Former care farm student Aston explains how care farms make a difference, she said:"They show you that you can do it, and make you actually believe in it, and you're a lot more confident and ready to face the world as an adult."

The film was made in collaboration with partners, care farmers, schools and young people as part of the Growing Care Farming project - a big thank you to everyone who took part. 

Find out more about care farming for education.

Growing Care Farming aims to increase access to health, care and educational services on care farms. Please visit www.farmgarden.org.uk/gcf for more information about the project. 

Connecting care farmers and teachers

A new collaboration between Social Farms & Gardens and LEAF Education aims to make care farming more accessible for teachers and education referrers.  

Care farming now has a permanent presence on the Countryside Classroom website, led by LEAF Education and involving 32 partner organisations. The website is a free online hub of teaching resources, people to ask, and places to visit designed to enable teachers to use food, farming and the natural environment in and out of the classroom. With hundreds of contributors, Countryside Classroom is an important place for teachers to find free high-quality educational support.  

The new care farming pages feature an overview of why care farming works so well for young people, a video, a searchable map and case studies. Teachers and education referrers can now learn more about care farming and search for care farms in their local area.   

Dr Rachel Bragg, Care Farming Development Manager at Social Farms & Gardens, said: “We hope that the Countryside Classroom resources will help education professionals understand the hugely positive impact that care farming and green care services can have on young people and their education. We want to make it easier for students who might be struggling with mainstream education to be referred to local care farms and benefit from their life-changing services.” 

Carl Edwards, Director, Education and Public Engagement at LEAF added: “We are incredibly pleased to see the addition of care farming on the Countryside Classroom website – care farms have so much to offer schools. Raising the awareness of what care farms can deliver to mainstream schools can only benefit young people. As part of this work we reached out to SENCOs across England who are all amazed at what care farms can offer their pupils and are keen to access the many benefits they have to offer.” 

Care farming is one of a range of nature-based interventions available in the UK that can boost prospects and change lives. Through a supervised, structured programme of farming activity, people can improve health and wellbeing or gain qualifications and skills. 

Over half of UK care farms work with young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and learning difficulties or as part of Alternative Provision, with 40% working with under 18s with learning disabilities, mental ill health or physical disabilities. Referrals to care farms can be part of SEND, part of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or as Alternative Education Provision. Care farms also help young people with mental health and wellbeing or rehabilitation. 

Register your care farm

Registration for care farms is ongoing, so if you are a care farmer working with young people, please register your farm or green care site on the website now and let us know what you think. 

The Countryside Classroom care farming pages represent a collaboration between Countryside Classroom partners and Growing Care Farming. Growing Care Farming (GCF) aims to increase access to health, care and educational services on care farms.

GCF is delivered by Social Farms & Gardens in partnership with Thrive and is part of the government funded Children and Nature Programme. Please visit www.farmgarden.org.uk/gcf for more information.  

To find out more information about LEAF Education, please visit leafuk.org/education/leaf-education 

Care farming for education video

Find out how care farming helps young people who may be struggling with learning. 

What is the Growing Care Farming project?

What is the Growing Care Farming project? 

Social Farms & Gardens, in partnership with Thrive, are delivering the £1.4m Growing Care Farming Project, part of the Government’s Children and Nature Programme (supported by Defra, funded by the Department of Education and managed by Natural England).  

The project will expand and transform care farming services across England through a programme of central support, regional engagement, training and quality assurance. The Growing Care Farming Project is a wonderful opportunity to transform the scale of the care farming sector across England, creating more opportunities for both children and adults with a defined need, to benefit from health, social and specialist educational care services delivered on care farms.

Find out more about the project.  

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Can you help me with getting land for a care farm?

Can you help me with getting land for a care farm?

Land acquisition can differ from region to region depending on the policies of the Local Authority.

We understand that it can often be one of the first hurdles to overcome when trying to set up a care farm. You may wish to try working with a local farm and seeing if they can help.

The Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS) is a fantastic service to increase community access to land across the UK, particularly for green space activities.

Through CLAS, you can find information on finding, buying, offering and leasing of land. If you are wanting to acquire land another way, you may wish to contact your Local Authority for further advice. 

You can also contact your Regional Support Officer by emailing rso@farmgarden.org.uk.

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Nature and health interview with Dr Jo Barton

Dr Jo Barton from the University of Essex talks to Sophie Antonelli from the Growing Care Farming project team about the connection between nature and health. 

Care farming for mental health and wellbeing

Watch our video to see how care farming helps mental health and wellbeing. 

Care farming for mental health and wellbeing

Care farming for mental health and wellbeing

We know that spending time outdoors is good for us. Our mental health and wellbeing is linked to green spaces, open air and the natural environment. Care farming is a briliant way for people to connect with nature and other people, especially those that might be isolated.    

Care farms use farming and nature to benefit people, including improving mental health and wellbeing. A care farm is a calming environment, away from the pressures of everyday life. Care farming can help to release anxiety or stress and give people space to be themselves. 

Through farming-related activity, such as animal care, mechanics or horticulture, people have the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way. 

"We know that nature has huge benefits for people's mental health. What care farms do is not just to connect people and nature but to actually make that meaningful. People have the opportunity not just to be present, but to particpate."

Nicola Gitsham, Head of Social Prescribing, Personalised Care, NHS England and Improvement 

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Copper Beech Play Competition – May 2021

Once again, we are opening up our exciting competition for SF&G members to win beautifully handcrafted play equipment for you site.

Log in to find details of how to enter in our Members’ Area.

Check out our Facebook page to see fantastic images of how our members’ spaces make outdoors accessible for everyone. 

Competition closes on Monday 31st May 2021.

More information about Copper Beech Play and our photo competition.

If you work with children, why not also apply for one of our £1,500 Children’s Summer Activity Grants? More info can be found via the link above. Applications close Monday 24th May 2021.

Care farming for education

Care farming for education

Care farms offer calming and supportive spaces for young people who may struggle with learning. 

On a care farm, young people can improve their health and wellbeing or gain qualifications and skills. For some young people, care farming can be a path back to mainstream education. 

Over half of UK care farms work with young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and learning difficulties or as part of Alternative Provision. Around 40% of UK care farms work with under 18s with learning disabilities, mental ill health or physical disabilities. 

"We have found that care farming is a really effective service for those who perhaps struggle with schooling, because it offers them an opportunity to do something different to academics, it's that hands-on work and sense of purpose."

Emma Thomas - Bridge School, Malvern

Education referrals

Young people can be referred to care farms by schools, local authorities, parents or other agencies. 

Referrals can be for many different reasons, including learning difficulties, a disability, behavioural challenges or mental ill health.

Referrals to care farms can be part of SEND, part of an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or as Alternative Education Provision. 

Connecting educators and care farmers

To find out more about referring a young person to a care farm, take a look at the Countryside Classroom website for teachers and educators.

If you run a care farm and work with young people, you can register for free on the website to promote what you do to potential referrers.

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Care Farming for health and social care

Watch our video to see the value that care farming brings to people and the wider social care sector.

Children's Summer Activities Programme

This year we are very pleased to be working with and receiving funding from the Hilden Charitable Fund to run the Children's Summer Activities Programme. This opportunity will replace Hilden Charitable Fund’s annual Playscheme Grant Programme that had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. SF&G members are invited to apply for grants of £1,500 to support summer activities for children. We are particularly interested in funding activities that will connect children from disadvantaged backgrounds with nature.

Funding for this scheme is only open to members of Social Farms & Gardens. Membership is free and can be applied for here.

Chris Blythe, Director at SF&G said “we’re delighted to be able to offer this funding to our members. While it’s been a very tough 12 months, our members have pulled out all the stops to support their local communities. It’s been encouraging to see the well-documented health benefits of getting outdoors and connecting with nature become more widely acknowledged, and the fantastic spaces cultivated by our members provide safe environments for everyone to enjoy. These grants will support children from disadvantaged backgrounds to enjoy the outdoors over the summer and will help our members have an even more positive impact in their communities”

SF&G members are invited to submit an application via an online form by midday on Monday 24th May 2021. Full application details can be found here.


Orchards for Wales project - a success!

Orchards for Wales project - success! 

This project, funded by Welsh Government and led by Social Farms & Gardens has seen the development of 57 new community orchards across Wales in 2020. The aim of the Orchards for Wales project was to provide much more than a fruitful, efficiently used, green space. This was about communities leading and managing growing spaces. It was stimulating; carbon capture, biodiversity, community cohesion and local food growing whilst helping to showcase alternative models of urban agriculture. The original project aims were simply set out as:

  • To create 10 new community orchard sites, in different settings all over Wales.

  • To promote and support small and micro-Welsh fruit & nut tree businesses. 

  • To gather and create a hub of information for all things orchard related.

  • To network with and support each site in its aims and ambitions and in doing so strengthen the Welsh Heritage Orchard Cluster Group.

As the fruits grow so will our methods of orchard production, storage, education, and other legacies including skills development and micro enterprise at a community level will be gleaned from the project and its supportive sites. Stimulated by the connection of this project a new network of community led 
orchards is emerging, with over 119 sites and growing, Wales may well be leading the revival of Orchards, especially those in community ownership and management. Not only do orchards deliver for people and communities – traditional orchards are a priority habitat which has largely disappeared. These new traditionally managed orchards with unimproved grassland understory will go some way to replacing this lost habitat as they mature. Most of the trees planted are also Welsh Heritage varieties which are now spread across Wales making them less vulnerable to disappearing and protecting our heritage and the resilience of our food production. Over 4,100 apple, plum, pear & medlar trees have been planted which will have a huge benefit to a whole range of pollinators, especially those that are planted in the more urban areas. 

This project delivers against many of the aims of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act – a resilient, healthier Wales – with cohesive communities of vibrant culture. It is contributing to the Clean Air Bill, The Pollination Action Plan for Wales, Wales’ Community Grown Food Action Plan and other important key priorities for Wales.

We have created some lasting legacies in the form of the Orchard Management Toolkit and we have worked well with a number of partners throughout the year. 

To see the full report and read some case studies please click here for English or here for Welsh.

For more information please contact: wales@farmgarden.org.uk

Prosiect Perllannau i Gymru - llwyddiant!

Mae’r prosiect hwn, a ariennir gan Lywodraeth Cymru ac a arweinir gan Ffermydd Cymdeithasol a Gerddi, wedi arwain y gwaith o ddatblygu 57 o berllannau cymunedol newydd ledled Cymru yn 2020. Nod prosiect Perllannau Cymru yw darparu llawer mwy na man gwyrdd ffrwythlon, sy’n cael ei ddefnyddio’n effeithlon. Mae hyn yn ymwneud â chymunedau sy’n arwain ac yn rheoli mannau tyfu. Mae’n ysgogol; dal carbon, bioamrywiaeth, cydlyniant cymunedol a thyfu bwyd lleol tra’n helpu i arddangos modelau amgen o amaethyddiaeth drefol. Roedd nodau gwreiddiol y prosiect wedi’u nodi fel ac oedd:

  • Creu 10 safle perllannau cymunedol newydd, mewn gwahanol leoliadau ledled Cymru.
  • Hyrwyddo a chefnogi busnesau coed ffrwythau a chnau bach a micro-Gymreig. 
  • Casglu a chreu canolbwynt gwybodaeth ar gyfer popeth sy’n gysylltiedig â’r berllan.
  • Rhwydweithio â phob safle a’i gefnogi yn ei nodau a’i uchelgeisiau ac wrth wneud hynny gryfhau Grŵp Clwstwr Perllannau Treftadaeth Cymru.

Wrth i’r ffrwythau dyfu felly a fydd ein dulliau o gynhyrchu perllannau, storio, addysg a choleddau eraill gan gynnwys datblygu sgiliau a micro-fenter ar lefel gymunedol yn cael eu casglu o’r prosiect a’i safleoedd cefnogol. Wedi’i symbylu gan gysylltiad y prosiect hwn mae rhwydwaith newydd o berllannau a arweinir gan y gymuned yn dod i’r amlwg, gyda dros 119 o safleoedd a thyfu, mae’n ddigon posibl y bydd Cymru’n arwain adfywiad Perllannau, yn enwedig y rhai mewn perchnogaeth a rheolaeth gymunedol. Nid yn unig y mae perllannau’n cyflawni ar gyfer pobl a chymunedau – mae perllannau 
traddodiadol yn gynefin â blaenoriaeth sydd wedi diflannu i raddau helaeth. Bydd y perllannau newydd hyn a reolir yn draddodiadol gyda thaniad glaswelltir heb ei wella yn gwneud rhywfaint i ddisodli’r cynefin coll hwn wrth iddynt aeddfedu. Mae’r rhan fwyaf o’r coed a blannwyd hefyd yn fathau o Dreftadaeth Gymreig sydd bellach wedi’u gwasgaru ledled Cymru sy’n eu gwneud yn llai agored i ddiflannu a diogelu ein treftadaeth a gwydnwch ein cynhyrchu bwyd. Plannwyd dros 4,100 o goed 
afalau, eirin, gellyg a meldar a fydd o fudd enfawr i ystod eang o bryfed peillio, yn enwedig y rhai a blannwyd yn yr ardaloedd mwy trefol.

