Seeds of Hope: Blissberry Social Farm
Imagine a view of gently, wooded hills and fields and your eyes gazing across a stretch of sea to the thread of gold that is Murvagh beach and beyond into the blue of the distant Sligo mountains. Imagine a track, a boreen leading down through an ancient hazel wood and the sound of a small stream running at your side and spilling over black rocks – a waterfall shining in the green.
Imagine stopping on this sun-warmed path, stopping and breathing. Breathing in the wonder of this place and breathing out the stress and tension of daily life . . . breathing in, breathing out. Following the way down and as you breath in you smell the sea and the seaweed before you step out onto the stony beach. Waders call and a splash of water could be a fish and a dark smudge could be the head of a seal it’s big brown eyes looking back at you.
Back up the track you see the mottled stones of cottage ruins, the gable ends inviting with their stepped edges like stairways to heaven . . .
You stop again, this is a journey of stopping and breathing and tuning in, you hear the bees, smell the coconut scent of yellow gorse, you hear the thud of a mattock, voices, people chatting in the distance, giving advice, laughing, fingering the soil.
Now imagine blueberries the size of your thumb and biting in to one now, the sweet and sharp taste, the juice on your chin . . . welcome to Blissberry Farm.
Blissberry Farm is a ‘social’ farm, a real farm that extends its purpose and it’s hospitality to people, who have a need to connect, with others, with themselves and with nature. People who seek meaning and purpose for their day, a reason to get up, people in recovery from the stresses and grief of everyday life, people walking away from the loneliness of their homes, people in the act of reconstructing a positive personal and social identity, people re-writing their stories as journeys, journeys to wellbeing.
All of us whether we realise it or not are on this journey and Blissberry Farm offers a route there. It’s easy to wax romantic about the good life, bucolic living, self-suffiency etc … etc … but this is, after all Donegal and reality especially in this part of Ireland will have its say and loudly and bitterly if it wants.
Blissberry Farm isn’t an escape into a dream world, it’s an escape from a dream world (and for some a nightmare) into the reality of nature just as it is, sometimes soft, sometimes hard. A reality that kindly presents us with tasks, jobs, and things that need doing.
Soil to be dug, plants to be watered, weeds to be wed. Doing what needs to be done is a way of simplifying our lives, we don’t need to think about it, analyse it or fantasize about it we just need to do it, to get out of our heads and into our bodies and what better way to do this than by doing the very things are bodies are designed for; working with nature, as we have done for generations upon generations until somebody turned a tool into a machine and then before we knew it we had the laptop! Not of course that there is anything inherently wrong with these, only like our minds they seem to have taken over and increasingly tend to have the ‘run of us’.
Working the land in whatever way we are able is a way to reclaim those parts of ourselves that our minds took over, to overcome to an extent the tyranny of thinking and to begin to leave our minds behind to become human ‘doings’ and thus eventually human ‘beings’. It is said that the longest journey any of us ever make in life is the journey from the head to the heart, social farming is about that journey, it’s about people harvesting hope in partnership with the land. More than ever every town and country area should have one.
For thousands of years our communities have been built around the land, the land has literally shaped us as individuals and as communities and cultures and it is only relatively recently that that connection has been broken. Research is now telling us that regular, physical contact with the natural world is crucial for our wellbeing.
It’s not complicated. I sit down, I breath in, I breath out. The potatoes need to be dug, I don’t need to wait until I ‘feel’ like doing it, I breath in, I breath out, I pick up the fork, and being careful not to spear any spuds with the tines, I sink the fork into the soft earth . . . and lift.
HSE Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Officer
Blissberry Farm is the home of Larry, Winifred and Patrick Masterson.