At Kelmarna Community Farm, we support many members of our community with mental health needs or intellectual disabilities to garden for therapeutic purposes with us.

One in six New Zealand adults (16%, or an estimated 582,000 adults) has been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives. Mental health is one of our most pressing concerns, and health­care providers everywhere are looking for effective, cost­-efficient, community-based therapies.

Horticultural therapy is an established form of “care farming”, defined as the therapeutic use of farming practices for individuals with a defined need. The outdoor, practical and care­giving aspects of gardening, especially in a community context, have consistently been shown to be an effective therapy for a wide range of mental health conditions.

At Kelmarna, we support individuals directly throughout the week, and through relationships with partner organisations.

How therapeutic gardening works at Kelmarna

Participants in our horticultural therapy programme are supported to learn about the practices involved in organic food growing, contribute to maintenance across the farm, and help to prepare shared lunches. Our integrated and informal approach means that therapeutic gardeners often work with other volunteers, and contribute in many varied aspects of farm life.

Therapeutic gardeners also have the chance to look after their own plot at Kelmarna, with continued support and advice, as well as provision of all tools, plants and other materials. This allows them to take responsibility for care of their plants, observe natural processes through the seasons, and take home the produce that they grow, providing access to free, nutritious food.

Our therapeutic gardeners are supported by Adrian, our Community and Site Manager, from Monday to Friday, and some participants are also accompanied by a support worker. Our therapeutic gardeners typically have a regular day or days of the week when they come to garden with us.

Participants in our horticultural therapy programme come to us through referrals from community mental health services and other healthcare providers, as well as informal family and self-referrals.

We are currently at full capacity, and not able to take on any new therapeutic gardeners, unless accompanied by a support worker or other support person.

If you’re interested in participating or referring a client, friend, or family member, or if your organisation would be interested in partnering with us, please contact Adrian at adrian@kelmarna.co.nz.