Mae’r prosiect hwn yn cyflawni yn erbyn llawer o amcanion Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol – Cymru gadarn ac iachach – gyda chymunedau cydlynol o ddiwylliant bywiog. Mae’n cyfrannu at y Mesur Aer Glân, Cynllun Gweithredu Peillio Cymru, Cynllun Gweithredu Cymru ar Fwyd a Dyfir yn y Gymuned a blaenoriaethau allweddol pwysig eraill i Gymru.

39_trees_being_delivered_by_applewise_1st_july_2020_1.jpg        aberfan_delivery_of_140_apple_trees_to_the_aberfan_community_orchard_project_ocober_20_1.jpg

First ever City Farm Day on BBC Breakfast

Social Farms & Gardens FIRST EVER #CityFarmDay on BBC Breakfast 

Happy #CityFarmDay! 

This morning, Amber from Social Farms & Gardens featured on BBC Breakfast live from Vauxhall City Farm and chatted all things #CityFarmDay! She was joined by Chris from Vauxhall City Farm, and star of the show, Jerry the alpaca! Join us today to celebrate all the things that City Farms have accomplished over the last year. Get involved by using the hashtag #CityFarmDay and share any photographs or stories you have from your own City Farm experiences. 

Food at the heart of City Farms - support for Communities

Food at the heart of City Farms - support for Communities

City Farms across the UK will be taking part in the first ever City Farm Day today (Thursday 25th March 2021) after a year in which dozens of them across the country have played a vital role in supporting families and vulnerable people since the first national COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 came into force.
From running local food banks that support families in need to delivering pork pies to hardworking members of the NHS and live animal Feeding on Facebook to grow your own campaigns, City Farms have been at the heart of using food to connect with communities in need from London to Liverpool and Swansea to Edinburgh.
Chris Blythe, Director of Social Farms and Gardens, said: “Over the last 50 years a network of City Farms has bloomed across the UK, playing an important part in connecting people living in towns and cities to the farming life.
“In the past 12 months, the services and support delivered by our city Farms have been even more in demand. 
“City Farm Day is a chance to tell the story of all the amazing work that staff and volunteers do day in day out to look after these special places. And to celebrate the huge contribution that City Farms have made in supporting local communities through the pandemic.  They are more in demand now than ever before.”
There are more than 50 City Farms across the UK and over the last five decades they have played an important role in connecting communities to the farming life, welcoming school groups and visitors. In recent years City Farms have provided life changing opportunities for people suffering from mental health challenges, such as depression or loneliness, or have given people the chance to develop new skills to help get them back into work. This includes working with animals, helping with growing fruit and veg or running cafes.
Kentish Town City Farm was the first City Farm in the UK - set up in 1972 - and the movement has steadily grown over the last 50 years with tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of visitors. City Farm’s vary in size from a small football pitch to the size of a medium family Farm, with Farm animals from cows and sheep to goats and hens, community gardens and allotments.
The first ever City Farm Day is designed as a virtual celebration of the role that urban social and community focused Farms play in connecting people to farming and bringing communities together. Visitors, supporters and volunteers will be able to share what City Farms mean to them using the hashtag #cityfarmday on social media.
Mike Collins, a trustee at Bath City Farm, added: “Food has been at the heart of how the City Farm movement has responded to the huge challenges faced by volunteers and the communities that they are part of during the last year.
“Growing, cooking and eating food together is such an important part of City Farm life helping to build new communities. From running food banks to delivering meals cooked with love and supporting families in need, staff and volunteers at the City Farms have stepped up to the mark in the year since the first covid-19 lockdown.”
“City Farm Day provides a moment of reflection on how these very special places in the heart of communities across the nation nourish people, connect kids to farming and provide much loved spaces for visitors to connect to the natural world.”
Like many charities, City Farms have seen a significant drop in income over the last year that normally comes from visitors and selling food and produce in Farm shops and cafes. City Farms will start re-opening, subject to Government guidelines, in the coming weeks.
Examples of City Farms supporting their local communities since the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020:
Balsall Heath City Farm in Birmingham has been using its kitchen to provide hot meals for the community to take away three lunchtimes a week during the pandemic and has been used as a distribution centre for City Council funded distribution of food parcels to families and individuals in the local community. 

Bath City Farm in Bath used its training kitchen to cook thousands of meals for their volunteers and vulnerable people across the city. The food was delivered by local volunteer drivers to help make sure that those in need had healthy and nutritious food.  The Farm also ran a weekly Facebook Live animal feeding every Saturday morning watched by tens of thousands.

Fordhall Community Farm in Shropshire delivered 200 cream teas to a local nursing home for the VE Day celebrations and supplied pork pies to local NHS staff. They also set up the Afternoon Amble – that includes a walk, tea and cake and craft activities - as a response to the increased levels of anxiety and isolation in the local community.

Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh became a real community hub, working with other charities based in the Scottish capital such as Big Hearts, to help deliver much needed food to hundreds of families in need. 

Heeley City Farm in Sheffield ran healthy holidays events at the Farm during the 2020 summer holidays.  This gave young people on free school meals a free meal whilst they weren't at school and whilst at the Farm the young people could get involved with many activities at the Farm.

St Werburghs in Bristol ran campaigns to get people growing their own produce, distributing 1000 Garden in a Box packages, and 120 Windowsill Warrior and Home Baking Hero Kits to local volunteers and families. The Farm also worked with the Coexist Community Kitchen by supplying more than 50 trays of fresh produce to turn into nutritious meals for 100 families a week.

Spitalfields City Farm in London worked with local schools to find out which families needed that extra support. The Farm team helped families look at ways to reduce food costs and supplied a range of items such as, essential cupboard stores, fresh fruit and veg, where possible this has been using Farm-grown produce and weekly essentials such as milk, eggs, bread and crackers plus some tasty treats.  Recipe cards were also included with the aim of getting kids involved in the cooking.

Stonebridge City Farm in Nottingham cooked hundreds of meals for local organisations, including Highwood House Homeless Hostel, and plants and produce were donated to a local residential home for older people.

Swansea Community Farm delivered weekly food parcels (containing staples, surplus food from a local supermarket, salads, fruits and vegetables grown on the Farm and eggs laid by the ducks and hens) to 50 people in the local community struggling with food poverty, health issues or shielding, for more than eight months.

Tam O Shanter Urban Farm on the Wirral ran its Furry food bank project, working with other local charities.  Local people could drop off any spare vegetables and fruits, pet food or bird seed at the Farm, where it was sorted and distributed to the charity partners who then made sure that it got to those in need. 

Delivering pork pies to the NHS from Fordhall Community Farm.


Nature and health research papers

View or dowload our list of key nature and health research papers.

What is the scale of care farming in the UK?

What is the scale of care farming in the UK?

Social Farms & Gardens have tracked the scale and scope of the care farming sector since 2006. 

Our surveys provide valuable data for care farmers and people in the green care sector. 

Care farming in the UK has grown from less than a hundred care farms to a network of around 300 care farms. Care farms vary in size, context and delivery approach. Together they form a key element of the green care sector. 

The results show big steps forward. As care farming has grown we've been able to move from explaining the concept to promoting quality service provision.

Care farming is making a real difference to people with a defined heath, social care or educational need right across the UK. 

In 2020 there were an estimated 10,210 UK care farming places provided per week, which equates to approximately 469,660 per year.

For further reading and research on care farming in the UK, please view or download our resources or visit our scale of the sector page for survey reports. 

Related articles

Allotments and Community Gardens gain building rights in Wales

Allotments and Community Gardens gain small scale agricultural planning rights to build sheds and greenhouses.

The Welsh Government has published important agricultural planning rights for allotment holders and community growers in Wales. These important rights confirm community growing as agriculture and allow them to build a small shed and/ or a greenhouse depending on the size of the growing space, without needing to apply for planning permission. 

Lucie Taylor the Community Land Advisory Service Coordinator for Wales stated:

“The surge in demand to ‘grow your own’ and big increases in the numbers of community growing spaces across Wales, has meant this progression in legislation is welcome news for the thousands of community growers and allotment holders across Wales. Even though the rights only allow for small sheds and greenhouses, these new rights also confirm allotment holders and community growers to be carrying out an agricultural use of land which some local authorities have questioned in the past”.

To accompany this, Social Farms & Gardens has been working with Welsh Government on updating Guidance for Allotments and Community Led Gardening Projects which will be released later this year. With the Welsh Government wanting to create one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world  community food growing activities are now well on their way to contributing to this aim. 

Mae Rhandiroedd a Gerddi Cymunedol yn ennill hawliau cynllunio amaethyddol ar raddfa fach i adeiladu siediau a thai gwydr.

Mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi cyhoeddi hawliau cynllunio amaethyddol pwysig i ddeiliaid rhandiroedd a thyfwyr cymunedol yng Nghymru. 
Mae'r hawliau pwysig hyn yn cadarnhau tyfu cymunedol fel amaethyddiaeth ac yn caniatáu iddynt adeiladu sied fach a/neu dŷ gwydr yn dibynnu ar faint y gofod tyfu, heb fod angen gwneud cais am ganiatâd cynllunio. 
Dywedodd Lucie Taylor Cydlynydd Gwasanaeth Cynghori Tir Cymunedol Cymru:
"Mae'r cynnydd yn y galw i 'dyfu eich hun' a chynnydd mawr yn nifer y mannau tyfu cymunedol ledled Cymru, wedi golygu bod y dilyniant hwn mewn deddfwriaeth yn newyddion i'w groesawu i'r miloedd o dyfwyr cymunedol a deiliaid rhandiroedd ledled Cymru. Er mai dim ond ar gyfer siediau bach a thai gwydr y mae'r hawliau'n caniatáu, mae'r hawliau newydd hyn hefyd yn cadarnhau bod deiliaid rhandiroedd a thyfwyr cymunedol yn gwneud defnydd amaethyddol o dir y mae rhai awdurdodau lleol wedi'i gwestiynu yn y gorffennol". 
I gyd-fynd â hyn, mae Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol wedi bod yn gweithio gyda Llywodraeth Cymru i ddiweddaru Canllawiau ar gyfer Rhandiroedd a Phrosiectau Garddio dan Arweiniad y Gymuned a fydd yn cael eu rhyddhau yn ddiweddarach eleni. Gyda Llywodraeth Cymru eisiau creu un o'r cadwyni cyflenwi mwyaf cyfrifol yn amgylcheddol ac yn gymdeithasol yn y byd mae gweithgareddau tyfu bwyd cymunedol bellach ar eu ffordd i gyfrannu at y nod hwn.


Scotland - Growing Back Stronger

Growing Back Stronger: the Community Growing Sector and a Healthier, Greener and Fairer Scotland

SF&G Scotland have launched a new report that examines the state of the sector a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community growing sector’s experiences of COVID-19, as projects, communities and individuals has differed widely. Projects and partners across Scotland have come together and reached out over the last year to share and discuss our challenges and opportunities, to seek support and guidance. These insights are enlightening both as to the ‘state of the sector’ and the role it can play in recovery and renewal.

Our experiences may have differed, however, many of us share hope and a clear ambition to play a bigger part. Through over 80 voices, from across Scotland we share the reflections and lessons, the adaptions we have made through uncertainty and change, and the various stages of lockdown.

Click here to read the full report.

How is nature related to health?

How is nature related to health?

There is a growing body of research that spending time in nature is good for us. 

We spend time in nature in different ways. Contact with nature can happen as part of our daily lives, or when we actively choose to engage with it. This could look like green exercise, gardening, or watching a natural view from a window. 

Research shows that all types of nature contact can benefit our health and wellbeing. Spending time nature can have physical benefits, like reducing obesity and cardiovascular disease. Nature can also help with our mental health and wellbeing. It can bring us improved self-esteem, mood and an increased sense of calm. 

When we have contact with nature we can start to develop a connection to nature. Connection to nature means how we include nature as part of our personal identities. It includes our emotional relationship with the natural world, our knowledge and behaviour.

Connection to nature is also linked with increased wellbeing. People who feel a strong sense of nature connection are more likely to feel happy and fulfilled. 

Nature, health and care farming

Nature experiences are sometimes used to benefit health, social care or education outcomes for people with a defined need. This known as green care.

Care farming sits amongst other green care nature-based therapies. It gives people a way to actively engage with the natural world and can strengthen connection to nature. 

Active engagement with the natural world is good for physical and mental health. It also has wider interlinked societal benefits such as improved social inclusion.

For further reading and research on nature and health, please view or download our resources. 

Related articles

Connection to nature research

View or dowload our list of useful connection to nature research.

Care farming for social care film

Care farming for social care film

Our Growing Care Farming team have launched the second in of a series of films, created to show how care farming transforms people’s lives.  

The second film in the series focuses on care farming for social care, and features interviews with service users, care farmers, families, and referrers. The videos demonstrate how care farming is a highly effective service for people living with a defined need, and how it can help improve quality of life for people. During these uncertain times, care farms have proved a lifeline for many, but have also been dearly missed by those who are not able to attend due to lockdown restrictions.  

