Care Farming for Beginners- The ‘How to’ Handbook.

Back in 2018 we wrote a Handbook to help people set up care farms. We did this because we were swamped by social workers asking us to support more vulnerable people on our care farm, Clynfyw, which is based near Abercych in North Pembrokeshire. We were overly full and didn’t want to expand or to start another care farm as we were being asked to do.

Clynfyw had been running as a ‘day service’ since 2011, having provided ‘respite’ holidays since 2002, wheelchair accessible holidays since 1986 and countryside holidays since the 1960s. My family have farmed here since 1750, organically since 1998. We love this place and enjoy sharing it with others.

So having farmed and diversified and built up an enterprise that, by 2018, employed over 40 people working on the farm, supporting over 30 vulnerable people each week on day service, 10 more living in secure supported tenancies and running a mental health recovery centre, Kinora, in Cardigan, we had grown as much as we wanted to (grown bigger than we wanted to, if I’m are totally honest) and we set about writing a book to help make it easier for other farmers and landowners to set up their own places, or adapt what they were doing, or find allies and share their land to benefit others. This, we felt, was more constructive and friendly than just turning people away. We hoped it would help people avoid the mistakes, rabbit holes and cul-de-sacs that wasted us so much time.

We became mentors with with Social Farms and Gardens, Renew Cymru and Farming Connect, welcoming prospective care farmers to Clynfyw and going to their places to discuss their thoughts, and help hone their plans. When the COVID lock down happened, many of these plans fell apart. Life changed for everyone. While we saw the Clynfyw tenants thriving living in a beautiful part of the world in a small, supportive community, we watched as other vulnerable people struggled, living in isolation with even less support and opportunity than they had before. We knew we were lucky and we wished we could do more to help others.

Rebuilding after COVID we took many lessons from lock down. We spoke with everyone involved here and realised we had grown too big before and we decided to focus on providing a better all round service for a smaller number of people, particularly people who were able to engage more fully in the projects and schemes we were running. We wanted Clynfyw to be a place of individual growth and personal development. Where people could learn independent living skills as part of the projects, and all the projects would have a meaningful outcome rather than simply being time-consuming exercises. We wanted Clynfyw to be a fun place to be, but also to offer a ‘transition’ for people who could learn and move on to more independent living (when possible) and we wanted it to focus on our wider community, so we could play a larger part in what goes on and not become the ‘disability ghetto’ that care provision can so easily become.

We have always been concerned about the environment. We won a Queens Award for Enterprise (sustainable development) back in 2002, and we won it again in 2022, along with numerous other environmental, access, diversification and other awards too, and in 2020 we started a de-carbonation plan for Clynfyw set to run from 2020-2030. Our climate is collapsing and as it does so our society will change beyond belief. Clynfyw is tiny, of course, in global scales, but it can play a part (as all farms can) in building community resilience. With this in mind, we set up Clynfyw Community Benefit Society which is running a Community Share Offer which will, we hope, enable Clynfyw Farm to remain as a community-orientated venture for ever.

So, with all that lot going on, 2024 feels like a good time to revisit the ‘How to’ handbook and to turn it into a ‘How and Why to’ handbook instead. There is so much more to what Care Farmers do than simply give access to land. And that’s what this blog will be about. We hope its useful. (It it isn’t, please tell Paul because it was his idea to do it in the first place.)