t’s the best possible medicine for a care home resident who has lived with complex mental health problems throughout her life.
Not a prescription for more pills but a dose of fresh air, therapeutic views and energetic work in the Norfolk countryside.
Val Upson, 60, a resident at Brooke House care home, in Brooke, near Norwich, started making weekly visits to Clinks Care Farm near Toft Monks, on the Suffolk border, before Christmas.
And senior support worker Kelly Barker, who goes with her, said the change in her mood had been remarkable.
“The smile on her face really tells the story. It is heart-warming,” she said.
“Val looks forward to coming and talks about her visits a lot. She also likes the chance to give something back to the community rather than taking all the time.
“We knew she would enjoy this opportunity because at Brooke House she loves planting vegetables in the garden.”
Miss Upson added there was another reason she enjoyed her visits. “I love animals,” she said.
During her time at Clinks Care Farm this week, she helped plant fruit trees and weighed food for the pigs.
On other occasions she has planted a hedge, fed chickens, collected eggs and weighed potatoes for the farm shop.
Miss Barker said: “I found out about Clinks Care Farm when I came here for an open day with a group of residents from Brooke. Val is on a 13 week placement but I’m hoping we can get the funding to extend it.”
Iris van Zon, who launched what was then the first care farm in Norfolk with her husband Doeke Dobma in 2010, explained that the concept had been developed in their homeland of Holland.
She said: “Working on a farm can be therapeutic for a wide range of mental health problems from autism and dementia to people who have had brain injuries.
“We have seen the change in Val. We see her smiling and communicating much more with other people.
“It is typical of people who are shy and lacking in confidence when they first come here. Picking up new skills gives them a sense of achievement and raises their self-esteem.”
Author: Stephen Pullinger