In this film we highlight how care farming is a valuable alternative to traditional types of social care. We show the powerful impact of care farming on service users themselves, but also the positive benefits for social care services, families and carers. 

Care farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices. Service users regularly attend a care farm as part of a structured care, rehabilitation, or special educational programme. Service users vary hugely, from older people living with dementia, to children and adults with learning disabilities, autism, depression, or mental ill health. Care farms offer a range of farming-related activities including care of livestock, growing crops and vegetables, horticulture, and land management. The activities result in proven improvements to mental and physical health, increased self-confidence, and self-worth, reduced social isolation and for many, care farming changes their lives. 

Please continue to share our work far and wide, we want this film to be seen, and have an impact on as many people as possible. 



Growing Care Farming is part of the Government’s Children & Nature programme and is delivered by Social Farms & Gardens, in partnership with Thrive. GCF will transform the scale of the care farming sector across England through the provision of advocacy, training and resources to create more opportunities for children and adults with a defined need to benefit from the bespoke health, care and educational services provided on care farms. 

Care farming overview

Download our care farming overview PDF. 

Care farming for health and social care

Care farming for health and social care

Care farming services can be an effective alternative to traditional types of care.

Care farming is sometimes called social farming, and it means the theraputic use of farming practices. It's a way for people to take part in real activity with purpose and meaning.

From seed planting to feeding animals, people can get involved in a way that suits them and their needs. More time outdoors and in nature can be good for mental health and wellbeing too.  


“Care farming fits with the philosophy of person-centred care which addresses people’s needs.” 

Mary - social worker

Health and social care referrals 

People can be referred to care farms through health and social care providers.

Find out how partnerships between care farms and health and social care agencies work on our case studies page or find your nearest care farm.

Related articles

COVID-19 Impact Update Survey Launched

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented global impact and we want to ensure we support our members, as we look forward to moving out of this difficult time. 

We’ve developed a short survey that builds on the one we ran in April/May 2020, and will help us understand how the pandemic and restrictions have affected you and your group, how you have adapted in response to the crisis and what your current support needs are and might be going forward. 

In May 2020 Social Farms & Gardens used your responses to the first survey to launch a series of webinars that responded to support needs highlighted through the survey, and also gave members an opportunity to talk about how their were adapting their work. We also relaunched our member Facebook group where now almost 1000 members and supporters are sharing ideas and supporting one another.

Social Farms & Gardens advocate and campaign for greater recognition, funding and opportunities for nature-based activities. We present a united voice for member organisations and groups delivering nature-based activities. We influence policy makers and work with partners in the voluntary, public, private and academic sectors to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment.

Can you spare five minutes to share your experience with us and help us build services to support your work? Take our short survey here.  

Care Farming for Mental Health and Wellbeing film

Care farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices. Service users regularly attend these care farm as part of a structured care, rehabilitation, or special educational programme. Service users vary hugely, from older people living with dementia, to children and adults with learning disabilities, autism, depression, or mental ill health. Care farms offer a range of farming-related activities including care of livestock, growing crops and vegetables, horticulture, and land management. The activities result in proven improvements to mental and physical health, increased self-confidence, and self-worth, reduced social isolation and for many, care farming changes their lives.

This film is the first in a series that our Growing Care Farming team have created and contains interviews with service users, farmers, families, and teachers, all talking about the impact that care farming has on theirs, and many other people’s lives. The videos demonstrate how care farming is a highly effective service for people living with a defined need, and how it can help improve quality of life for people. During these uncertain times, care farms have proved a lifeline for many, but have also been dearly missed by those who are not able to attend due to lockdown restrictions. 

Please continue to share our work far and wide, we want this film to be seen, and have an impact on as many people as possible.


Growing Care Farming is part of the Government’s Children & Nature programme and is delivered by Social Farms & Gardens, in partnership with Thrive. GCF will transform the scale of the care farming sector across England through the provision of advocacy, training and resources to create more opportunities for children and adults with a defined need to benefit from the bespoke health, care and educational services provided on care farms.

Cylch Cnydau: Llywodraeth Cymru yn ariannu manteision cymunedol ar draws 4 safle yng Nghymru

Cylch Cnydau: Llywodraeth Cymru yn ariannu'r gwaith o gyflenwi a gosod systemau Amaethyddiaeth yr Amgylchedd a Reolir ar gyfer arddangos manteision cymunedol ar draws 4 safle yng Nghymru

Mae Amaethyddiaeth yr Amgylchedd a Reolir (CEA) yn broses sy'n cyfuno gwyddoniaeth planhigion, peirianneg a thechnoleg i sicrhau'r twf gorau posibl mewn planhigion, ansawdd planhigion ac effeithlonrwydd cynhyrchu er mwyn darparu system wirioneddol gynaliadwy o dyfu bwyd. Hyd yma, mae'r dulliau o ymdrin â CEA wedi bod yn wahanol iawn, heb eu cydgysylltu ac heb eu cefnogi i raddau helaeth. Drwy'r peilot hwn byddwn yn cynnig potensial twf gwirioneddol ar raddfa sy'n effeithiol, yn cael ei hatgyblu ac yn sicrhau manteision ehangach i'r rhanbarth. 

Mae'r prosiect hwn, Crop Cycle, yn cael ei ariannu gan Lywodraeth Cymru drwy Gronfa Her yr Economi Sylfaenol a byddwn yn gweithio gyda busnesau a phartneriaid sydd wedi ymrwymo i bedair colofn y Contract Economaidd.  Bydd y prosiect yn darparu gwely prawf ar gyfer Amaethyddiaeth yr Amgylchedd a Reolir (CEA), yn y gymuned – calon ein Heconomi Sylfaenol. Mae'r prosiect yn cael ei arwain gan Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol gyda chefnogaeth grŵp Clwstwr Garddwriaeth Llywodraeth Cymru a Grŵp Diddordeb Arbennig CEA NutriWales. 

Mae'r prosiect yn caniatáu i systemau CEA lluosog a gwahanol gael eu teilwra i ffitio gwahanol leoliadau cymunedol, ond gan ganiatáu iddynt gael eu hymchwilio a'u hasesu mewn ffordd gydgysylltiedig a chydgysylltiedig ar draws y safleoedd peilot. Mae'r dull hwn yn unigryw, gan ganiatáu profi modelau busnes newydd sy'n canolbwyntio ar y gymdeithas, ymgysylltu â'r cymunedau a busnesau lleol gyda CEA a datblygu atebion technegol newydd.

Bydd y prosiect hwn yn cyflwyno bwyd sy'n tyfu yng nghanol ein cymunedau, rhai lle maent yn deall y materion lleol ac yn gysylltiedig â deinameg benodol yr ardal leol. Bydd gweithgareddau'n profi modelau ymgysylltu newydd yn y gymuned sy'n edrych ar les cymdeithasol, entrepreneuriaeth leol ac effaith amgylcheddol. Fel hyn, bydd y prosiect yn arloesol o ran cyflawni gweithredol, ymgysylltu cymdeithasol a chreu modelau busnes gan ddod â sefydliadau cymunedol, busnesau a'r sector cyhoeddus lleol at ei gilydd.

Bydd pedwar safle'n cael eu cefnogi, ac mae dau ohonynt yn y Cymoedd. Fferm Gymunedol Green Meadow yng Nghwmbrân, un o ddim ond dwy 'fferm ddinas' yng Nghymru, ac un sy'n cysylltu pobl â bwyd a ffermio mewn ffordd gyhoeddus iawn. Mae'n eiddo i Gyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Torfaen ac yn cael ei weithredu ganddo, gan ddod â phartneriaeth lefel uchel gydag ef. Mae'r fferm eisoes yn croesawu miloedd o ymwelwyr drwy ei gatiau ac yn cysylltu'n lleol drwy nifer o bartneriaethau ysgolion a cholegau – gan ei gwneud yn lleoliad 'arddangos' delfrydol ar gyfer y peilot hwn.

Croeso i'n Coed yn Nhreherbert yw ail safle'r cymoedd, sy'n nythu yng nghanol Cymoedd y Rhondda. Mae'r grŵp cymunedol rhagweithiol hwn wedi bod wrthi'n ymgysylltu â'i gymunedau drwy bartneriaethau â CIC y Cymoedd Gwyrdd a'u prosiect 'Skyline' ar y cyd. Mae'r bartneriaeth hon a'r ffordd o weithio ar y ddaear wedi arwain at nifer o fuddsoddiadau ariannu yn y rhanbarth sy'n ceisio archwilio perchnogaeth gymunedol ar dir a'r manteision y gellir eu sicrhau drwy ganiatáu i'r gymuned ddefnyddio rhai o'u hasedau gwyrdd naturiol cyfagos er mwyn gwella'r amgylchedd, a'r cymunedau lleol. Mae hyn yn ei wneud yn ffit unigryw a pherffaith ar gyfer y peilot hwn.

Dywedodd Ian Thomas o Croeso i'n Coed, 'mae gwaith yn mynd rhagddo'n dda ar y cyfleuster tyfu yn Nhreherbert ac rydym yn gyffrous i ddod â phrosiect mor arloesol a blaengar i'n stryd fawr leol. Rydym eisoes wedi bod yn ymgysylltu â chymuned y Rhondda Uchaf i archwilio'r prosiectau sy'n defnyddio ein coetiroedd yn weithredol er budd y rhai sydd o'u hamgylch, ac mae mentrau fel hyn yn helpu i roi syniad i bobl leol o'r hyn y gellir ei gyflawni'. 

Bydd y trydydd safle yn y Drenewydd, yng nghanol y Drenewydd a bydd yn darparu dau safle cysylltiedig, un o fewn y gofod tyfu cymunedol sefydledig sydd ynghlwm wrth Gampws y Drenewydd Grŵp Coleg Castell-nedd Port Talbot ac un o fewn siop 'Economi Gylchol' newydd yng nghanol y dref: bydd systemau CEA yn cael eu hintegreiddio i safle coleg gweithredol a reolir gan grŵp cymunedol sy'n darparu atebion economi gylchol , gyda chaffi a chegin, siop, Deli a bocs llysiau ar waith. Bydd y safle'n cael ei gefnogi gan Cultivate, sy'n fenter aelodaeth gydweithredol sy'n cysylltu bwyd a chymuned. Nod Cultivate yw mynd i'r afael â llawer o'r materion sy'n gysylltiedig â'r system fwyd fodern, a chanolbwyntio ar greu atebion bwyd lleol cynaliadwy.

Bydd y safle olaf yn Xplore! Canolfan Darganfod Gwyddoniaeth yn Wrecsam, sydd wedi'i lleoli yng nghanol Wrecsam, canolfan wyddoniaeth newydd sbon a fydd yn cefnogi'r gwaith o hyrwyddo amaethyddiaeth drefol yn ardal drefol fwyaf gogledd Cymru. Bydd yn estyn allan at bob cenhedlaeth, gan arddangos technoleg newydd a dulliau garddwriaeth modern wedi'u cymysgu â phrofiad cynyddol traddodiadol. Xplore! Yn croesawu ymwelwyr cyhoeddus yn ogystal â grwpiau ysgol ac yn darparu amrywiaeth o weithdai addysgol.

Dywedodd Gary Mitchell, Rheolwr Cymru ar gyfer Ffermydd a Gerddi Cymdeithasol sy'n arwain tîm y prosiect, 'rydym yn gyffrous i fod yn rhedeg y prosiect peilot ar draws set amrywiol o safleoedd i gael mewnwelediad a gwybodaeth bellach am sut y gall systemau amaethyddol newydd gefnogi cymunedau'n llwyddiannus i ddarparu bwydydd lleol, ffres a maethlon yn ogystal â manteision cymdeithasol pwysig mewn modd cynaliadwy'.

CREDYD LLUN: Jack Whiseall, LettUs Grow

Crop Cycle: Welsh Government fund community benefits across 4 sites in Wales

Crop Cycle: Welsh Government fund the supply & installation of Controlled Environment Agriculture systems for the demonstration of community benefits across 4 sites in Wales

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is a process that combines plant science, engineering and technology to optimise plant growing, plant quality and production efficiency to provide a truly sustainable system of food growing. To date the approaches to CEA have been vastly different, un-co-ordinated and largely un-supported. Through this pilot we will offer real growth potential at a scale that is impactful, replicable and delivers wider benefits for the region. 

This project, Crop Cycle, is being funded by the Welsh Government through the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund and we will be working with business and partners who are committed to the four pillars of the Economic Contract.  The project will provide a test bed for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), in the community setting – the very heart of our Foundational Economy. The project is being led by Social Farms & Gardens supported by Welsh Government’s Horticulture Cluster group and NutriWales CEA Special Interest Group. 
The project allows for multiple & differing CEA systems to be tailored to fit different community settings, but allowing them to be investigated and assessed in a co-ordinated and joined up way across the pilot sites. This approach is unique, allowing the testing of new socially focused business models, the engagement of the local communities and businesses with CEA and the development of new technical solutions.

