I'm hoping that the story below will be of interest. The UK government has promised a trebling of care farm places by 2020, so there's lots of opportunities for Pembrokeshire farmers and growers to follow in Jim Bowen's footsteps. If you need any further details, or images, please do get in touch.

best wishes

Julian Rollins

for Cynfyw CIC


Join the care farm ‘revolution’ - it could do you a power of good

Putting farms at the heart of the care system could transform the lives of millions of care users - and has the potential to do the same for farming families, says Pembrokeshire care farm pioneer Jim Bowen.

The manager of Clynfwy Care Farm in Boncath is an evangelist for a new approach to care that puts people back in touch with the land and nature. And he hopes his new book ‘Care Farming for Beginners’ will help farmers, smallholders, and growers join what he calls the care farm revolution.

The UK now has more than 240 care farms, eight of which are in Wales and the UK government has promised a trebling of care farm places by 2020. There are also lots of other ventures that are using gardening and growing as therapy.

Jim’s farm has transformed social care in the west Wales.

Care farms help a wide range of vulnerable people, including people with learning disabilities, people living with dementia, patients recovering from mental health problems, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A growing body of peer-reviewed evidence is now showing that people who are supported by care farms are happier and healthier; getting involved with farm life means that they benefit from regular exercise, enjoy more social contact, and do purposeful work.

That potential was recognised in the UK government’s 25-year environment plan, which was published in January. The plan pledges to “support the expansion of care farming” by trebling the number of places for users by 2022.

Care farming delivers for the people it supports, but Jim argues that it can also work wonders for farmers and growers themselves. Long hours and isolation mean that too many farmers are pushed to the limit.

“Modern day farming can be a lonely business, whereas a care farmer is part of a community of interest. That includes the people supported by their farm and their families, support agencies, the farm’s staff team, and local people who come to events, or to buy produce,” he says. “Remembering names can be a bit tricky sometimes – but isolation is certainly no longer an issue.”

Jim’s family has been farming at Clynfyw since the 1800s, but he admits that they were struggling before they decided to set up Clynfyw Care Farm (which is now a community interest company). The family business produced cereals, raised organic pigs and cattle, and ran a holiday let venture, but life was hard.

“At the time my parents were in their mid-70s, my wife had just had a baby – and I’d had enough,” he recalls.

The future was bleak, but he describes the way care farming has turned Clynfyw’s fortunes around as “something of a miracle”. Today, the care farm is thriving and employs 38 local people, making it one the area’s larger employers.

Jim’s book is a response to the growing number of requests for advice that have come his way in recent years from people who are interested in following in his footsteps. He’s keen to pass on know-how that he’s had to learn the hard way.

“Many experienced care farmers will tell you that if they knew at the outset how hard it would be, they would never have got started. But they’ll usually go on to say that they are glad they didn’t know, because they are very happy doing what they are doing now. We’ve had our ups and downs, but now we support dozens of vulnerable people each day, and that’s so rewarding,” says Jim.

“I’m hoping that my book will make life easier for new care farmers, and help them spot the pitfalls – rather than take a tumble.”

The book covers all the key information that would-be care farmers need to know to get a new venture up and running, including: creating a business plan, staff selection and recruitment, community engagement, how to tender for work, quality assurance, writing care plans, VAT, insurance, and much, much more...

In his foreword, Patrick Holden says: “I am absolutely certain that care farms have the capacity to make a central contribution to the care of vulnerable people in a civilised society”.

Find out more about care farming at carefarminguk.org

‘Care Farming for Beginners: The ‘how to’ handbook' by Jim Bowen.is published by On the Hill,

£8.99 paperback.