Don’t try to make an isolate island!

Blissberry Social Farm, South Donegal Beekeepers Association and Leghowney Country Market believes no community can go it alone!

What’s needed is more continued collaborations with communities just like our Apiary Project at Blissberry Farm Mountcharles.

If you stop and think one of every three bites of food we eat depends on the honey bee so in order to produce local seasonal food the market needs producers and the producers needs bees and our local farmers and producers need training in order to keep bees – so it is very important that communities in Donegal recognise their interdependence with other resilient communities and don’t try to do an isolate island because that’s not going to work.

We also welcome new resilient organisations like ‘ChangeMakers Donegal’ more about this later.

In the past traders, monks, wandering minstrels and others, all brought news from the outside world to people who rarely travelled far themselves. Today, the globalised economy and internet means that many take for granted instant access to news, online shops, and the ability to stay in touch with friends who may live very far away.

However, there are down-sides.

Instead of too little information, the experience of the internet can feel like we’re drowning in it. And there are many, especially in remote and rural communities, who aren’t able to access technology and services.

Transition Network ( is another inspiration: a bottom-up initiative resourced primary from the passion, skills and dedication of volunteers; meanwhile the transition towns movement is a powerful example of
an international grassroots network that is beginning to transform places on the basis of a hard-headed analysis
of the local risks from the future impacts of the combined global trends of climate change and peak oil production. Self-organising groups tackle the initiatives they are most interested in, informed by a whole community ‘energy descent action plan’ which has set a guiding vision for how local people can take responsibility for building resilience over a period of twenty years or so. This ‘scenarios’ approach to community planning is a feature of many community resilience initiatives and resources.

More later


Thinking “farm diversification” and #socialfarming as value-added activity for different farms in the future.

Did you know that today in other EU countries, social farming is seen as an example, not just of farm diversification, but of “multifunctionality”.

That is, whilst farming is primarily about food production, the very act of farming also brings about other positive side effects and rewards.

Having people in mental health recovery enjoy the social farm here at Blissberry and our countryside through the SoFAB pilot would be a positive example.

Multifunctionality is the broader picture whereby farming has multiple functions, rather than just food production.

#communitygardens Blissberry Social Farm 2014

Community gardens can make significant contributions to the health of the earth and to the enrichment of our communities.

Today I believe healthy gardening programmes like the one here at Blissberry Social Farm are a small but serious challenge to many current policies and practices which put profit before human needs – greenery, open space, fresh food.

But you’ll find far more than just a place to grow some seasonal food!

Vegetable gardening is a proactive PRACTICE.

I like to emphasize that word PRACTICE – the same one used to describe the practice of meditation.

Gardening is stress relief, fresh air, exercise, and interconnection with the natural world.

Vegetable gardening brings forth productivity. It is a way of being actively engaged in solutions to major world problems.

Vegetable gardening – particularly when done together as a community – can be tremendously healing, particularly in these turbulent times.

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

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, land based activities which help deliver a positive rural experience. Land 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.

Daily attendance charges and sources of payments to fund the activities vary too.

For example, funding might come from personalised budgets or via payments through the health sector, a charity or education sector.



NATIONAL TREE WEEK 2013 ‘Put down some roots, it’s easy as 1,2 TREE’

‘Put down some roots, it’s easy as 1,2 TREE’

10 Trees for Bees
The following trees provide pollen and/or nectar for bees and other pollinating insects:

Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore) – valuable nectar source
Aesculus hippocastanum (horsechestnut) – source of nectar and pollen
Alnus glutinosa (native alder) – catkins are a good early source of pollen
Corylus avellana (native hazel) – early catkins are a valuable source of pollen
Crataegus monogyna (native hawthorn) – profuse nectar producer
Salix species (willows) – catkins are a good source of early pollen
Sorbus aucuparia and cultivars (native mountain ash or rowan) – source of nectar and pollen
Tilia species (lime) – flowers supply large quantities of nectar

#socialfarming #eco-wellbeing -BETTER MENTAL HEALTH through Green Activities at Blissberry Farm

At Blissberry Social Farm we aim to raise awareness of what well being is, and what’s its determinants are, and encourage uptake of well-being promoting activity, such as the five ways to well being and by sharing skills and opportunities to influence determinants.

Five ways to Wellbeing

Connect (with green farm space & nature & people not technology)
“Social isolation increases ill health and death rates”

Be active
“Not being active makes us depressed because we are evolved to be active”

Keep learning
“Those with more open minds are happier not only because they mentally vigorous but also because they gain a renewed sense of mastery”

“It can be about thinking ahead and how to give a healthy planet to future generations, as yet unborn”

Take notice (linked to ‘mindfulness’ concept)
“The more you relate to nature, the more positive your emotions and the greater your life satisfaction”

#socialfarming IRELAND and #IYFF 2014

Social farming in family farms here in Ireland combines care and meaningful work in a supportive natural environment of working farms and woodlands for some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Social farming this year through the SoFAB Project based @lairdhse06 ( provided a healthy daily structure for 60 participants one day a week at 20 pilot farms across the Border Region of which Blissberry Social Farm here in Mountcharles was one, all working towards building confidence and supporting people to develop their social and practical skills.

Today strong interest is building in #socialfarming in Ireland from a wide and growing range of people including the 20 pilot farmers who just completed the SoFAB programme. Also from individual people (including our SoFAB participants) and families who benefit, our health and social care professionals in the community who have discovered ways that people and families can improve their lives.

In order to progress this programme we now need Government departments to change policies – so that we can provide complementary services in order to support these ‘open community centres without walls’ – and meet their budgets.

Win Win #socialfarming on working farm families through new innovation and sustainable programmes – better health for all.

According to research individuals who attend social farms often report significant improvements to their health and well being. For many, social farming provides the central structure to support their recovery. Social farms achieve this by offering opportunities to connect with meaningful activities, training, caring people and the supportive natural environment. The practical nature of farm work improves physical fitness and encourages healthy sleeping patterns.

Few environments provide the breadth of new opportunities that a family farm can. For example, individuals and families may get involved as part of small team looking after horses, donkeys, pigs or chickens, planting and tending crops, helping on the farm feeding, mucking out and caring for animals. Or working in the woodland.

#Socialfarming provides an innovative pathway that allows people and families the chance to better mental and physical health and to grow from the foundations of confidence building and daily structure through skills development and where possible, into voluntary work and paid employment.
The pace of progress is different for different people, but all in all a win win situation for everyone.

Larry Masterson Blissberry Social Farm Mountcharles Co. Donegal, IRELAND

Tel. 00 353 87 7642917


Twitter @blissberryfarm