FarmAbility works in partnership with farms and growing spaces to enable people to benefit from regular, active engagement in productive, outdoor activities with enthusiastic and experienced support as needed. This engagement with land and animals brings significant benefit to physical health and well-being.
In the winter of 2021 we moved our administration base to an office in Eynsham. We run sessions for co-farmers each week at Park Farm on the Blenheim Estate, FAI Farms in Wytham, Long Hanborough Market Garden and Willowbrook Farm near Kidlington.
Why farm programmes?
If people with a learning disability or autistic spectrum disorder are unable to work, they may attend day care services that while entertaining and safe, do not necessarily engage them in meaningful occupations. We know however, that like anyone else, people with disabilities thrive when they have a regular opportunity to participate in purposeful activities, to take pride in doing real work, to act within in a supportive team, and to feel part of a productive and welcoming community.
Farms foster this sense of community and offer an active, outdoor environment where people can engage in a range of activities linked to animals, the seasons and to food. This makes farms ideal spaces where people who have struggled in mainstream learning environments can approach new experiences, build and strengthen skills, and gain confidence in themselves and in their abilities. Everything that we do on farms and growing spaces is about enabling people to achieve in ways that are meaningful to them.
What do we offer?
FarmAbility is a farm-based programme for co-farmers, who are people over the age of 18 with learning disabilities and often also with autistic spectrum disorder. The programme runs 5 days a week (Monday to Friday), 50 weeks in the year (we close for a fortnight around Christmas and New Year). we also work with post 16 education settings to support students aged 16-19.
FarmAbility also offers co-farmers the chance to visit other farms and growing spaces around the county through our outreach partnerships. Co-farmers are able to try their hand at new activities at dairy farms, market gardens, community growing spaces and woodlands.
We also offer work placements for university students studying occupational therapy, as well as other health and social care disciplines. These placements are mutually beneficial to the students and to FarmAbility – our co-farmers and the organisation itself.
We hugely appreciate the support we receive from our volunteers, and we offer a range of volunteer roles, both out on the farm with co-farmers but also in the office in areas such as fundraising, marketing, PR and bookkeeping.
Do people progress?
We support co-farmers to make progress in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s increasing the length of time they can participate in activities, developing problem-solving skills, putting a head collar on a horse independently, or progressing to a volunteering role or paid employment. Whatever progression means to an individual co-farmer, we will do our best to work with them, their support team and their family to meet their goals. We have an annual review with each co-farmer to recognise and review their progress towards agreed goals.
What do we hope for?
We are keen to enable co-farmers to take the learning and experience they gain on the farm and move on to meaningful roles in their community, so that they can build the fulfilling lives they want and deserve. We are working to identify how FarmAbility can best support this progression, including by working in partnership with other charities and with businesses.