A SCHEME helping disabled people explore and understand farming in Dorset has been boosted by a £100,000 grant.
The Stepping into Nature team, led by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (AONB), has received a grant of £101,286, approved by the independent Dorset Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme panel.
As well as helping disabled people learn more about farming in the county, the money will train and support farmers to safely run farm events, opening up the countryside to a wider range of people.
The 18-month project, starting in Autumn 2023, will see Stepping into Nature facilitate visits to farms in the Dorset AONB for existing community groups of people living with health conditions and additional needs.
Farmers will be supported to host these visits and will be provided with fully funded training, through the widely recognised CEVAS course, to ensure the visit is high quality and suited to the groups attending.
They will also receive additional one-to-one support to ensure they are ready to begin welcoming people onto their working farms.
Pia Lindstrom, Farming in Protected Landscapes Project support officer, said: “Spending time in nature and taking part in farm-related activities may have the potential to improve mental health and wellbeing.
“Being outdoors can provide a calming environment, away from pressure of everyday life, and can relieve stress and anxiety, giving people space to be themselves.”
In a recent survey, people living with a long-term illness or disability said they had not visited a natural space in the previous month.
Steph Aburrow, Stepping into Nature project officer, added: “This project will also bring partners together to build the foundations of our ambition to create a Nature Buddy Network across Dorset.
“This network will be made up of volunteers who can support people to access nature on a one-to-one basis.
“These people may be living with anxiety, low confidence or are feeling lonely. The volunteer can help motivate and support them to go for a walk to the local park, sit in the garden or have a conversation about the wildlife out of the window.
“We are busy working behind the scenes, along with a partnership of organisations in Dorset, to make this offer enjoyable, safe and well resourced.”
To find out more about the farmer training opportunities, Stepping into Nature and the developments of their projects, visit www.stepin2nature.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.