This project will introduce food growing right into the heart of our communities, ones where they understand the local issues and are connected to the particular dynamics of the local area. Activities will test new community-based engagement models looking at social well-being, local entrepreneurship and environmental impact. In this way, the project will be innovative in its operational delivery, social engagement and business model creation bringing together community, businesses and local public sector organisations.

Four sites will be supported, two of which are in the Valleys. Green Meadow Community Farm in Cwmbran, one of only two ‘city farms’ in Wales, and one which connects people to food and farming in a very public way. It is owned and operated by Torfaen County Borough Council, bringing with it a high-level partnership. The farm already welcomes thousands of visitors through its gates and connects locally through a number of schools and college partnerships – making it an ideal ‘showcase’ location for this pilot.

Welcome To Our Woods in Treherbert is the second valleys site, nestled in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys. This proactive community group has been actively engaging with its communities through partnerships with the Green Valleys CIC and their joint ‘Skyline’ project. This partnership and ground up way of working has led to several funding investments in the region looking to explore community ownership of land and the benefits that can be brought about by allowing the community to utilise some of their surrounding natural green assets for the betterment of the environment, and the local communities. This makes it a unique and perfect fit for this pilot.

Ian Thomas from Welcome To Our Woods, said, ‘work is progressing well on the growing facility in Treherbert and we are excited to be bringing such an innovative and progressive project to our local high street. We have already been engaging with the Upper Rhondda community to explore the projects that actively use our woodlands for the benefit of those they surround, and initiatives such as this help give local people an idea of what can be achieved’. 

The third site will be in Newtown, situated in the centre of Newtown and will deliver two linked sites, one within the established community growing space attached to the Newtown Campus of the Neath Port Talbot College Group and one within a new town centre ‘Circular Economy’ shop: the CEA systems will be integrated into an active college site managed by a community group delivering circular economy solutions, with a cafe and kitchen, shop, Deli and veg box scheme in place. The site will be supported by Cultivate, which is a membership cooperative linking food and community. Cultivate aim to address many of the issues associated with the modern food system, and focus on creating  sustainable local food solutions.

The final site will be in Xplore! Science Discovery Centre in Wrexham, situated in the centre of Wrexham, a brand new science centre that will support the promotion of urban agriculture in north Wales’ largest urban area. It will reach out to all generations, showcasing new technology and modern horticulture methods blended with traditional growing experience. Xplore! Welcomes public visitors as well as school groups and provides a range of educational workshops.

Gary Mitchell, the Wales Manager for Social Farms & Gardens who is leading the project team stated, ‘we are excited to be running the pilot project across a diverse set of sites to gain insight and further knowledge into how new agricultural systems can successfully support communities in delivering local, fresh and nutritious foods as well as important social benefits in a sustainable manner’.


PHOTOGRAPH CREDIT: Jack Whiseall, LettUs Grow

Practical support for care farming

Practical support for care farming

We encourage anyone developing a care farm to work towards our Code of Practice.

The care farming Code is essentially a minimum standard - a clear set of guidelines, intended to meet the requirements of commissioners, other referral agencies and service users.

It was developed by a team of care farmers and other specialists and we encourage all those providing care farming services to adopt the Code. This includes farm and garden sites delivering other green care services such as Social &Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) and Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT). The Code is a quality assurance scheme that addresses the most important aspects of care farming. 

If you are still struggling to find what you need it may be possible to ‘buy in’ some specific advice from established care farmers. Within the GCF project we have some resources to cover Care Farming Facilitators time. They may be able to provide advice within their specialist and geographical areas. To find out more please email our regional support officer at rso@farmgarden.org.uk

Take a look at the different types of care farming training available, or visit our events page for the latest training and event dates.  

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Can I make a decent living from care farming?

Can I make a decent living from care farming?

We firmly believe that care farmers need to be properly reimbursed for their time and expertise and that care farms need a strong economic foundation, however we also firmly believe that the main driver of care farming cannot be financial gain.

Visiting care farms around the UK you will find what connects the care farmers is their passion to help others. This should always be the primary consideration when thinking about starting out in care farming.

Care farms are extremely varied and are often developed off the back of an existing enterprise. Many care farmers supplement their income from other sources such as commercial farming, educational visit fees, farm shops or cafes or even through accessing external funding like grants, donations, crowdfunding or sponsorship. 

If you're a farmer already, take a look at the questions to consider before you start care farming.

If you're not a farmer but would still like to become a care farmer, read our advice on where to start

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Is my farm still a care farm without any animals?

Is my farm still a care farm without any animals?

You don't have to have animals on your care farm. Care farming activities can include growing crops and vegetables, horticulture and land management.

Many care farms do not have any animals and care farming can also take place in variety of settings, including urban based community allotments and gardens. 

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Is my farm already a care farm?

Is my farm already a care farm?

If you are regularly working with people with a defined need and are doing activities outdoors which might include animal assisted therapy, growing crops, horticulture or land management, then yes, you are already care farming, even if you are not specifically being paid to deliver these services.

It is the combination of the intervention and the working farm environment that is important and defines the care farm.

Find out more about developing your care farming services

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Is there any funding for setting up a care farm?

Is there any funding for setting up a care farm?

As far as SF&G is aware, there is no funding specifically available for setting up a care farm. Some care farms have accessed money from DEFRA for capital works and others have received money following bids they put in to charitable organisations.

Awards for All Lottery funding does allow for feasibility studies including business planning grants of up to £10,000, but the procedures are changing and community benefit must be demonstrated. This is not available for individuals though, only for charities or social enterprise groups.

National Parks have got Sustainable Development Funds, which may apply to care farm projects and some of this money is available for setting up pilots or fact finding visits.

If you are based in Wales, The Development bank of Wales might be able to help you.

ESF (European funding) is available in certain deprived areas to pay for revenue, running costs and capital expenditures. The various Community Foundations might offer help in finding grants.

There may also be funds available through ERDP (England Rural Development Programme), known as LEADER, which has both an agricultural and social slant. Use the website to find a local contact for your region.

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What do I need to consider if I'm not a farmer?

What do I need to consider if I'm not a farmer?

If you're not a farmer you may need help with the practical aspects of farming. Perhaps you work in education, health or social care and are inspired by the positive effects of care farming. 

Land aquisition

The first thing to ask yourself is do I have a site I can use? 

Land aquisition can often be one of the first hurdles to overcome when trying to set up a care farm. It is a very broad subject and can differ from region to region depending on the policies of your Local Authority. 

You could try working with a local farm and seeing if they can help, or use our map to find a care farm near you. If you can't find what you're looking for please contact our regional support officer at rso@farmgarden.org.uk.

The Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS) is also a fantastic resource that aims to increase community access to land across the UK, particularly for green space activities. Through CLAS, you can find information on finding, buying, offering and leasing of land within your country of the UK.   

Farming skills

If you have a site but are struggling with how to go about growing vegetables or keeping animals, local farming organisations may be able to help. You could also try land based Further Education Colleges. Landex represents land based colleges and universites. 

Training and resources

Our Care Farming Code of Practice sets out the minimum standards that you should meet as a care farm.  

Become a member of Social Farms & Gardens as a prospective care farm. If you become a member you'll be able to access other resources that you might find useful, like the Starting a Care Farm checklist.

Take part in CEVAS training which is also recommended for people wanting to start in the care farming sector. 

Check out the Gov.UK website for general business start up advice and information on legal structures.

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What do I need to consider if I'm a farmer?

What do I need to consider if I'm a farmer?

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.

Your priority as a care farmer is to provide health and social care services for individuals from one or a number of vulnerable groups. You will want to create a meaningful environment where people can spend time, gain confidence, new skills and experience how a farm works. 

Economics also plays a part and some farms are keen to broaden their income stream by setting up as a care farm. You can earn a decent living mixing farming and care, but it is likely that there will be extra costs involved too. 

Questions to ask 

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?

Working with care farming groups 

If all these questions seem 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 to 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 will need to get a potential purchaser of your care farm service on-side.

Training and resources

You and the organisation paying for the services should start by covering off the topics in our Care Farming Code of Practice. The Code sets out the minimum standards that you should meet as a care farm.  

Become a member of Social Farms & Gardens as a prospective care farm. If you become a member you'll be able to access other resources that you might find useful, like the Starting a Care Farm checklist.

Take part in CEVAS training which is also recommended for people wanting to start in the care farming sector. 

Check out the Gov.UK website for general business start up advice and information on legal structures.

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What is connection to nature?

What is connection to nature?

Connection to nature is about our attitude towards the natural world.

So far, research has shown a clear link between connection to nature and a person's wellbeing. 

People who feel a stronger sense of connection are more likely to feel happy and fulfilled. In contrast, a lack of connection to nature may have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing. 

Connection to nature is how much we see ourselves as part of nature or separate from it. 

Connecting with nature at a deeper level can help keep us healthy and protect the world around us. It can help us address climate change, wildlife loss and declining mental health. 


“No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

David Attenborough

Connection to nature and care farms

Care farms provide many opportunities for people to connect with nature.

Farming activities that deepen connection to nature could benefit both service users and our natural environment. 

Care farmers can foster a connection with nature. This might be by using art, stories or by observing and recording nature through the seasons.  

Measuring nature connectedness over time could help show the effectiveness of care farming in impact assessments. 

For more information on connection to nature, please take a look at our resources. 

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Grants available for small horticultural businesses in Wales

With more and more people interested in and participating in food production, and with growing at home at an all-time high due to COVID-19, now is a great time for small horticultural businesses to expand their ventures.

To help grow smaller edible horticultural businesses operating in Wales, Food Sense Wales along with partners Social Farms & Gardens, are awarding up to six grants of between £2500 to £5000 to small businesses with no more than 5-Hectares of production land.  The grant application process is now open and the closing date for applications is midday, Monday 30th November 2020. Click here for more information on how you can apply.

This is a fantastic opportunity for small horticultural businesses to access small capital grants as part of Peas Please, a UK National Lottery funded programme whose main aim us to drive up veg consumption. This grant is being delivered in Wales by Food Sense Wales in partnership with Social Farms & Gardens. 

This funding is available to research and pilot the difference that small capital investments can make to small scale horticulture businesses. Grants of between £2500 to £5000 will be offered to a small number of applicants in Wales. Preference will be given to those operating in low-income areas. 

“For many years horticulture, particularly small scale production, has been under resourced as producers working land of under 5 Hectares have not been eligible for subsidy.  However, there is evidence to suggest that they could significantly expand sales and reach if investment in infrastructure was available,”

says Katie Palmer, Programme Manager at Food Sense Wales, an organisation that’s working to influence how food is produced and consumed in Wales, ensuring that sustainable food and farming is at the heart of a just, connected and prosperous food system. 

“This is a really exciting scheme that will explore the impact that small capital investments can have on these smaller scale horticulture businesses and we’re looking forward to working with companies across Wales to measure the success of the scheme.”   

Wales Manager, Gary Mitchell from Social Farms and Gardens adds:

“We know that being outdoors provides huge benefits to physical and mental health & wellbeing and that promoting healthy lifestyles is at the top of the agenda in the longer-term fight against COVID-19. With loneliness and mental ill health on the increase, the importance of safe, outdoors community spaces is more important than ever. In addition to this, local, community growing is absolutely key in tackling some key issues surrounding climate change, and biodiversity and will be at the top of the agenda for many people in our communities.” 

Successful grant recipients will be required to meet with a researcher, before and after the investment to evaluate what impact the grant investment can make in terms of production, sales and sustainability of the organisation.  

This pilot has been designed with key stakeholders and the overall impact of the pilot will be evaluated and a case study report written highlighting areas of good practice, the findings of which will be shared with Welsh Government. 

Find our full press release here in both Welsh and English


Who benefits from care farming?

Who benefits from care farming?

Care farming is a good thing for our society in lots of different ways. 

Benefits for service users

  • Improvements to mental and physical health
  • Increased self-confidence and self-worth
  • Reduced social isolation 

Benefits for health and social care providers

  •  An innovative and effective care option
  • Takes the strain from statutory services and the NHS

Benefits for farmers

  • Farmers have an alternative way to use their farm to provide health. social and education services in addition to or instead of commercial production

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Why does care farming work?

Why does care farming work?

People have understood the health benefits of being outside for a long time. Care farming is a powerful mix of nature, social interaction and meaningful farming. The individual comes first with activities tailored to them.

Care farms give people access to nature that they may not find in their day to day lives. The agricultural setting is important because farming activities have a real purpose. From animal care to growing plants, people can get involved in a safe and structured way. 

Service users experience improvements to health and wellbeing and social skills. This might mean increased self-confidence and self-worth and reduced social isolation. For many, care farming changes their lives.

"Care farming works works because you treat people as individuals and leave a diagnosis at the farm gate. You're doing something real, and everything has a purpose."

 Robin Asquith, Care Farm Manager

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What is care farming?

Watch our video to find out what care farming is and how it helps people.

HRH The Prince of Wales extends his Patronage of Social Farms & Gardens

Social Farms & Gardens are delighted to announce that The Prince of Wales has chosen to extend his Patronage of the charity. The Prince of Wales has always taken a keen interest in our work to support communities to farm, garden and grow together, and over the summer he accepted an invitation to extend his Patronage for a further term.

