Objectives: Care farms enable people who are in some way vulnerable to engage with agricultural places and farming activities. This study investigates how this impacts on the health and well-being of service users and explores associated processes and outcomes.
Design: A mixed methods design was adopted that allowed for the integration of quantitative measurements of change with qualitative descriptions of this change. A pragmatic approach provided sufficient flexibility to support the investigation of complex contexts.
Methods: A total of 216 service users completed an initial questionnaire, and 137 (63%) of this number provided comparative data in a follow-up questionnaire. Questionnaires contained multiple choice and open-ended questions alongside standardized health and well-being measures requiring Likert-format responses. Semi-structured interviews with 33 service users allowed personal experiences to be detailed.
Results: Statistical analysis of well-being measure scores identified significant positive relationships with the length of time people had been attending the care farm. Questionnaire and interview data presented health benefits as being enabled by the farm environment, the positive experience as supporting personal development, and associated social interactions as becoming increasingly influential as time progressed.
Conclusions: The health and well-being outcomes that result from participating at a care farm influence multiple elements of the human condition and apply amongst vulnerable people with a wide range of personal needs. Care farms have access to a potentially unique range of resources that can support many service users in becoming happier and healthier individuals.