All posts by Melissa Wylie

Celebrating the growth of Social Farming in Northern Ireland

A celebration event was held on Wednesday 21st March to mark the growth of Social Farming in Northern Ireland. Farmers and participants of Social Farming were joined by representatives from the farming and health and social care sectors as invited guests to this special occasion.

The event was organised by the Social Farming Support Service for Northern Ireland, which is operated by the charity Rural Support on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). In his welcome, Jude McCann Chief Executive of Rural Support said “I am delighted to host this conference on Social Farming in Northern Ireland: Growth & Next Steps. It is great to have representatives from a wide range of sectors to inform our approach to Social Farming in the coming years”.

Social Farming is an innovative use of agriculture to promote therapy, rehabilitation, social inclusion, education and social services in rural areas. It has been shown to benefit those living with a Learning Disability or recovering from a Mental Health issue through participation in the day-to-day activities of a working farm.

Speakers at the event in Loughry College, Cookstown included Catherine McCallum, Director of Rural Affairs within DAERA and Iolo Eilian, Social Care Commissioning Lead within the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB). Both DAERA and the HSCB along with the Public Health Agency (PHA) have taken a cross departmental, partnership approach to supporting the development of Social Farming. This has led to a Social Farming Referral Fund being created which is currently increasing the provision of Social Farming on a regional basis.

Catherine McCallum, Director of DAERA’s Rural Affairs Division said, “Social Farming can have a hugely positive impact on farmers and their families, as well as making a real difference in the lives of those who spend time on the farms. A lot has been achieved since the early research and social farming now has a solid foundation in Northern Ireland. I am confident that it will continue to grow and develop in the years ahead.”

The benefits of Social Farming were best described by two individuals who have participated on Butterlope Farm in Plumbridge. Engaging in meaningful activities and learning new skills has improved their lives and opened up new opportunities for future. The farmers from Butterlope Farm and Gortilea Social Farm in Claudy also spoke about how they and their farms have been positively impacted by providing a Social Farming service. Certificates of achievement were presented to five Social Farming participants by Iolo Eilian from the Health and Social Care Board in a highlight of the event. In his comments Iolo said, “Social Farming adds to the current range of Day Services available to individuals receiving support from a Learning Disability or Mental Health service and promotes greater involvement in community life, allowing them to expand their social contacts and improve their health and wellbeing.”

Social Farming is about people. The farmers delivering a Social Farming service are committed to using their farm and their skills to improve lives. The participants making the choice to engage are being supported in rural communities to learn, to connect, and to achieve their potential. The progress made to date provides a strong foundation for further growth.

If you would like further information on Social Farming, whether you are a farmer, staff member, service user or family member/supporter of a service user, you can contact the Social Farming Support Service for further information on 028 86760040.

Last Chance to attend Business Planning Seminars

A number of Business Planning seminars focusing on areas impacting on farm businesses have been organised and delivered by CAFRE in partnership with Rural Support throughout Northern Ireland over the past months with excellent attendance and feedback to date. The seminars are part of the Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) initiative which and is a key element of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

The seminars are delivered by industry professionals from local Accountancy and Law firms and provide farmers with important information on succession planning and business resilience and risk management including financial budgeting, forecasting and the impact of market volatility on farm profitability.

The dates and venues for the final group of evening seminars are now confirmed as Friel’s Restaurant, Swatragh on Thursday 22nd February, City Hotel, Armagh on Tuesday 27th February, the Old School House, Cushendall on Wednesday 28th February and Tirgan Community Association, Tirgan Hall, Moneymore on Monday 5th of March. Doors open for these seminars at 7.30pm with seminars beginning at 8.00pm.

One additional afternoon session has also been confirmed at Greenmount Campus, Antrim on Tuesday 13th of March with doors opening at 1.00 pm and seminars beginning at 1.30pm.

The seminars are free to farmers, members of the farm family and employees. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters within farm families would all benefit from attending a seminar.

For further information contact the delivery agent for this training programme Rural Support on 028 8676 0040 or visit www.cafre.ac.uk.

Industry out in support for seminars

Farmers and other family members from across Northern Ireland have been turning out in large numbers for the ongoing series of Taxation and Succession Planning Seminars. The meetings have been arranged jointly between CAFRE and Rural Support under the Farm Family Key Skills [FFKS] initiative which is partly funded by the EU under the NIRDP 2014-2020. The seminars cover a range of business planning topics including tax issues, succession planning and business resilience and risk management. The presentations are delivered by a range of speakers from Rural Support to qualified accountants and solicitors. The take home message from the presentations included the need for financial budgeting and forecasting, the need to develop a succession plan and make a will and a range of tax and debt management tips.