His Royal Highness first became Patron of the charity in 2001. Nineteen years on, the charity supports a wide and ever growing network of exceptional groups and people working across the community growing and farming sector; delivering vital services to thousands of people and changing lives every day.

Chris Blythe, Social Farms & Gardens Director says

“We are honoured and delighted to have the continued backing of The Prince of Wales. Celebrating our 40th anniversary this year has been especially difficult in the current situation, many of our planned events have had to be postponed in order to focus on supporting our membership through this challenging time. The continued support of His Royal Highness comes at an important time where all of us in the sector are under great strain and striving to provide our upmost support to the people and groups that need our help the most.”

The Prince of Wales’s support for Social Farms & Gardens and the sector as a whole has enabled huge achievements over the years, his ongoing support will enable us to achieve even more.


COVID - 19: a growing opportunity for community gardening in London

Read our newly published blog in the Urban Agricultural Magazine today! In collaboration with the University of Kent, and as part of the FEW Meter programme, the blog examines how when the UK went into lockdown in March, many community gardens stepped up as emergency food providers. We discuss the huge mental and physical health benefits of gardening and make the case for how community gardens should be included in the national post-pandemic recovery plan. 

"As the UK went into COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, many community gardens in London stepped up as emergency food providers, despite unclear government advice on whether they could continue operating. Highlighting the flexible, community-centred approach of such gardens, as well as the mental and physical health benefits of gardening, this blog post makes the case for including community gardens in the national post-pandemic recovery plan.
In March 2020, as COVID-19 took hold in the UK and restrictions tightened, the public panicked and stripped supermarket shelves – firstly of non-perishable goods, then of fresh fruit and vegetables. In a social media appeal, a critical care nurse, after finding supermarket shelves empty at the end of a shift, pleaded with the public to stop the panic buying. A YouGov poll found that of the 8.1 million people in the UK facing food insecurity, 50% were unable to obtain the food they needed because of shortages in shops. All the major grocery chains adapted, introducing the rationing of certain products and queueing to allow for social distancing, and the situation started to calm.
However, those empty produce shelves suggested an opportunity for community gardens and farms to up their game, expand production, and distribute produce to those in need.  But, paradoxically, just at the time their produce was needed, it was unclear whether ‘community’ gardens would be able to remain open."

We discuss how many community gardens were overwhelmed by the increased demand for veg boxes. How gardening, which saw an increase in uptake during lockdown, plays a vital role both in reducing mental health symptoms and in tackling obesity and how community gardens in London have demonstrated their niche role during the pandemic in terms of food provision to those in need locally and in providing a safe outdoor space for those with mental health illness.

"It is time to review the role that these spaces have played in the pandemic and to assess their growing potential in the ‘new normal’ policy arena. Community gardens and other forms of urban farming have the potential to play a role in the three main policy areas that normally receive focus from the UK government: health, climate change and environment, and community cohesion/development. A recent FAO briefing highlights the need for better integration of food and health systems into urban policies and plans. As the UK rebuilds its health and economy post-pandemic, community gardens should have a role in any recovery plan, as a means of contributing to both food supply and community resilience in times of crisis. Their role in providing health and social support should be formally acknowledged, and they should be financed accordingly. Moreover, gardening should be seen as a serious measure to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis and related COVID-19 mortality impact."

Read the article in full here


Who is care farming for?

Who is care farming for?

Anyone with a defined need can benefit from care farming. A defined need could be a clinical diagnosis, a social care need or an educational need.

Care farms often provide services for:

Around 400 care farms provide an estimated total of 10,200 places per week across the UK. Care farming is becoming more widely recognised as an effective service by health, specialist education and social care commissioners. 

All sorts of organisations refer people to care farms – from social services, community mental health teams, schools, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and Alternative Provision Institutions (APIs) to GPs, probation services and families.

Find out more about different care farming services and how they help people.

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Knowledge base resource test

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What is care farming?

What is care farming?

Care farming means the therapeutic use of farming practices. It's sometimes called social farming. 

Care farming sits amongst other nature-based therapies that are collectively called 'green care'. Green care means structured nature programmes for people with a defined need to benefit health, social care or education outcomes.

Social Farms & Gardens is a founding member of the Green Care Coalition. The coalition represents green care providers in the UK and promotes green care as effective option for health and social care.  

People attend care farms for different reasons. It can be for health and social care, mental health and wellbeing, rehabilitation or a specialist education programme.

There are around 400 care farms of all shapes and sizes right across the UK providing care places. Care farms can look very different from each other and are as diverse as the people that they support. 

One thing all care farms have is common is providing a supervised, structured programme of farm-related activity for people with a defined need. Care is bespoke, person-centred and focused on the individual.

What is unique, is that care farming activity has a real purpose behind it. People are able to make a meaningful contribution to the running of a farm. This might be through animal care, growing crops and vegetables, horticulture or land management.

People who commission care services are increasingly recognising the benefits of care farming. 

Care farms: 

  • Deliver health care, social care or specialist educational services for individuals from one or a range of vulnerable groups of people
  • Provide a programme of farming-related activities for individuals with a defined need
  • Provide supervised, structured, bespoke care services on a regular basis for service users
  • Are commissioned to provide services by a range of referral agencies 
  • Deliver services for adults, young people and children

Take a closer look at care farms with our care farming case studies

Related articles

Find care farming research

Find care farming-related research

There's a wealth of information out there showing just how effective care farming and green care can be. Explore our research topics below or use the search bar to find something specific. 


Learn about care farming

Introduction to care farming

If you'd like to know what care farming is all about, explore the articles below for an introduction. 

Have a specific question? Try searching the knowledge base. 


Develop care farming services

Develop care farming services

If you're already care farming and want to develop the services you can offer people, we can help. Take a look at the articles below or type a specific question in the search bar to get started. 


Get started as a care farmer

Get started as a care farmer

If you'd like to be a care farmer you might be wondering how to get started. Browse some of our most common topics below or use the search bar to type a key word or question. 


Find a care farm

Where can I find a care farm?

We provide contact details for Social Farms & Gardens member organisations that deliver care farming services. Please visit our find care farming services near you page to explore the services offered in your area. 

Please note that we are not a brokering service and so cannot place individual service users onto care farms. You can contact a care farm directly by using the look up tool for details.

Explore care farming services

Explore care farming services

Organisations, agencies and individuals can refer someone to a care farm or commission care farming services. Some people also refer themselves for care farm support. Find out more about the types of care farm referrals. 



Welsh Allotment Regeneration Initiative

Wales ‘grows for it’ with £130,000 investment in more allotments - Welsh Allotment Regeneration Initiative 

A new support package designed to increase allotments in areas of Wales where they most needed has been announced today by Social Farms & Gardens (SF&G), working in partnership with the Welsh Government. 

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be better as National Allotment Week, which is this year themed ‘Growing Food for Health and Wellbeing, runs from Monday, August 10 and Sunday, August 16. 

More than £130,000 is being invested over the next nine months to help Welsh communities, housing associations and local authorities, including town and community councils, meet a growing demand for allotments.  

The development funding will support the creation of new allotment sites, allow under used sites and plots to be turned into productive areas and new toolkits and guidance will be created to encourage others to do more to meet public interest in growing their own.  

Over the last six months, Social Farms & Gardens has been mapping the current provision of allotments and other community growing spaces, including community orchards, Incredible Edible Projects, community gardens and community supported agriculture sites. The map shows a diverse range of provision across all corners of Wales. 

Research was also carried out on waiting lists for allotments, including the numbers of people on them and the length of time people may be waiting. The research revealed a number of sites in Wales where there are large numbers of people on a list, with some waiting many years to access a plot. The new funding will target those areas first.  

Gary Mitchell, Wales manager for Social Farms & Gardens, said: “Allotments are part of our heritage. They have been a means for people to provide food and sustenance since the 1800s, but now, perhaps more than ever, we as a society are more interested in where our food comes from and how it is grown.  

“Allotments provide an important space for us to control those elements. They provide a boost to our health and wellbeing, are great for adding biodiversity to urban settings and provide a space for social interactions. This funding, support and vision from Welsh Government really will make a difference in the areas we can support.” 

The Welsh Government recognises the importance of allotments, not only as a means to producing affordable food, but for the health benefits they offer to plot holders, for the biodiversity they encourage even in the most urban of areas and for the important part they play in social cohesion,” said First Minister Mark Drakeford. 

This funding, supporting one of the First Minister’s priorities to increase allotment provision in Wales, is being delivered through a co-ordinated approach. Based on recent research, it is being targeted on evidence of need.   

Social Farms & Gardens have been active on the ground in Wales for many years and are wholly connected to the community food chain. Although Wales is known for its agriculture and is rural in nature, the demand for allotments exists in every local authority area, not just the larger cities and more urban conurbations. This funded work will help to ensure access to allotments is improved in areas where it is most needed.”  

Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government said: “During the pandemic, access to outdoor space and has become more and more important and for those without gardens, especially in urban areas, community gardens and allotments have been a haven.

“They bring numerous health and wellbeing benefits and are an excellent means of producing affordable, healthy, food as well as helping to create biodiversity in their communities and providing a focus for social cohesion. This funding, along with the joint working with Social Farms and Gardens, local authorities, housing associations and communities across Wales, will help to deliver more allotments throughout the country.”


'Tyfu Fyny' Wales Rural Development Programme Report published

'Tyfu Fyny' Wales Rural Development Programme Report published

Our 3-year Rural Development Programme funded project ‘Tyfu Fyny’ has now come to an end. It’s been a fantastic 3 years and during that time we have got to know the community growing sector in a Wales a little more. Many of the project's targets have been exceeded, so a massive thanks to everyone that has contributed and participated to its great success.

You can read the full reports in Welsh or English below. A few of the key findings within the report (and found in the Executive Summary), include:

  • The community growing sector in Wales is vibrant and has huge potential to contribute to Welsh Government policy relating to the economy, cultural heritage, the environment and the health and wellbeing of communities.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has presented significant opportunities for the sector to reaffirm the value of local food and to contribute towards food security in the future.
  • Despite the existence of a national community growing strategy there is significant variation about how this translates into support and action across different Local Authority areas.
  • The Tyfu Fyny delivery model of using experienced sector Development Workers who provide a gateway to specialist advice and support alongside specialist advisors is effective.
  • Networking and peer to peer learning is highly valued by groups and is more likely to lead to sustained change within the sector.
  • Social Farms & Gardens were able to draw on their experience and history of community based engagement work to provide multifaceted support to CSA’s and Care Farms which extended well beyond industry specific advice.
  • Any future project should build on the wealth of knowledge and experience and networks developed through Tyfu Fyny Sufficient capacity and resources should be allocated to any future project to ensure reach to all parts of the sector and all parts of Wales but also to combine on the ground approaches with strategic policy influencing.



Read the full evaluation reports:

English translation

TYFU FYNY Evaluation Exec Summary ENGLISH July'20

TYFU FYNY Full Evaluation Report ENGLISH July'20

Welsh translation

TYFU FYNY Evaluation Exec Summary WELSH July'20

TYFU FYNY Final Evaluation Report WELSH July'20


Find out more about our work in Wales here

Report on 'The Resilience of the Community Growing Sector in Northern Ireland' published

'The Resilience of the Community Growing Sector in Northern Ireland' Report has been published this week and is now available to view.

The report was completed by Social Farms & Gardens in June 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic and describes the breadth of activity in the sector, summarises the needs of the sector, and makes recommendations for how funders, commissioners and others in the statutory sector can structure their support to best support those working to improve the lives of people in their community. It was written with input from those working in the sector and aims to be representative.

In these uncertain times, with many challenges and opportunities on the horizon, not least the Covid 19 crisis and the climate emergency, a strong, connected community growing sector will provide stability and
resilience in our communities, and is something to be proud of.

A series of case studies showcasing the work of groups in Northern Ireland in connecting people to nature and community have also been published along with the report. From permaculture smallholdings near the beautiful Mourne Mountains in Co. Down, to communities in West Belfast transforming unloved alleyways into friendly, green spaces and much more.

‘Growing Resilience: Digging Deeper’ is a five year project funded by The National Lottery, Community Fund programme. The project increases social capital and resilience in the community growing sector in Northern Ireland. Find out more about the project.

Members During Covid

What are our members doing?

Lockdown has presented everyone with huge challenges. Here are some of the ways that our members are rising to meet this challenge and learning how to do things in new ways in order to stay connected with their communities.

Our members are...filming life during COVID - 19

Farm Manager Geoff, from Pathways care farm in Suffolk has made a series of YouTube videos showing different aspects of farm life to help people still feel connected to the farm and to nature, even when they can't be there.


Our members are...growing food for the community

The government has listed 'food and other necessary goods' under the 'Critical Sector' category and this includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery.
Many of our members despite having to drastically reduce staff on site are looking at how they can provide food for their local community safely. A great example of this is from OrganicLea, a community food project based in the Lea Valley in North-East London: How they are keeping local food supply growing and going

Our members are...looking at 'Veg Box' schemes to provide an income and support local communities

Sutton Community Farm, London are doing just this and are now no longer taking new customers due to the high demand. Rota management, reducing contact information is found on their website and contains useful information for others who are growing.


