Students Staff

12 August 2015

Care farming – the secret weapon to improving our health and wellbeing

Dr Rachel Bragg

Dr Rachel Bragg

The health and wellbeing benefits of care farming are being overlooked by many health professionals as they simply do not know enough about it, according to a new report.

Essex academic and care farming expert Dr Rachel Bragg is now calling on more to be done to promote the value of care farming as a viable treatment for people with a wide range of personal needs including those with mental ill-health autism, dementia and physical disabilities.

A new report commissioned by the Natural England Outdoors for All Programme, in partnership with Care Farming UK and the University of Essex, sets out the benefits for care farming and offers recommendations for expanding the services to health and social care commissioners.

“Care farmers provide many services in a safe, farming environment for people with a range of needs and vulnerabilities,” explained Dr Bragg. “The problem is that there is still a lack of awareness of the value of the multiple outcomes of care farm services - care farms offer health, wellbeing and social benefits simultaneously and so with the current drive for integration in health and social care service provision, care farming is especially relevant. Care farms offer meaningful activities in a farming environment provide a personalised care that more people need to hear about.”

There are currently 235 care farms in England which provide health, social and educational care services for vulnerable people, including people with a mental health illness, a learning disability, autism or dementia, through supervised programmes of farming-related activities. There are 7,000 therapeutic visits a week to care farms, but there is capacity for up to 11,000 visits.

Previous research by Dr Bragg, who is a member of the Green Exercise Research Team at the University, has shown that care farming improves well-being, develops skills, reduces isolation and can increase employability for vulnerable people.

This issue now, according to the report, is about making sure commissioners and policymakers are more aware of the positive impacts of these care farming interventions, ensuring universal uptake of the Care Farming Code of Practice and enabling care farmers to engage with larger commissioning offers.

Although there is a growing recognition amongst policymakers and commissioners of health and social care services of the benefits of nature to people’s health and wellbeing, many are unaware of the significant package of services care farming can offer for addressing these needs within local communities.

With the annual costs of mental illness in England estimated at £105 billion, and with levels of dementia forecast to double to 1.6 million people in the next 30 years costing nearly £70 billion annually, care farming has much to offer in providing a low-cost package of local services. The structured programme of farm-related activities offered by care farms is particularly beneficial for people with mental ill-health and also for those living with dementia. These unique strengths are behind Care Farming UK’s ambition to support the increase of the scale and number of care farms in England.


Notes to Editors

For further information or to interview Dr Rachel Bragg, please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email A photograph of Dr Bragg is available to download on our Flickr account

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