You only need to visit and see co-farmers in action to recognise instantly how being outdoors and doing purposeful activities on the farm has an extraordinary and positive impact on people’s lives.
We want FarmAbility to make a difference to people’s lives, and we want to find ways to ensure the positive impact extends to co-farmers’ lives away from the farm.
To achieve these two aims we are determined to continually learn from and improve our practice at FarmAbility, and we are committed to exploring ways to transfer positive impact, for example through partnership working and employment initiatives.
The joy of teamwork and the friendship of the workplace
People with learning disabilities or with autistic spectrum disorders are often denied access to the satisfaction and camaraderie of shared hard work. To come into FarmAbility’s lunchroom and listen to the laughter and chatter of co-farmers, support workers, volunteers and staff, you could be in any happy workplace.
There are many academic studies highlighting the mental health benefits of being out in the countryside, in nature, and being with animals. These benefits are strengthened when the opportunity to do purposeful activities is involved. Improvements to health and well-being are regularly reported by co-farmers, their families and carers.
Improved physical fitness
While many families and carers are hoping to see an improvement in mental health and happiness, the improvement in physical fitness often comes as a surprise. Many co-farmers find how tired the work initially makes them, but how much more energetic they quickly become. Almost every job at FarmAbility involves some combination of walking, standing, moving, lifting or other movement, which is often more physical activity than many of our co-farmers have done in the years prior to joining us.
Increased skills and confidence
Many of our co-farmers experience personal, transformative changes in their lives through being at FarmAbility. The common theme in all of these is significant individual progression in skills, abilities and confidence, and a growing sense of community, and of the value of contributing to something bigger than the individual self.
After every FarmAbility day session, we record Everyday Breakthroughs by co-farmers, which enables us to monitor individual progress and successes. We analyse these breakthroughs using an occupational therapy tool, the Model of Human Occupation. We carry out annual reviews with co-farmers to record and celebrate progress, and to set goals for the coming year as appropriate.
In May 2016, we received the Innovation Award at the Oxfordshire Charity & Volunteer Awards. Also in 2016, we were awarded the Care Farming UK Code of Practice, which recognises the standards achieved in FarmAbility’s provision.
For more information about our evaluation processes, please contact us.