The seminars have been well received and have ended with a lively Q&A session which provided the opportunity for the speakers to highlight the key areas which farmers should address with their own accountant and solicitor, on a regular basis.James McKee from Darkley, who attended the first seminar at Greenmount Campus said: “It was great to be updated on these important issues from a range of excellent speakers who obviously had a very good understanding of the issues facing farmers,” while Donal McAtamney from NIAPA said: “I would encourage all farmers, farm family members and farm employees not to miss the opportunity to attend one of these seminars.” The current series of seminars will continue with events planned for:

  • Canal Court Hotel, Newry on Monday 15 January 2018
  • Kilmorey Arms Hotel, Kilkeel on Wednesday 17 January 2018
  • Benedy Community Centre, Dungiven on Tuesday 23 January 2018
  • AFBI, Hillsborough on Wednesday 24 January 2018
  • Donn Carragh Hotel, Lisnaskea on Thursday 25 January 2018
  • Fir Trees Hotel, Strabane on Tuesday 30 January 2018

Each event gets underway at 8.00 pm with doors opening at 7.30 pm.Further event dates will be released later in the year.The seminars are free to farmers, members of the farm family and employees.For further information, telephone the programme delivery agent Rural Support on 028 8676 0040

Call to Agri-Producers to Share Christmas Cheer and Support Hamper Scheme


Farming and rural charity, Rural Support, and local wind energy company, Simple Power, are launching their fifth annual ‘Christmas Hamper Scheme’ aimed at helping farming and rural families in need this festive season.

Rural Support and Simple Power are encouraging local food and drink producers to lend a helping hand, by kindly donating suitable hamper items and making a difference this Christmas. With this support, the team hope to be able to match last year’s total of 120 hampers and ensure the hampers are packed with treats and local goods.

Rural Support’s Chief Executive, Jude McCann, said “This past few months has been especially difficult for Northern Ireland’s rural and farming community with intense pressure on farmers due to prolonged wet weather, floods in the north west and challenges relating to having enough fodder for the winter ahead. Therefore, our Christmas Hamper Scheme aims to connect in with farmers and remind everyone that Rural Support is here to help when the stress becomes too much.

“Last year, we were delighted with the response to the initiative, which saw around 120 hampers delivered to families in need and this would not have been possible without the incredibly generous support from our local agri-producers.

“With even more families facing difficulties after this tough year, we are calling on the many successful and vibrant local food and drink producers and suppliers to get in touch with us and make a contribution. We would appeal to local food and drink businesses to help support us in this vital scheme by kindly donating to the appeal. You can make a huge difference to a rural family in need this Christmas.”

To get involved in the Rural Support ‘Christmas Hamper Scheme’, in partnership with Simple Power, call 028 8676 0040 or email: Kerri@ruralsupport.org.uk.

Since 2002, Rural Support has been helping farming and rural families across Northern Ireland on a wide range of issues from finance and debt issues, succession planning concerns, physical and mental health issues, farming paperwork, technical and enterprise issues. If you do require assistance or are experiencing a challenging period, you are encouraged to contact Rural Support as early as possible so that options can be explored.

Simple Power has worked with Rural Support on campaigns for over four years to raise awareness of the importance of health and wellbeing in rural communities and farming families. Simple Power works in partnership with farmers across Northern Ireland and is committed to an on-going partnership with the local charity, providing financial support alongside awareness-raising and fundraising activities and initiatives such as the Christmas Hamper Scheme.

Simple Power Chief Executive, Philip Rainey, commented, “We are delighted to launch our Christmas Hamper Scheme in partnership with Rural Support for the fifth year, and we hope that it continues to be a great festive success. Last year, we saw the generosity of local agri-producers that enabled us to deliver hampers throughout Northern Ireland and spread plenty of Christmas cheer. It would be great for even more agri-food companies to share their produce with those in need to make this Christmas a special time for everyone.”

Save the Date of a Business Planning Seminar

A number of seminars focusing on areas impacting on farm businesses have been organised by CAFRE in partnership with Rural Support to be delivered throughout Northern Ireland over the coming months starting on 28 November at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE. Seminars will be delivered by industry professionals from local Accountancy and Law firms.

For further information contact Rural Support on 028 8676 0040 or visit www.cafre.ac.uk.

Building Resilience with Business Planning Seminars

Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) is an initiative being managed by CAFRE and is a key element of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. The Business Planning theme of Farm Family Key Skills addresses the needs of farmers, farm family members and farm employees to increase their levels of knowledge and awareness in business planning and risk management.

A number of seminars focusing on areas impacting on farm businesses have been organised by CAFRE in partnership with Rural Support to be delivered throughout Northern Ireland over the coming months starting on 28 November at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE. Seminars will be delivered by industry professionals from local Accountancy and Law firms.

Topics covered include an overview and awareness of taxation including the main areas under which there may be liabilities, reliefs and allowances that may apply to farm businesses and recent tax changes that will impact on the farm business including land mobility.

These seminars will also provide farmers with important information on succession planning and business resilience and risk management including financial budgeting, forecasting and the impact of market volatility on farm profitability.

John McCallister, programme manager of the newly launched Land Mobility Scheme, will be available each night to discuss the challenges of land mobility and succession planning.

Twenty Seminars will be delivered in local venues across Northern Ireland from November 2017 to March 2018, with dates for November confirmed as Greenmount Campus, Antrim on Tuesday 28th, Enniskillen Campus on Wednesday 29th and Loughry Campus, Cookstown on Thursday 30th of November. Doors open at 7.30 pm with seminars beginning at 8.00pm.

December events will be held in the Silver Birch Hotel Omagh on Tuesday 5th, Seagoe Hotel Portadown on Wednesday 6th and Magherabuoy House Hotel Portrush on Thursday 7th of December.

Further event dates will be released in the New Year.

The seminars are free to farmers, members of the farm family and employees. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters within farm families would all benefit from attending a seminar.

For further information contact our delivery agent for this training programme Rural Support on 028 8676 0040