Blissberry Social Farm keen to identify and build social and community partnerships which offer strong benefits to both parties . . .

In addition to the working farm at Blissberry we are committed to functioning as a community facility, a social centre without walls, providing access to ‘green health & education and supporting people to reconnect with the rural environment around them.

Exciting new developments are planned for the future and and our new latest additions to Blissberry Social Farm are – our ‘Healthy Gardening Programme 2014′,’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)’,  ‘Basic Introduction to Beekeeping at our @sthDonegal Beekeepers Apiary’, ‘Mindful Awareness’, ‘Health &  Wellbeing Day’, and ‘Ecotherapy & Green Conservation in our Woodland’

Visitors are always welcome by appointment and we have regular open days and other events. Details are published both on this website and on Twitter @blissberryfarm

Other new programmes will take place as soon as funding allows and we will extend these opportunities to the wider community.

We collaborate and work in partnership with other local agencies like the Donegal Family Resource Centre, HSE West Health Promotion Programme, Donegal ETB ( formally known in the past as Donegal VEC) and we are always keen to meet new partners and discuss how we might work together.

Contact Larry at 087 7642917 or




The people have spoken. Another congratulations is in order for Barry Kavanagh’s Soc  
ial Farming garden ‘Across Boundaries’ who has just won the People’s Choice Award along with winning the Designers Choice Award yesterday. 

Social Farming @BloominthePark – fantastic garden theme


This show garden is a representation of how the concept of Social Farming can play a vital role in the therapy of participants within the healthcare system. The garden is broken up into different areas of representation. The square room represents conventional therapy. Within the room is a figure facing an open barrier. Crossing this barrier, the participant takes their transitionary step from conventional care into a naturalistic farm-based therapy. The garden is further broken up into primary farm environments, held together by a natural stone wall. Gwen Wilkinson’s sculptures represent farm animals using chicken wire as material, while traditional stiles recall the built heritage of Ireland. After being displayed at Bloom, the garden will be integrated into an existing social farm. The meadow and some of the planting were sourced from the farm and will be returned post-show.

Barry Kavanagh is a landscape designer and graduate of the National Botanic Gardens. He teaches at Monaghan Educational Training Board in the areas of garden design, plant care, organic principles and plant identification. He is also the founder of Natures PATCH Network, a social enterprise that works with communities in the development of natural heritage and greenscape plans.

Social Farming Ireland Blossoms At Bloom 2016.

Social Farming  fantastic garden theme . “I’ve been involved in social farming for a number of years. Essentially this is the practice of offering family farms as a form of social service. The farm is not a specialized treatment farm; rather the farm remains a typical working farm where people in need of support benefit from participation in the families daily life and farm activities in a non-clinical environment.  

Social Farming creates the opportunity to reconnect farmers with their local communities through the opening up of their farms as part of the social support system of the community”.


Malachy Dolan who runs his social farm in Fermanagh explains “Across the island of Ireland, social farms can be found in every province offering support to a variety of people with individual needs from learning or physical needs to mental health support or addiction.  


Social Farms are an alternative to existing social services and provide individuals with alternative choices and opportunities. It utilises the existing infrastructure of the typical family farm and shares environment in a safe and considered way with those who access day care”.  


Social farming has countless appropriate benefits for service users including increased social interaction, physical exercise, learning new skills, developing independence. For the farming community too social farming is an excellent way of giving back, developing new skills and increased social interaction. However it is the testimonials of those service users that best explains what social farming really means.


“I was stuck at home, I didn’t have anyone my own age, any peers to converse with. Yeah I made lots of new friends; it does feel more like family, a tight-knit community” [Participant (MH), Co.Donegal] 


“it gives me a lot of opportunity to help other people out and to be the proper man that I am” [participant l/id Co. Fermanagh]


“…before I went to the farm I was very in my shell…It’s got me out of my shell, I can chat to other people. The ability to have a laugh with people again, it was good craic,” [Participant (MH), Co. Derry].