Our members are...writing to government and funders

The London Association has sent an open letter to funders and government, together with a support letter from Mark Lane, Gardeners World presenter. The letters call for guidance and support from government, and for funders to continue to support the vital work of the sector. They also highlight how important the services delivered by our members will be in the aftermath.

"When the immediate crisis abates, city farms and community gardens will be places for people to recover from issues caused and worsened by this crisis."

Open Letter to Government from London City Farms and Community Gardens

Open Letter to Funders from London City Farms and Community Gardens

Mark Lane Gardener's World TV presenter supporting letter

Our members are...using social media in new ways

Posting mental health information, mindfulness sessions, gardening and craft ideas.

Horton Community Garden run Mindfulness Garden courses and they are exploring ways to bring the mindfulness garden to people online.  For the time being they are sharing a free weekly nature connection and a meditation practice each Tuesday. This is a great idea to help people, whilst keeping potential customers engaged. It could be monetised through using Zoom as suggested above. Visit their Facebook page for the links and see their first edition below, which contains videos and helpful tips to follow. 

Join the Horton Community Garden Mindfulness Garden

Rainbow Community Garden, Hull are posting about their weekly growing activities and gardening tips so that their service users can still feel part of the growing season.

Our members are...live streaming events

Some of our members are exploring live streaming some activities to continue contact. You can do this by using Facebook Live or through apps like Zoom. Facebook live means that anyone can log on unless your Facebook group is set to members only/private. Using apps like Zoom require people to be invited to an online event, making it possible for you to charge for attending the event.
Cotteridge Park in Birmingham have been live streaming Thai Chi and Swing Fit for free via Facebook a Tai Chi session (see their Twitter and Facebook pages @CotteridgePark)

Our members are...delivering their courses online

Cynon Valley Organic Adventures are a community run social enterprise based in Wales, they have been given permission to deliver their accredited courses online so will be delivering various environmental and wellbeing courses. Find out more on their website.

Our members are...keeping in touch with their service users

Many of our members have got in touch to say how they are keeping connected to the people that access their services. Many people who rely on these vital services are living with complex needs and mental health issues. They are doing this by using a rota system to have regular catch ups on the phone to check in with people.

The Fold care farm in Worcestershire are doing just this, they have also posted out 'Grow Your Own Basil' kits to their participants and have organised a 'Farm Bingo' live streamed event to keep in touch. A lovely idea, carried out following strict hand washing guidance.


Our members are...helping families with homeschooling, by producing 'Nature and Science-Based Holiday Play Activities'

Hammersmith Community Gardens in London are creating a twice-weekly holiday play newsletter that is full of ideas about food growing, recycling, up-cycling and nature art and craft to support families during this period of homeschooling. If you would like to receive this newsletter, subscribe here or visit their website.

Our members are...giving away free growing kits

Hammersmith Community Gardens are also giving away over one hundred free growing kits. Inside the 'growing kit' are sunflower seeds and other vegetable seeds, instructions on how to sow and plant them, small pots, compost and ideas for things you can grow at home from your store cupboard or from your food waste. They will be giving away more growing kits over the next week. Keep an eye on their Twitter for the latest.

Our members are...helping to spread key messages

Malcom Macqueen, Chair of Organic Growers of Fairlie and John Wilby, Secretary of Paisley West End Growers Association, demonstrating the 2 metre rule.


Our members are...getting children involved in growing wildflowers in urban green spaces

Friends of Eastville Park in Bristol have been making up seed bombs for children to take part in their annual wildflower sowing. The seed bombs are available to pick up anytime by families going on their daily exercise and are placed near a noticeboard. They have been prepared safely and without hand contact. Find out more on the Friends of Eastville Park Facebook page.

Covid-19 member impact survey - the results so far and our next steps

Over the past few weeks our COVID-19 member impact survey has already collected a huge number of responses from our members across Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. The responses received so far indicate that across the country members have been profoundly impacted by the lockdown and social distancing requirements, but in many cases have also adapted and innovated rapidly in order to maintain farms, gardens and growing spaces and also to support the most vulnerable people in their communities. The survey will continue to stay open over the next few months, and we will be carrying out more detailed analysis as time moves on but here are a few of the initial findings:

*Results updated 07.05.2020

Operations - As expected virtually all members are now closed, but 87% have staff or volunteers carrying out essential work under social distancing, with 13% closed entirely. 18% have already furloughed staff.
Food - As a result of the crisis 35% of you are planning on growing more food this year, with an additional 21% expecting to grow the same amount as 2019.
Funding - 51% of members report already facing reduced funding and financial issues as a result of the pandemic.
Support - The most pressing support needs identified across the membership are assistance in finding funding, advice on working and growing under social distancing measures, planning for the future and tips on working with others in the community. See below for how we will be following up these requests.
Community - A huge 69% of you are either already working in your communities to provide support to people affected by the crisis, or are planning on doing so, including through donating seeds and plants, delivering food to those self-isolating and by supporting local food banks.

Next steps, and support for members affected by COVID-19

For those of you already in touch with our staff team you'll know that we're all working incredibly hard to provide support in these difficult times.

But in addition to this, based on what our members are telling us through the survey responses so far - we will soon be launching a series of online webinars and resources designed to help members tackle the most pressing concerns arising from this crisis, and to share best practice and inspiration from around the country.

We are also looking at ways in which we can increase remote peer-to peer support between members. More on this will be published in the next few weeks. If you are already a member keep an eye on your inbox and on our social media channels or you can sign up to become a member for free.

If you haven't already done so, please take our short survey

Coronavirus COVID - 19 - resources, links and news

We are all facing an unprecedented period of difficulty and disruption caused by the current coronavirus crisis. As the situation develops we want you to know that we are here. We have developed a dedicated Corona COVID -19 section of our website which will be updated regularly over the coming months. Our teams across the UK are working hard to source and provide the very latest information which we hope will provide help and support. 

The new section contains:

Key links, resources and support

This page contains the latest guidance, links, resources and expert advice, covering the following topics:

  • HR and Operational advice
  • Policy writing
  • Health and safety
  • Managing Volunteers
  • Financial support and information, Funding to help with the impact of COVID-19
  • Farming specific advice and support
  • Gardening/growing specific advice and support

What our members are doing and the #GrowingTogether campaign

We are gathering and sharing ideas and inspiration on what are members are doing right now to adapt and cope with the pandemic. This section will be helpful for any organisation working in the farming, gardening or growing sector.

Visit Corona COVID -19 website page

Protecting community farms and gardens

As part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations we’ve partnered with experienced and specialist insurance broker, McClarrons to deliver a special event to help these essential community spaces to secure the right insurance. The event has been postponed but we hope to reschedule for a date in the Autumn.

Having adequate insurance cover is vital for all farmers, gardeners and growers, whether they are providing care services, inviting visitors onto their site or organising volunteer work days and other events. Suitable cover protects both the organisation and individuals from potentially very expensive liability claims if something goes wrong.

McClarrons independent insurance brokers operate nationwide, specialising in the farming, not-for-profit and care sectors. McClarrons’ Care & Charity Team offer specialist insurance advice and rates for Social Farms & Gardens members.

They also have an in-house claims team to support policy holders through the claims process, should the worst happen. Their decades of experience mean they are well placed to guide groups to the right insurance, leaving them free to focus on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment through nature-based activities. 

If you are interested in finding out more about community gardens, farms or care farming in Yorkshire –  find out more here

Thai cave rescue - Knighthood bestowed on our Wales Manager

On Monday this week our very own SF&G Wales Manager Gary Mitchell (also of South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, and Assistant Chair to the British Cave Rescue Council) was awarded a Royal Decoration of the Kingdom of Thailand at a ceremony in the Thailand embassy ballroom, London.

Gary joined other UK members of the cave rescue team for the award ceremony. The team successfully helped to rescue 12 members of the Moo Pa Wild Boars football team and their coach that were trapped deep inside the Tham Luang cave in Northern Thailand back in June 2018.    

Gary dropped his work commitments and family obligations (he has two young children of his own) and travelled to Thailand to assist in this global event after receiving a phonecall for his assistance upon arrival at the SF&G’s Cardiff Office – he was on a flight to Thailand later that day, where we remained for a little over 7 days helping to co-ordinate the ‘impossible’ rescue mission.

Gary and other rescue colleagues were awarded the Royal Decoration of the Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn.  He received the appointment of ‘Knight Commander’ 2nd Class. 

The ceremony was performed by His Excellence Mr. Pisanu Suvanajata, Ambassador of Thailand. As well as receiving the medals and decorations Gary was presented with a certificate signed by General (Ret.) Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand expressing his gratitude ‘for the selfless acts performed to help fellow human beings in danger’. The rescuers were also each presented with a letter signed by The king of Thailand, where one of the sentences reads:

"This circumstance has clearly shown the power of unity in action, power of love and goodwill towards fellow men regardless of race and religious beliefs."


Gary was accompanied to the ceremony by his good friend Heledd Poole, whom now resides in London. 

We are so proud of this amazing feat.



The rescue effort involved over 10,000 people including more than 100 divers, scores of rescue workers, representatives from about 100 governmental agencies, 900 police officers, and 2,000 soldiers; and it required ten police helicopters, seven ambulances, more than 700 diving cylinders, and the pumping of more than a billion litres of water from the caves.

40 years, 40 stories


As part of our 40th Anniversary, we are celebrating the breadth, variety and impact of our incredible members through sharing 40 stories with a different theme each month. 

Our first story comes from Scotswood Natural Community Garden. As the UK readies itself for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2020 this weekend, our theme for January is Wildlife gardening and encouraging biodiversity. 

Social Farms & Gardens interviews Sean Clay about how their site (amongst many wonderful things), encourages wildlife gardening and biodiversity.

Name of organisation: Scotswood Natural Community Garden

Region: North East 

Founded/started on site: 1995 

Member since: 2003

Link to member profile: click here

Scotswood's story

Scotswood Garden works with nature to create a great place for people and wildlife to enjoy. The garden is about community, whether in Scotswood and Benwell or the wider area, and they welcome people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in the work. 

We visited Scotswood on a chilly January day as part of our Dobies training programme – we’d come to see how volunteers can stay engaged with a space even in deepest darkest winter so the weather was apt! Sean Clay, Garden Manager, took us on a guided tour around the 2.5 acre space.The first thing you notice about the garden is the bird song – it’s deafening, and we’re in the centre of Newcastle!

The garden aims for a ‘managed wildness’ approach so one of Sean’s jobs is to explain why piles of sticks and leaves aren’t “tidied up”, but it’s all paying off and the garden is a haven for wildlife. Wild areas provide habitats for hedgehogs, bats, numerous bird species, great crested newts, a fox and too many rabbits! There are many trees including alder, walnuts, hazels, yews, scots pines, rowans and abundant fruit trees. The fruits are harvested and made into chutneys and juices which are available to purchase. 

The two ponds are home to all three British newt species: great crested; smooth, and palmate. It is rare to find all three together. A new accessible garden with moveable and raised beds as well as a compost toilet is opening up the garden to new users. While the small, and fairly new, vegetable growing space uses no-dig principles  to produce abundance and Sean proudly shows us the compost sausage. Involving the local community is integral to Scotswood’s activity so their work is divided into five strands to ensure maximum engagement.

These are youth work, education & forest schools, older people’s services, adult volunteering and community outreach.A garden takes time to become established and Scotswood is a mature space that’s been around for 25 years. It is now a designated local wildlife site.

Visit scotswoodgarden.org.uk to find out more about this fantastic space.

Finally, what do you value about being a member of Social Farms & Gardens? 

"Being part of a network" and "Access to information, advice and training". “It’s great to be part of a wider network to share and learn from others doing similar fantastic work. We can all learn from each other"



Celebrating 40 years of farming, gardening and growing together

This year Social Farms & Gardens are celebrating 40 years of farming, gardening and growing together. 

2020 will be packed full of activities to celebrate the 40th. From monthly events UK wide including the European Federation of City Farms Conference and Growing Care Farming Conference, to the the special 40th Anniversary SF&G Awards - where winners will receive their awards at the House of Lords. Plus, a new chance for younger people to get involved, through the launch of our Youth Forum - an exciting opportunity for young people to help direct and shape our plans going forwards.

A big part of the year’s celebrations will be celebrating the incredible diversity and impact of our members across our digital platforms throughout the year. 

We'll be shining a spotlight on the amazing work of all the volunteers, staff and trustees that make up the very fabric of our member organisations and the inspiring initiatives created to increase sustainability, biodiversity and the wellbeing of people and communities. 

Visit our 40th Anniversary page

Force of nature: the battle to save London’s green spaces

London culture magazine 'Huck' has its finger on the pulse for community matters in London. This month they interviewed Social Farms & Gardens for their article 'Force of nature: the battle to save London’s green spaces'. 

