Tue 22 Jun 21
Care farming and green exercise expert Dr Rachel Bragg has been awarded an OBE for services to academia and green care.
Dr Bragg played a key role in the University of Essex’s Green Exercise Research Team when it first launched the concept of green exercise – which has since gained interest and support around the globe.
She remains a Visiting Fellow in the Green Exercise Research Team, where she was a senior researcher for 17 years, with research interests including the relationship between nature, human health and mental wellbeing, specifically green exercise and green care, care farming, walking and wilderness therapy and sustainable agriculture.
“I am feeling very proud and delighted to have received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to academia and green care,” said Dr Bragg. “It’s great to get recognition for our inspiring care farming sector and for the amazing work they do to transform people’s lives – nature is more important than ever for our mental health, and we’ll need all the opportunities we can get to help people feel better post COVID.”
There are 24 care farms in Essex and Suffolk and several of them offer placements for Essex occupational therapy students as part of their training.
Dr Bragg is Care Farming Development Manager for the charity Social Farms & Gardens - which promotes care farming and provides supporting services to the 300 care farms in the UK. She has been actively involved in the development of the care farming sector in the UK for the past 15 years and is a passionate advocate of green care – nature-based treatment interventions for people with a defined need.
Along with her team, and in partnership with charity Thrive, Dr Bragg is delivering the Growing Care Farming project (part of the Government’s Children and Nature Programme), which aims to transform the scale of the care farming sector in England.
“The recognition of my work goes hand in hand with the recognition of the wider care farming and green care sector,” she added. “We have come a long way in the last 15 years and the OBE will enable me to further promote care farming and to advocate on the behalf of the 300 care farms in the UK and countless providers of nature based interventions, which are enormously beneficial to so many different service user groups.
“There are so many different opportunities out there that we really must ensure that there is a clear and consistent referral mechanism to help people access the best place for them and the sustainable funding for service provision.”
Looking back at her time at Essex Dr Bragg added: “My research work at Essex was very much the groundwork to my current role – working with Professor Jules Pretty in sustainable agriculture in the early days, and with Jules and the wider Green Exercise Research Team in launching the concept of green exercise, and working with many different organisations researching green care and care farming.
“We carried out the very first research into the scale of the care farming sector and the first study into the mental health benefits of care farming in the UK back in 2005. We have worked with many different organisations since then including with the charity Mind on the Ecominds programme. This work over the years at Essex has enabled me to research and understand the relationship between nature and mental health; to advocate for care farming and green care based on the scientific evidence and then to work to develop the care farming sector and influence policy.”