“…I’d be more energetic, it’s something to get up for, it’s something to be living, to get up for on a day, coming here.” [Participant (MH), Co. Donegal]


“I just hope I continue with what I’m doing because I’m enjoying it. And I feel very proud of myself at what I do” [Participant (L/ID), Co. Cavan]


“During Bloom 2016, Social Farming Ireland will have a show garden where visitors will be able to view a condensed version of a social farm”, Larry continues. “We have award winning garden designer Barry Kavanagh and the acclaimed visual artist Gwen Wilkinson working on our project.  
Our show garden is a representation of how the relatively new concept of Social Farming in Ireland can play a vital role in the personal development of people who avail of the health and social care services.
It represents the transitional experience from an enclosed, conventional building based type service to an open, naturalistic, farm- based developmental interaction. This is now a proven concept, with participants testifying to their positive sensory & social experiences as they engage with their transition, their environment and their community.


For more details please visit our stand at Bloom

Getting a #socent off the ground #SocialFarming has great potential . . .

Blissberry Farm Mountcharles

Social Farming’ (also called ‘Care Farming’ in the UK) has strong ‘innovation & on farm diversification’ potential which combats #social inclusion #poverty #isolation #mentalhealth & #educational issues #life skills and much more.

This innovative widely adopted growing movement in Europe which has a strong presence here in Ireland and UK on family farms (like @blissberryfarm Mountcharles Donegal) provides services to those who are isolated within their own communities – is at the core of SOCIAL FARMING – which gives various vulnerable groups including those with disabilities, mental health, people with addictions, prisoners, older people, people with acquired brain injuries and people with physical and sensory challenges the opportunity to benefit from working with animals, plants and nature within their own community.

Social Farming going forward . . .

@blissberryfarm Winner of JFC Innovation Rural Service Award 2014

Social Farming Across Borders @Lairdhse06 @blissberryfarm

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SoFAB Pilot demonstrated Social Farming has the potential to make a difference to the lives of so many people …

Research gathered during the SoFAB project (Social Farming Across Borders) by Aoibéann Walsh QUB demonstrated that the benefits of the initiative had helped a broad range of vulnerable people suffering from mental health problems and learning disabilities though engaging in the day to day tasks associated with farming at first hand. 

“It demonstrates that social farming has the potential to make a difference to the lives of so many people whether it is someone recovering from illness or a farm family opening their doors to a new diversification opportunity”.

Social Farming a pathway to recovery … progression …. social inclusion …

Social farming today (sometimes called ‘Green care in agriculture’, ‘farming for health’ or ‘care farming’) is defined as the use of farms and agricultural landscapes as a base for promoting mental and physical health.

Simply put Social Farming describes a range of therapeutic, farm based activities which help deliver a positive rural experience. Farm based activities vary but might include collecting eggs, feeding and watering livestock, mucking out, tending to crops in a raised bed or Polytunnel, mending fences or simply participating in a guided nature walk.

Social Farming helps develop the potential in people by looking at what they can achieve rather than what their disability or illness might restrict them to.

Activities not only build practical skills but also help people gain confidence, develop social skills and foster a sense of achievement as well as making a connection with nature.

No two Social Farms are the same.

Each Social Farm is different not only in size and what is offered but also in the groups or individuals they cater for.

For example, activities may be aimed at those experiencing a range of mental health issues such as depression or stress; people recovering from drug or alcohol abuse or perhaps adults and young people with physical disabilities.

Each Social Farm has the ability to offer a personalised service dependent upon the nature of the farm and the level of independence and confidence of the participants.

Social Farms like Blissberry helps people to reconnect with the land and nature and their communities which in turn offers them a pathway towards recovery, progression and social inclusion.

Social Farms also offer on a ‘working farm’ the opportunity to develop a wide range of ‘green’ technical and life skills which can improve life and possible positive pathways to a better quality of life.

Three fundamental ingredients make social farming so successful: the connection with the land and nature, the connection with other people and the connection with meaningful work and a healthy daily structure.

People experiencing mental health issues or depression find themselves with negative thought spirals that engender low confidence and low self-esteem. Stepping out of their front door into the wider world is often challenging, but knowing that they are going to spend a day working in the natural environment on a working farm with people who understand their difficulties can significantly support their healing process.

Participants on the social farm do not feel they are ‘in therapy’ but rather they are simply making friends and doing something useful for society in the form of providing care for animals, the environment and providing healthy, nutritious food.


Rylands Care Farm (#SocialFarming) Dorset

What happens to older men from rural communities who no longer work on farms, and who face the challenges of rural isolation and ageing? That’s what’s being addressed by The Countrymen’s Club who’re hosted by Rylands Care Farm in north Dorset. Twice a week the men come and help muck out the livestock. As part of our Rural Health theme we meet them on the farm.

Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Mark Smalley.