Buchan Community Farm can put you in a better place

A little-known community organisation in Aberdeenshire is developing big plans to support people experiencing difficulties in their lives.

By Kevin McRoberts
Thursday, 11th November 2021, 7:00 am
Buchan Community Farm offers the chance to enjoy the company of horses.
Buchan Community Farm offers the chance to enjoy the company of horses.

Buchan Community Farm currently provides day services for people with learning difficulties and mental health issues – and it's now adding well-being courses for everyone.

The farm offers a unique service in Aberdeenshire, providing a safe, peaceful and relaxing environment for people to participate in countryside activities.

It offers a wide range of skills development, training and employability options for people of all abilities. Using horticulture, care of animals, light construction and maintenance tasks, an extensive range of practical skills can be developed.

Joining in with some of the works on the farm can be fulfilling and fun.

Building confidence, self management, participation, and gains in physical and mental well being are amongst the personal outcomes that the farm seeks to support.

And now, through its new well-being courses, it’s aiming to open to anyone who needs its support.

An experience on the farm can help build mental wellbeing, confidence, relationships, communication, responsibility, focus and reaction, and can also help people to manage stress.

The well-being workshops offer the chance to explore and talk about key aspects of mental health in a safe and supportive environment, take part in a mixture of fun and relaxing activities that help connect body and mind, and enjoy a day on the farm, meeting the animals and people.

Spending time in the countryside with the animals from Buchan Community Farm can make such a difference.

Pamela Roberts, manager of Buchan Community Farm, explained the desire to establish well-being courses was strengthened by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the way it affected so many people, even people she thought would be more resilient.

Pamela said: “I don’t think people realise that we all suffer from mental health issues, but many of us come out of it quicker.

"You have days, dark days, mild depression, things we can shake off; and then sometimes it’s a bit more than that.

"By learning how to understand your brain and how to understand things that are happening to you, then you can begin to work out how you can help yourself without having to turn to a GP and medication.

Creating a bond with one of the horses can make a huge difference in terms of self confidence.

"For some people, of course, medication is absolutely vital, as is going to see the GP and therapist. But some people can learn to help themselves. It’s about learning the skills that work best for you.

"It’s been scientifically proven that green spaces, outdoor activities and exercise are all essential for releasing endorphins and making us feel better.

"That’s what makes us feel good, and so by learning what really makes you happy, you can feel that calm coming over you when you do certain activities, and that’s what makes you feel good.”

For Pamela, she can’t be unhappy if she’s watching her ducks – “they are just so funny” – and horses have always been a massive passion for her. They won’t be for everyone, but it’s just about finding out what helps you.

Goat walks are one of the many team building activities on offer at Buchan Community Farm.

The well-being courses are about finding out what makes you happy, to put you in a good frame of mind, and it’s about teaching people to be mindful too.

"We do a lot of mindfulness grooming, particularly if they love horses,” explained Pamela. “Even just looking at them, thinking about what you particularly like about them, why they are so beautiful to you.

"It could be the same with a cat or a dog, animals can make us feel better, and horses are just a bigger version of that.

“Touching them, looking at their eyes and just taking in how majestic they are; we build up the ground work – we find it helps because the horse, after a little while, it will follow without being on a head collar.

"That really helps people with their self-confidence because they think, my goodness, I can get this large animal wanting to be with me! That’s really good for confidence and it’s a real sense of achievement as well.”

As well as the well-being courses – and providing therapeutic, personal development and employability opportunities for people with learning disabilities, mental health issues or who are isolated – the community farm also offers a range of corporate team building and and CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities.

These team building sessions are for groups of up to 12 people in a unique and relaxing countryside environment.

Teams not only enjoy purposeful team building activities, but they also help support the people who use the not-for-profit farm.

The staff at the farm can create a mix of activities providing teams with challenging, fun and varied days, and all activities are supported by an experienced instructor/facilitator.

The day could include work projects, depending on the time of year, such as tree and seed planting, landscaping, path laying and gardening; or games, challenges and confidence building exercises, such as animal husbandry – leading ponies, horse grooming, alpaca leading and goat walks – woodwork challenges, farm trails, ‘sheep herding’ and other team games.

Buchan Community Farm is based at Ashyfolds, Nethermuir, Maud.

To find out more about what’s on offer, email [email protected] or call/text 07790 404 655.

You can also visit the website at www.buchancommunityfarm.co.uk.