Such has been the success of the Kerry Social Farming project in South Kerry it has now expanded county-wide with five new farmers in North Kerry coming on board with the unique project.
Kerry Social Farming, is a project that facilitates adults with disabilities to visit and help out regularly on farms in Kerry. The initiative allows the participants to work with animals on the farm as well as learning farm skills and life skills. It also helps them become part of the local community.
On the other side of the coin it helps local farmers develop new relationships and to have assistance and company on their farms.
The unique project has received nation-wide and European praise, and was the winner of the 2017 Kerry Community Awards as well as being honoured at the National Pride of Place Awards. The Social Farming initiative works in co-operation with many agencies in the county including Kerry County Council, disability service providers, the HSE and NEWKD, amongst others.
It is also supported through the Rural Social Scheme and the TÚS programme. Kerry Social Farming has gone county-wide with five farms in North Kerry opening their doors for young adults with disabilities. These are in Tralee, Ballybunion, Ballyduff and Castleisland.
There are 11 farms participating in south Kerry. On Thursday last a farm walk took place in the farm of Helen O'Mahony in Castleisland to showcase the project and the benefits for all those involved.
Among those in attendance were participants and farmers from South Kerry as well as new farmers in north Kerry. Chairman of the board of NEWKD John Stack, who is also a farmer, and IFA Munster representative John Coughlan also attended.
A presentation was also made by Belinda Gascoigne from UCC/Skellig CRI Cahersiveen on a new Social Farming training course currently being developed.
"The idea was to promote the project in North Kerry. What is unique about this project is that it is voluntary and unique," says Kerry Social Farming Facilitator Irene Kavanagh.
Currently the project is funded by the Department of Agriculture but a long-term funding solution is key to the future of social farming and to its future across the county.