Writer Jessica Furseth meets the people trying to save them:

"As the city’s population rises, the future of its green spaces – which are vital for community spirit, physical health and mental wellbeing – are in doubt. Greenery is good for us. Research shows that living in a leafy urban area reduces the risk of depression and anxiety. Working with others towards a common goal, such as taking care of plants or a vegetable patch, creates community, or just being outside for a bit and watching the birds or frogs is positive for bringing about a different state of mind. “It creates a sense of flow,” says Amber Alferoff, London Project Officer at Social Farms & Gardens, a support charity. “You find yourself in the most gorgeous places with the most lovely people instead of a concrete walkway. There’s always a secret green place in London that’s just waiting to be found.”

Part of the work by Social Farms & Gardens is to ensure that people “really understand that you’re not just a cutesy garden group, but you’ve really got a strong impact,” says Alferoff. Funding is often a challenge: there are grants available but often, gardens or city farms will have permission to exist but no official lease. Alferoff is keen to stress the societal value of London’s green spaces, especially in light of government cuts to mental health services. In some cases, gardens have found themselves having to perform services they may be unprepared for: “There are people who would have had mental health support in the past, but who aren’t getting it anymore. So when they arrive at community gardens, that’s not necessarily a formal support system that is [trained to help] them.” Everyone is always welcome, Alferoff adds, but often, gardens aren’t properly compensated to provide these services."

The article is full of fascinating interviews from local activists, community allotment growers and wildlife charities. Click here to read it in full.

‘Growing Resilience’ blooms in Northern Ireland

Great news for the Social Farms & Gardens project ‘Growing Resilience’ this month, as additional funding from the lottery is confirmed. This important funding will enable the charity to expand the project, supporting even more community gardens in Northern Ireland to garden and grow together. In June 2019 after a hugely successful first two years, The National Lottery, Community Fund programme confirmed it would fund Social Farms & Gardens to expand the work into three specific new areas (Newry Mourne and Down, Derry City and North Belfast). All Local Council areas will be covered as the project develops. The project will also organise networking forums across Northern Ireland, which could include topics such as growing skills, volunteer recruitment and community development and engagement.

Under the new name, ‘Growing Resilience: Digging Deeper’, the project will run for five years, funded by The National Lottery, Community Fund programme. The project increases social capital and resilience in the community growing sector in Northern Ireland.
The programme works to support volunteers in the community growing sector to connect, share skills, build confidence and support one another; strengthening their ability to work sustainably and withstand changes in an ever-changing financial landscape.
The skills shared so far have been hugely diverse and inspiring; from soil health, fermenting foods and community composting, to pallet furniture making and a great engagement activity called disco soup!

FInd out more about the project here

If you are part of a community group and would like to be involved, or simply interested in finding out more. Please contact miriam@farmgarden.org.uk.

Growing Care Farming project launched

Social Farms & Gardens have launched a £1.4 million project which aims to significantly increase the number of care farm places available each year.

Natural England hosted the launch of the Growing Care Farming project at the Royal Over-Seas League in London on 13th May 2019. Growing Care Farming is part of the Government Programme for Children & Nature which is supported by Defra, funded by the Department for Education and managed by Natural England. The project is being delivered by Social Farms & Gardens in partnership with charity Thrive.

Care farming means the therapeutic use of farming practices and is sometimes called social farming. Care farming sits amongst other nature-based therapies that are collectively called 'green care'. Green care means structured nature programmes for people with a defined need to benefit health, social care or education outcomes.

Health and social care professionals (such as GPs, community mental mealth workers, social prescribing link workers or local social care workers) and education professionals can commission a wide range of care farming services for adults and children with needs including learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, dementia, drug or alcohol addiction and ex-service personnel with post traumatic stress disorder or children with emotional needs excluded from school.

The project has the potential to support a significant and much needed step change in the scale of the care farming sector, enabling critical mental health services for both children and adults to become more readily available across England, especially in rural areas. It is hoped that the project will increase the number of care farm places available each year by nearly 1 million, up to 1.3 million. The Growing Care Farming project aims to expand and transform care farming services across England through training, support and resources, regional networking and quality assurance. 

Natural England Chief Executive Marian Spain, said: "The project has the potential to support a significant and much needed step change in the scale of the care farming sector, enabling critical mental health services for both children and adults to become more readily available across England, especially in rural areas.

"We have a large and growing mental health issue in England and this initiative rises to that challenge. What a fantastic contribution to help tackle such an important social need.

"To achieve this scale of change is a serious challenge that will take innovation and determination by those in both the environment and health sectors. In particular, we in the natural environment sector must build stronger working relationships with health and social care commissioners to help streamline the referral mechanisms and pathways to nature-based therapeutic interventions such as care farm services, but this can be done." 

James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care at NHS England, said: “The NHS is committed to giving people more choice and control over their care, and to support people who may be struggling with their physical and mental health to connect with their local communities.

"The expansion of social prescribing link workers, which was promised in the NHS Long Term Plan, will mean that people will be supported to get involved with the activities that are right for them. In particular we know that the use of the natural environment can make a real difference to people’s wellbeing and the Care Farming Project is a practical, and inspiring, way of providing opportunities for more people to get involved.”

Minister for the Environment, Therese Coffey, said: “Care farming provides health and social care and specialist education providers with innovative and effective care options. It benefits society as a whole by reducing the strain on statutory services and the NHS, and it also helps farmers who have an alternative way to use their farm, to provide health, social and educational care services in addition to or instead of commercial production.”

Speakers at the launch included:

View the full launch programme.

Social Farms & Gardens together with Thrive to expand and transform care farming in England

We are delighted to announce that Social Farms & Gardens has been selected to lead the 'Growing Care Farming' Project.

This project is part of the £10m Children and Nature Programme being supported by Defra, funded by the Department of Education and managed by Natural England, which aims to encourage children from disadvantaged backgrounds to play and learn outside, in and out of school, and is a key commitment in the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan published last year.

Officially launched on 31st January 2019, this £1.4 million project is an exciting opportunity to build the capacity and scale of the care farming sector. We will be working with Thrive to expand and transform care farming services across all nine English regions and ultimately create more opportunities for both children and adults with a defined need to benefit from attending care farms, for health, social and specialist educational care services.

This is a fantastic opportunity for us to continue working closely with care farmers and commissioning agencies to grow both the supply and demand of care farming places and something that we have been working towards for nearly a decade!

Watch this space for updates on progress, developments and opportunities to get involved.

You can read our press release here.

Helping to create more 'Gardens of Sanctuary'

For many people arriving to seek asylum in the UK, community growing spaces can offer vital and unique opportunities to find community, improve mental and physical health and to learn and share skills. These resources have been designed to encourage and support community growing groups to welcome people seeking sanctuary.

Social Farms & Gardens, City of Sanctuary and the Permaculture Association have been working together to support and inspire some of the thousands of community growing spaces in the UK to become places of sanctuary for people forced to flee from persecution.

For the past year the Gardens of Sanctuary partnership project has been conducting research into how community growing spaces of all kinds interact with refugees and asylum seekers.

A report based on the project's research findings, a series of case studies and a ‘Gardens of Sanctuary Resource Pack’ have now been published. You can download these here.

Future of food, farming and agriculture consultation

Social Farms & Gardens has contributed to a Defra consultation on the future of food, farming and the environment in England, emphasising the role that city farms, care farms and community gardens already play in benefitting people and places - and how much more could be achieved with more support.

The consultation called for views on proposals for future agriculture policy in England, particularly in light of changes as a result of leaving the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy. 

In its consultation response, Social Farms & Gardens said that care farms, city farms and community gardens offer a vital role in providing public goods for public money; they could offer increased potential savings to health, education and social services; help re-connect people with food and farming and help maintain viable and thriving rural communities, improving mental and physical well-being for the population, while protecting vulnerable family farms.

The response also said that any future agricultural policy post EU exit should therefore include an enabling policy environment for continuation and growth of care farming and community agriculture opportunities.

The response concluded that, in particuar, community agriculture initiatives and care farming already contribute – and could do considerably more with the right support - to the following:

• Contribute to the payment of public money for the provision of public goods
• Support farmers to prepare for change and improve resilience in the sector
• Deliver cultural benefits that improve mental and physical well-being
• Increase public engagement and education of food and farming.

Read Social Farms & Gardens full response via the following: 

SFG Consultation response



Growing Better Lives 2018 - Conference

Growing Better Lives 2018, a conference exploring and celebrating the links between community growing, care farming, health and wellbeing took place in Manchester in April 2018, sponsored by The Mayfield Partnership.

Aimed at community growing and care farming practitioners, health commissioners, policy makers and academics, Growing Better LIves 2018 reflected on the increasingly strong body of evidence about the positive influence of farming and gardening in care and health contexts.

Growing Better Lives 2018 also marked the official launch of Social Farms & Gardens, a new organisaiton resulting from the merger of the Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens and Care Farming UK. The new organisation was launched by Lord Donald Curry (who has become its new President) and will build on the work of the two former organisations, representing and supporting the delivery of care services and community development through farming and gardening activities.

The conference was attended by more than 100 people, representing community growers, care farmers, city farmers, business supporters and other green sector organisations. Among the successes were:

  • increased awareness and understanding about land-based community growing and care farming activities.
  • provided evidence of how this work can make positive and lasting improvements in people’s lives
  • gave practitioners an opportunity to learn new skills
  • celebrated success with their peers through our Local Heroes awards, sponsored by Dobies, highlighting the best of city farms, community gardens and care farming. 

Much recent research has shown how city farms, community gardens and other community managed green spaces have an vital impact on health, wellbeing, education and sustainable development of community facilities, often in deprived areas. Meanwhile care farming in the UK has grown in prominence in the last decade as an effective form of health and social care - so much so that the expansion of care farming in the UK was mentioned this week in DEFRA’s 25 year environmental plan.

An exciting list of speakers included: Dr Rachel Bragg (University of Essex; Dr Mike Hardman (University of Salford); Dr Michelle Howarth (University of Salford); Pam Warhurst (Incredible Edible) and Kathryn Rossiter (Thrive).


Conference Sponsors



CLAS Cymru helps in £1.1m Big Lottery win for Newtown asset transfer

CLAS Cymru, the community land initiative managed by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens,  has helped support a consortium of locally based volunteers, community enterprises and organisations in Newtown, Powys, to secure a £1.1 million in funding from the Big Lottery’s Community Asset Transfer program.

The Going Green for a Living consortium came together in response to Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council’s call to look at new and more sustainable ways to manage the open spaces of Newtown i.e. how could the community generate a better living from our green and blue assets?

Key landowners & partners in the project, Powys County Council and Welsh Government, have offered long term secure tenure of around 130 acres of land, to be held in a Community Land Trust, making this one of the largest community asset transfers of amenity land in Wales. 

CLAS Cymru coordinator Lucie Taylor said: “We are really pleased to provide support to such a pioneering project that enables the Newtown Community to secure more land for growing local food”.

For more details go to the Community Land Advisory website

Stick Man Trails at Community Growing Sites

Popular picture book character Stick Man is teaming up with local community groups across the UK to encourage urban children to get outdoors and explore the natural world. Fun-filled activity trails have been opened at five community growing sites around the UK (with another trail in Manchester due open soon), thanks to the support of Stick Man brand owner Magic Light Pictures.

Based on the much-loved picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the self-guided trails are designed to help children go on their own adventure with the character, find out more about the natural world and learn how things grow. The trails, aimed at three to seven year olds, offer an interactive learning experience through brightly coloured boards featuring Stick Man and other characters from the picture book. The trails are being piloted at:

It's hoped that thousands of parents and young children will ‘twig' how much fun the trails can be and become new and regular visitors to their local growing group. The initiative is part of the legacy of a national campaign called Local Heroes, which aimed to get more people, including children, involved with their local community growing groups, such as city farms, community gardens, therapy gardens and community orchards. There are estimated to be over 2,500 community growing groups in the UK, most of which rely on voluntary support and need more help to thrive.

Heidi Seary, project manager of the Growing Together partnership which led the Local Heroes campaign, said: "We hope that hundreds of young children and families will be inspired to go on their own outdoor adventure with Stick Man at a community growing site, where they can have fun, as well as learn more about the natural world and how things grow. Our new Stick Man trails will provide children, particularly those in urban areas who have little access to the countryside, with an opportunity to play and learn outdoors, at the same time as raising the profile of local community growing groups, which help make local neighbourhoods better, healthier and friendlier places. If the trails are as popular as we hope, we plan to ‘branch out' the Stick Man trails and activities to other local community groups next year."

Daryl Shute, brand director at Magic Light Pictures, said: "Encouraging exploration and learning about nature are core values for the Stick Man brand so we are really excited to bring these trails into a new, urban setting and reach a wider audience."

To find out more about how the trails and where to find the pilot sites, and the Local Heroes campaign, go to https://www.farmgarden.org.uk/stick-man


Adam Henson backs School Farms

Farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson called on the agricultural sector to support the use of the farming environment in education to help create the next generation of people entering rural careers, at a recent conference to promote school farms and highlight the key role they can play in developing a holistic education approach.

