Social farming

Social farming describes concepts of multifunctional farms or market gardens. People with physical, mental or psychological impairments are integrated in all activities. Likewise, people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, juvenile offenders, young people with learning difficulties, recovering addicts, autistic people, homeless people, the long-term unemployed and active senior citizens are integrated in the work on the farm. The social farming concept also includes educational initiatives such as school and kindergarten farms.[1] Recently, initiatives for the integration of (unaccompanied) refugee minors into farms have also been established.[2]

Aim and innovation

In addition to their ecological effects, these multifunctional farms contribute to the development of rural areas and regional networks[3] by becoming a place of learning, gaining experience, therapy, work and residence as well as a place of social encounter and culture instead of simply being a production site for food and renewable raw materials.[4] Instead of choosing a classical form of therapy, the 'therapeutic' process herein translates into people being 'purposefully' employed for the work that actually arises. Depending on one's own strengths, this can include gardening or working with farm animals. This way new prospects open up for the farmers: they can offer alternative services, diversify the spectrum of their activities, develop new sources of income and they can expand the role of agriculture in society.



Juchowo Farm in Poland[8], European Academy for the Culture of Landscape (PETRARCA), Flanders, UK, Norway, Dannwisch (near Hamburg), Network-alma, Naatsaku Noortetalu - Estonia[9], La Fattoria Solidale del Circeo - Italy[10], Loidholdhof - Austria[11], Glittre gård - Norway[12]



production, processing



producers, processors, people with physical, mental or psychological impairments, people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, juvenile offenders, young people with learning difficulties, recovering addicts, autistic people, homeless people, the long-term unemployed and active senior citizens, migrants, support centers.


State of development

In many European countries, social farming began as a niche between the agricultural, health and social sectors. After this initial phase, various actors got in touch with each other and built up networks that led to system changes. The most important changes were induced by government support and the establishment of financial structures for social farming. New system actors, such as support centers, were founded.

In Germany, social farming is not new. However, most often it is individual farmers who strive for social impact through social farming. In this country, as in most countries, social farming remains not part of a major social movement[7]. Currently in many German states, there is still a lack of funding for care programs, that could in turn provide financial incentives for these social farms.

There is a tendency for social farming to increasingly catch the attention of policy makers, not least because of the importance of natural space and agricultural areas for the social, physical and psychological well-being of people (at various levels). Representatives of health care institutions advocate alternative forms of therapy that are embedded in social contexts.

Sustainability potential


  • poverty reduction
  • increase of food security


  • health: access to healthy food (indirect)
  • participation
  • social justice

Risks / disadvantages

There is a risk of abuse. Especially when working with socially, physically or mentally impaired people, it must be ensured that they are not abused as low-cost workers. Depending on the individual case, specialist skills are necessary to ensure appropriate care. If, in addition the farm performs tasks (e.g. health and social care) which are assumed to be the responsibility of the state, as is the case in Norway, then different ministries, such as those of agriculture, education and research, health and social affairs should work together. In Norway, an inter-ministerial committee has been set up for this purpose, bringing together representatives of various ministries[13].

According to an analysis from 2010, one of the difficulties in establishing social farming in Europe is the poor communication between politicians, representatives of the health sector and the agricultural industry[14]. For example, the recognition of farms as part of the health care system could provide permanent financing for those farms that perform such public tasks. Solutions from other European countries can serve as a model in this regard.

[1] Soziale Landwirtschaft (2015): Soziale Landwirtschaft auf Biobetrieben.  https://www.oekolandbau.de/landwirtschaft/betrieb/oekonomie/diversifizierung/soziale-landwirtschaft/ (20.02.2020)

[2] Alma (n.d.): Unbegleitete Minderjährige Flüchtlinge in der Sozialen Landwirtschaft: Netzwerk alma. http://www.netzwerk-alma.de/projekte-fluechtlinge.shtml (20.02.2020)

[3] Soziale Landwirtschaft (2015): Soziale Landwirtschaft auf Biobetrieben.  https://www.oekolandbau.de/landwirtschaft/betrieb/oekonomie/diversifizierung/soziale-landwirtschaft/ (20.02.2020)

[4] Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (2008): SoFar - Soziale Landwirtschaft in Deutschland.  http://www.sofar-d.de/?sofar_dt (20.02.2020)

[5] Buist, Y. (2016): Connect, Prioritize and Promote. A comparative research into the development of care farming in different countries from the transition perspective. p. 30.

[6] ibid.

[7]  In Germany, the possibility of integrating people with physical, mental or spiritual impairments into farms is limited, among other things, by the legally regulated central workshops for people with impairments.

[8] Juchowo / Fundacja im. St. Karłowskiego (n.d.). www.juchowo.org/strona-glowna.html

[9] Naatsaku (n.d.). http://www.naatsaku.com/ (20.02.2020)

[10] Fattoria Solidale del Circeo (2019): Home. http://www.fattoriasolidaledelcirceo.com/ (20.02.2020)

[11] Loidholdhof Integrative Hofgemeinschaft (n.d.). https://www.loidholdhof.at/ (20.02.2020)

[12] Glittre Gård (n.d.): Glittre Gård – – det handler om folk og dyr. https://glittre.no/ (20.02.2020)

[13] Haugan, L. et al. (2006): Green care in Norway—Farms as a resource for the educational, health and social sector. https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-4541-7_9 p. 112.

[14] Andres, D. (2010): Soziale Landwirtschaft im Kontext Sozialer Arbeit: Alternative Betreuung und Beschäftigung für Menschen mit psychischer Beeinträchtigung. Akademische Verlagsgemeinschaft München. p. 20.