Alternative - Introducing a more sustainable farming system: 2011 - Norfolk County Council, Clinks Care Farm

Clinks Care Farm is a 143-acre Norfolk County farm in Toft Monks, Norfolk. It allows GPs' patients to spend time on this working farm as part of their treatment through the groundbreaking ‘Farming on Prescription’ project. This uses farmland to promote physical and mental health. The Centre for mental health estimated that in 2009/10 the economic and social costs of mental health problems in England came to £105.2 million.

This project is funded through the Innovation Grant from NHS East of England and works in partnership with NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Norfolk and the Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust.

One project on the farm was to plan and plant edible woodland, more commonly known as a 'forest garden'. This forest garden has the capacity to provide a wide range of crops, such as fruits, nuts, berries, edible leaves, fibres, medicinal plants, honey etc and mimics the vegetation layers found in a wood, e.g. canopy layer, shrub layer, ground cover, climbers.

This garden, as well as being a potential place for relaxation, also provides produce that may not be grown elsewhere on the farm, providing an environment for education with links to health and wellbeing, the natural environment and engagement with growing healthy food in a rural setting.

The forest garden was designed by the Environment Section at Norfolk County Council and the planting - which they helped organise - is undertaken by the patients, known as farm workers, along with Norfolk County Council.
Several farm workers are now employed on a voluntary basis to act as helpers to the other farm workers.

The project is ongoing with the tree planting, groundcover, herb layers and shrub layers near completion. The other planting is scheduled to fit in with seasonality and growing times, to deliver a long-term project. If successful the garden could be extended, together with the planting of a hazel coppice to provide hurdle making and craft material for use on the farm.

Jason Kidman,
Norfolk County Council.
01603 222770

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