The School Farms Network Education Alliance (SFNEA) conference 2017 took place at the Royal Agricultural University on 30 June to 1 July, hosted by the Royal Agricultural University at its Cirencester campus. 

The conference promoted interest in school farming (and other types of land-based education) through keynote presentations, breakout sessions and practitioner-focused sharing and practical workshops, addressing the themes of: 

  • School Farms as sites for learning
  • Agriculture, technology and enterprise 
  • Building student achievement, access and progression 
  • Building land-based careers and education pathways to university

Mr Henson, who was a keynote speaker at the conference, said: "The use of a farming environment with growing crops and livestock is an invaluable form of learning and I fully appreciate all the work the Schools Farms Network carries out. The agricultural sector needs to be encouraging the next generation into farming and rural careers, so engaging students at a young age can only be a good thing."

A full conference report will be available shortly. In the meantime, the conference delegate pack gives full details of the programme and speakers.

Presentations given at the conference can be accessed here.

The programme included a Gala Awards Dinner at which Mr Henson presented the inaugaral School Farms Network Awards. Image: Alison Woodham Photography

Congratulations to all of the award winners and runners-up:

  • School Farm Enterprise and Innovation Award 2017 Winner: Chipping Campden School; Runner-up: Bebington High Sports College
  • School Farm Community Engagement Award 2017 Winner: Woodchurch High School; Runner-up: Thomas Alleyne’s High School
  • Best Use of School Farm in the Curriculum Award 2017 Winner: Brockhill Park Performing Arts College; Runner-up: Eastfield Primary School
  • School Farm Leadership Award 2017 Winner: Bebington High Sports College; Runner-up: Mowbray School Farm Leadership Team
  • School Farm Student Leadership Award 2017 Winner: Kirk Hallam Community Academy
  • Best School Farm Secondary School Award 2017 Winner: Ramsey Grammar School; Runner-up: Bebington High Sports College
  • Best School Farm Primary School Award 2017 Winner: Eastfields Primary School; Runner-up: Edwalton Primary School
  • Best School Farm Award 2017 Winner: Brockhill Park Performing Arts College


New project demonstrates benefits of outdoor learning

A new Natural England-funded project to demonstrate the enormous benefits of outdoor learning to children and develop a model(s) of using ‘hub’ schools to support and deliver teacher training, is now available.

The project, which is funded by Natural England, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Historic England and delivered by Plymouth University, is the largest project of its kind in England and has already helped more than 40,000 primary and secondary school pupils get out of their classrooms and into the outdoors – whether that’s a maths lesson in a local park or drama out on the school field.

Sue Waite, Associate Professor in Outdoor Learning at Plymouth University, said: “The model for this project was built on substantial evidence into both the benefits and challenges schools face when embedding outdoor learning into core teaching. By working directly with teachers we’ve helped to bring about a sustainable culture of outdoor learning across schools that will continue long after the project has ended and will leave behind a lasting legacy.”

The Natural Connections project focused mainly on areas of deprivation in Plymouth, Torbay, Bristol, Cornwall and Somerset, working in both urban and rural schools with varying school grounds and access to local green spaces. These areas are now developing innovative ways to continue supporting outdoor learning across the school networks they have established through the project.

Natural England is now working with partners to help share the findings from this project to support and enhance the delivery of outdoor learning in schools across England. A full copy of the Natural Connections project report can be downloaded from Natural England’s Access to Evidence publications catalogue

A short video has been produced to accompany the publication of the project report. The film highlights the achievements of the project and includes contributions from teachers and pupils talking about their positive experience.



Community green spaces underused for dementia care - report

Urban green spaces, including city farms and community gardens, are not being used enough to help people living with dementia and their carers, according to a new report from Natural England.

In one of the biggest surveys of its kind so far, people living with dementia and their carers were asked about outdoor activities and the places where they go. The report reveals that engaging in outdoor activities that have a purpose and activities that involve being with other people provide the greatest motivation.

But places like city farms and community gardens, are sometimes overlooked as an alternative for people living with dementia, or have not yet explored the possibility of working with carers and dementia support organisations.  

The new study – Is it nice outside? Consulting people living with dementia and carers about engaging with the natural environment – is the result of a collaborative project between Natural England, Dementia Adventure, the Mental Health Foundation and Innovations in Dementia.

Only 20 percent of the people living with dementia considered that their condition was a barrier to using outdoor spaces, whereas 83 percent of carers believed that dementia limited the person’s ability.

Findings from the report include:

  • Some urban green spaces such as allotments, city farms and community gardens are underused by people with dementia
  • Informal walking outdoors was the most frequently mentioned activity (38%) and was also seen as vitally important by carers for its beneficial effect
  • Wildlife or bird watching is one of the most popular activities for people living with dementia and 25% of the people interviewed said that they took part several times a week or every day
  • The most popular places to visit for people with dementia were associated with water (45%), such as lakes, rivers or the coastline and city parks and public gardens were also popular (30%)

The top barriers to taking part in outdoor activities and having contact with nature were:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Fears and safety concerns
  • Not having transport
  • Insufficient information about what places have to offer and their suitability for visitors with dementia
  • Lack of support to get to locations, to use facilities, and to participate in outdoor activities

The report makes a series of recommendations that could encourage greater use of natural spaces, including community-run spaces, by people living with dementia and their carers.

For example, managers of outdoor spaces could work with local dementia action alliances to develop a Trip Advisor-style ratings system to provide information about local dementia-friendly open spaces.

Other recommendations from the report address ways to make visits to green spaces more dementia-friendly through implementing the principles of dementia friendly communities at outdoor sites by: training staff to be dementia aware; improving training on how to sensitively and effectively support people living with dementia; and, improving understanding by managers of outdoor spaces of the types of facilities, activities and information that people living with dementia say they need.

Jim Burt, Principal Adviser for Natural England’s Outdoors for All programme said: “There is already strong evidence to show the positive benefits of engagement with the natural environment for people living with dementia and this survey adds to that body of evidence. Importantly, it heard directly from both those living with dementia and their carers, and the research has revealed important new information and insights. This work will now help our partners and the wider health community to take action that will enable people with dementia to have more and better quality opportunities to be active in the great outdoors.”

For many people living with dementia and their family carers the answer is yes, people want and need to get out into the fresh air, to walk, be near water and watch and listen to the birds.  The fact that these simple outdoor pleasures are not equally accessible for some of the thousands of families living with dementia is another reminder for us to work across care and conservation boundaries and implement the solutions contained in the report.

Toby Williamson, Head of Development and Later Life at the Mental Health Foundation says: “The benefits of outdoor activity for peoples’ wellbeing, whether it’s walking, wildlife watching, or just ‘being in nature’, are well known. But concerns about safety and access can mean that many people with dementia do not share in those benefits.”

The research that the Mental Health Foundation and Innovations in Dementia undertook for Natural England and Dementia Adventure in this report showed that people with dementia, and their families and friends, wanted to continue to visit green spaces, such as parks and rivers, and participate in outdoor activities. It identifies simple, practical changes that organisations responsible for green spaces can make to ensure they are dementia accessible and inclusive, so people with dementia and their carers can continue to enjoy being outdoors.

The findings from this project will now be used to help design a large-scale demonstration project to deliver services in the natural environment for people living with dementia and their carers. The recommendations will also be valuable to other natural environment providers in shaping projects to further their work with people living with dementia.

The report can be downloaded from Natural England’s Access to Evidence publications catalogue.

Major new study shows ‘green care’ benefits for mental health

A major new report shows compelling evidence that the ‘green care’ offered by many Federation of City Farm and Community Gardens members can help people with mental ill-health and contributes to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression.

Natural England’s ‘A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care’ calls for greater use of green care such as social and therapeutic horticulture, care farming and environmental conservation, as a cost-effective solution for mental health and social service commissioners.  

The study also cites FCFCG as a key national organisation supporting social and therapeutic horticulture projects and practitioners. 

Jeremy Iles, CEO of the Federation, said: “This important new study reinforces what we already know about the multiple benefits of green care for mental health.  Most community growing projects and farms already offer green care services.

“We are working to create new opportunities for people to access nature-based therapies at home, in the workplace and at hospitals and schools. We hope this report will raise awareness of green care and act as a springboard for greater collaboration.”

The new review was commissioned by Natural England from the University of Essex and Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity. It suggests that green care interventions can provide an increasingly important way of supporting mental health services, with many projects already making a difference to people’s lives.

The benefits of such interventions include a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, and an improvement in dementia-related symptoms.

The report also shows that people involved in these types of green care activities have a greatly increased level of social contact and inclusion, as well as a sense of belonging and personal achievement.

Alan Law, Natural England’s Chief Strategy and Reform Officer, said: “There is now compelling evidence to show that contact with nature and the outdoors improves physical health and mental wellbeing. Natural England is committed to find ways to help more people access the benefits that come through practical experiences in the outdoors.”

Click here to find out more and download the full report.

Just 30 minutes of gardening can boost mental health

A new study has shown that just 30 minutes of gardening a week has a beneficial effect on mental health.

Researchers from Westminster and Essex universities questioned 269 gardeners and non-gardeners with the former describing their feelings before and after working in an allotment

They found that one gardening session resulted in significant improvements in self-esteem and mood,  with reductions in tension, depression, anger, and confusion.

The study also found that less than half of gardeners were overweight or obese, compared to nearly 70 per cent of non-gardeners.

The authors concluded that local authorities should seek to provide more community allotment plots for residents, and that this “could contribute to a greener and healthier economy focused on the prevention of ill-health. This preventative approach could result in substantial savings to the UK economy, particularly in the treatment of health conditions such as mental illness, obesity, cardiovascular disease and loneliness.”

Professor John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH), said: “We cannot have good physical health without also looking after our mental well-being. FPH would welcome more community allotments and opportunities for people to have access to safe, green spaces....Given the cost to individuals and the economy of poor mental health, it makes sense from both a public health and economic perspective to prioritise mental well-being.”

Click here to read an article about the study in the Independent newspaper.

Community growing a 'powerful tool' for good

A new report produced by FCFCG shows that involvement in community growing can act as a ‘powerful tool’ to help vulnerable people, bring communities together and encourage people to adopt greener and healthier behaviours. 

FCFCG has produced a learning report tracking the progress of growing and green space projects funded by Communities Living Sustainably, a Big Lottery funded five year programme which has provided £1m to twelve communities to test ways of dealing with the potential impacts of climate change.

The report, which follows projects including a Salvation Army hostel garden, an initiative to get people growing at home and a developing local food network, observes that: ‘practical involvement in growing and green space activities can provide a powerful tool to help vulnerable people address personal and social issues.’ Projects were also helping increase people’s physical activity and encouraging health eating while promoting biodiversity.

The report also finds scope for devolved public health budgets to build community growing and green space projects into local service delivery, supported by the development of robust evidence of health benefits and employment outcomes.

The experience of CLS groups suggests that local projects can also stimulate local food economies, although it also highlights a number of barriers and a need to coordinate a strategic approach to local food to overcome challenges faced in building production at scale, increasing distribution networks and retail outlets to turn social projects into more mainstream business models.

The report contains recommendations for funders, central and local government  and community organisations and has been produced by FCFCG for  the Groundwork Learning Partnership, which is comprised of Groundwork UK, The Energy Saving Trust, The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, The New Economics Foundation and Building Research Establishment (BRE).

Click here to read the full report and find out more about Communities Living Sustainably.

Report highlights benefits of community growing

A Glasgow University study on community gardens in the city, including three Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG) members, has outlined their positive effect on individuals and communities.

Glasgow’s Community Gardens: Sustainable communities of care set out to explore the relationships between sustainability, health, well-being and the urban environment by studying 14 gardens in Glasgow, including FCFCG members The Hidden Gardens3Hills Community Gardens and Woodlands Community Garden.

The report concluded that community gardening promotes community empowerment and “offers a learning environment that goes beyond the skills associated with horticulture to include individual health, self and community wellbeing and democratic citizenship.”

The therapeutic potential of gardening is acknowledged, with some people reporting mental and physical health benefits. One anonymous volunteer is quoted as saying: “I decided instead of sitting in the house all day, the garden would get me out and about. It gives me something to do… Me being epileptic as well, it [the garden] helps bring down my stress levels with having something on my mind […] I was in a bad way, drugs and stuff – working the gardens has saved my life”.

Other participants acquired knowledge and skills that build self-confidence and encourage team working. The report found that the community gardens provide important employment and training opportunities in Glasgow and have “considerable potential to be expanded, given the right policy support.”

The study also found evidence of gardens increasing social inclusion and community cohesion while “promoting a positive recognition and celebration of different cultures”, with one sessional worker commenting: “I have eight people in my taskforce. Most don’t have English as a first language. There is Roma, Czech Republic […] I also have someone from Ghana, someone from Gambia, someone from Eritrea.[…] When we had young refugees and asylum seekers last week it was fascinating the things they were telling us about wild garlic, and making soup, and how they would use various herbs in their culture.”

The report also mentions that FCFCG provides free advice on lease issues to community gardening groups – this is actually provided by the Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS).

You can read the full report by clicking here.