The Care Farm Initiative - Manor

What is the Care Farm Initiative?

The project was launched February 2010 with support from Hertfordshire Community Foundations program. It is a secular charity with secular aims and objectives, but they happen to fit in with Krishna Consciousness. The articles of memorandum are written in terms of promoting education about Indian educational systems and so on.

What is Care Farming?

Care farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices. The leaders in this society are becoming aware that farming is very good for people. In the initiative we use farming as a medium for therapy for various communities such as groups with special needs and people who have been through the prison system or the courts. The latest development is to include war veterans, people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who are very traumatised. By engaging in farming it helps balance the psyche and calm people’s hearts and minds. It gives them a safe, quiet time to deal with their issues.

Who supervises the project?

Supervisors undergo a CRB check to make sure they don’t have a criminal record and are suitable to work with vulnerable people. The special needs groups are, in effect, to be treated like children. Many of the people I am working with are mentally and emotionally children but with strong, capable bodies and plenty of energy. They are wonderful people but in their minds are only 8 or 9 years old.

Why are people coming here for community service?

In this country the prisons and different correction facilities are overflowing and they’re finding that if you send someone to prison, the problem is that they start going there regularly and re-offending. So they are trying to find different ways to engage people in this group. They are low-level offenders who have perhaps had multiple driving offences, people who’ve got angry and punched someone in a pub, we’re not talking about hardened criminals.

What kind of work do the groups do?

We work at a fairly slow rate. I think the amount of work we get through would not necessarily be the same as a group of enthusiastic devotees. But because it is therapeutic farming this is completely for the needs of the individuals. We do not have a productivity schedule and it is rigidly about what is good and helpful for them. We try to maintain a good work ethic because that is what the supervisors want, but it’s not according to production targets.

There is clearly a benefit to the groups coming to work, but does the farm also benefit?

The scheme has a lot of practical uses. On Saturdays we get 9-12 people from the court services. We have a full day’s work from up to 12 able bodied men and women. This project is drawing in funding, small sums which may grow, from local authorities like the Daycare projects.

Are there any special considerations people need to take into account when working with vulunerable people like special needs groups?

For one thing, you may notice that there are no photographs here of the groups. The supervisors are very careful to protect the interests of the people who work with them. These are sensibilities that perhaps we would not share or see as particularly important, such as having our photographs shown, but people in this sector are concerned about it. If you are going to be doing this you have to be very sensitive to the needs and concerns of the people that are supervising and looking after the workers. You have to show a great deal of empathy.

What about the devotional aspects?

In my opinion it’s a full on preaching program. However, we don’t preach to the special needs groups. They are to be treated like children and we wouldn’t preach directly to a child. However I bring the people from the court services up to the temple, introduce them to Krishna and discuss the philosophy with them and their supervisors too.


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