We are a farm but it’s not all about farming: Exploring the wellbeing potential of community farms in north-west England.


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines how community farms may act as forms of therapeutic landscape through an exploration of how people involved with them understand and make sense of their health and wellbeing in relation to their farming experiences. The study incorporates a rich, ethnographic exploration of two community farms in the north-west of England which involved two years’ volunteering at the research sites. This qualitative research draws on extensive participant observation and 25 conversational interviews with farm participants. It also employs a poetic lens, including the use of poetic transcription and creative writing. This novel approach to interpretation and presentation seeks to explore the data in a form that may come closer to capturing some of the intangible benefits of being at the farms and yield insights into the lived experiences of participants.
Published academic studies of UK community farming are relatively few in number – there are none that focus on north-west England – and none have taken human health and wellbeing as their core focus. This research contributes to the extant therapeutic landscape literature by demonstrating the continuing value of the therapeutic landscape approach. As such, it is receptive to the call of Mossabir et al. (2021:10) for further research on ‘everyday therapeutic landscapes’ to encourage the development of community-based settings supportive of health and wellbeing. It also adds to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) literature by adding insight which may inform future discussions of CSA in a regional context.
The thesis adopts three landscape lenses through which to interrogate participants’ health experiences: the therapeutic, the restorative, and the salutogenic. Through an examination of the therapeutic potential of community farms the research shows how the natural environment, place and health may interact and converge to create everyday spaces of wellbeing. Participants’ health and wellbeing experiences were largely shaped by the outdoor, green environment and a perceived closeness to ‘nature’. Participants experienced their farms in a multi-sensory way as spaces of physical exercise, convivial social relations, knowledge and skill acquisition, and mental and physical relaxation. As community-based assets the farms exhibited the potential to act as anchors of health and wellbeing in their localities.
Date of Award18 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVICTORIA FOSTER (Director of Studies), BARNABY KING (Supervisor), CLAIRE DEAN (Supervisor) & KERRI ANDREWS (Supervisor)


  • Therapeutic Landscapes, Restorative Environments, Salutogenesis, Health and Wellbeing, Community Supported Agriculture, Care Farming, Ethnography, Poetic Transcription.

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