WHAT IS CARE FARMING?
Care Farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices for marginalized or vulnerable groups of people. This model is common in the UK and Europe and goes by varying names, including Care Farming, Social Farming, and Social Care Farming. For a more detailed definition of Social Care Farming, check out this blog from our friends at the Southeastern Social Care Farming Collective.
Care Farming Network Mission:
Care Farming Network advances the therapeutic use of farming practices by connecting new and established agricultural based programs to build capacity, increase quality, and provide technical support.
Why focus on Care Farming for Individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Differences (I/DD)?
In the United States, individuals with I/DD have been historically underserved. 81% of adults with developmental differences do not have a paid job in the community, and only 36% of the public believes that people with intellectual differences are capable of being leaders.
Since 1996, Red Wiggler has provided meaningful employment to adults with I/DD. We employ 15 Growers with I/DD throughout the year. Growers are paid minimum wage ($12.50/hour) or higher, and most work part time Monday through Friday. We believe in the dignity of earning a paycheck by doing meaningful work, and Growers gain a professional identity as farmers. In addition to the inherent therapeutic benefit of working with soil and experiencing plants growing from seeds and hard work, Growers find meaning in their ability to give back to the community through the growing and distribution of healthy food. Red Wiggler provides a setting for individuals with special needs to be teachers and leaders. Twelve Growers have worked at Red Wiggler for more than 8 years and teach new volunteers how to farm, what the growing season looks like, how to use a rake, and what a kohlrabi is.
Do all Care Farms focus on the I/DD community?
There are many varieties and types of Care Farms, and Care Farms serve many different populations.
Care Farms differ in the type of farming activities. Farm-related activities may include: vegetable farming or gardening, taking care of animals and livestock, greenhouse or nursery work, or therapeutic horse riding.
Care Farms may serve people with mental health problems, those with a drug or alcohol addiction, individuals on probation, Veterans, Seniors, Youth, or individuals with I/DD [Cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, or Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)].
Establishing a Care Farming Network
As of 2020, we have identified 38 farms from 20 different states in the United States that work specifically with adults with I/DD. Until recently, space for these farms to come together to learn from each other and advance the field did not exist. While each organization is different, each has similar struggles.
As a special project of Red Wiggler, the Care Farming Network aims to be a catalyst for creating and sharing resources for Care Farms to be successful. Resources may include: Training, Best Practices, Fundraising, Identification of needs, Staffing and Volunteer Management. Our goal is to create a supportive community that will:
- Strengthen existing Care Farms
- Create a better infrastructure to help new Care Farms start up