Social Farming – What we are talking about?

In Europe, social farming has been a growing topic of interest. In 2006, the EU Commission funded a multi-country research and support project with the specific goal to support the building of a new institutional environment for social/care farming. The project, titled “So-Far”, lasted 30 months and included seven nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovenia). The findings and recommendations of the project were published in 2009 in a book titled “Supporting policies for Social Farming in Europe – Progressing Multifunctionality in Responsive Rural Areas” (Di lacovo & O’Connor).

"Social Farming" utilizes farming and agriculture as a therapeutic tool to provide health, social or educational care services for one or a range of vulnerable groups of people, which can include people suffering with mental health problems, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and drug/alcohol addiction as well as adults and young people on probation. It is a growing movement across Europe that has been recognized by the European Union and has a growing presence in some countries in Europe, but at diferent stages of development.

In the book above mentioned, Di lacovo & O’Connor, refers about Social farming: “In particular we may speak of social farming (or „care farming†or „green care) as those farming practices aimed at promoting disadvantaged peoples rehabilitation, education, and care and/or towards the integration of people with „low conceptual capacity†(i.e. intellectual and physical disabilities, convicts, those with drug addiction, minors, migrants) but also practices that support services in rural areas for specific target groups such as children and the elderly.

Through† diverse experiences developed in Europe, Social farming has demonstrated a number of health, economic, and societal benefits; positive impact on rural areas; positive economic impact on local economy and farms; positive social impact: unemployed, people with disabilities, etc; positive environmental impact. This impact could be bigger a and wider if diferent stakeholders get together and some obstacles will overpassed.

In spite of being a growing trend across Europe, Social Farming it is a movement that lacks an official definition as it is interpreted differently across sectors and national borders.

Recommendations of the project above mentioned, recognized and accepted at European level,† are centered on providing better organization and recognition for social farming within the EU.

The key priority areas included strategies for improving knowledge of social farming, to provide information on the benefits† of delivering (social, economic and environmental)† Social Farming initiatives. Develop a shared and accepted definition of Social Farming. To build Network(s)† of Best Practice farms to support the dissemination of information to sector practitioners, the health and social care sectors. To develop a common† framework and shared vision and to work transnationally to develop cross boarder initiatives which further support the growth of the sector.

In synthesis:

Social Farming is an issue with recent developments through Europe, as also with different evolution stages and contexts (about operators, policies, frameworks, ect) but some barriers presents† to its development, as a lack of awareness and understanding of the concept, incorporation of the concept by farmers, lack of skills from people working† in these farms (working with disabled† people, protecting confidentiality, eliminating barriers for† physically disabled, dealing with problematic behaviors, etc...).

From Coimbra (January 2012) to Netherlands (June 2012)

Concerning the First Coordination meeting , in January 2012 / Coimbra, it was a kick-off† meeting where partners agreed on the transnational workplan, due to the reduced consortium, from the initial proposed in the application. In this way mobility’s plan have to reformulated to fit †with this new reality:




25-26 January, 2012

First Transnational Meeting

Coimbra - Portugal

11th†to 15th†June 2012

Exchange / Coordination Meeting

Wageningen - Netherlands

25-27 September, 2012

Exchange / Coordination Meeting

Pisa - Italy

13-16 November 2012

International Conference

Coimbra - Portugal

March 2013

Exchange / Coordination Meeting

Dublin - Ireland

May 2013

Final Conference

Dublin - Ireland

(decisions from Coimbra’s meeting)

Also in the Coimbra’s meeting were discussed the main products to elaborate during the project development, dates and responsible partners.

A visit to APCC† †facilities and services were made as also to the local experience on Social Farming of APCC.

In June, the consortium made a very rich meeting in Netherland where all participants have the opportunity to visit diversified and complementary experiences of “green care farms” that offer health and care services for different groups of clients.

The participants have also the possibility to know more in deep how is structured the welfare system in Netherlands and the “Care Farm “system.

The Dutch partner have organized and provided visits to a wide and complementary range of experiences that allow us to get a better acquaintance of the Dutch system concerning Green care / social farming.


APCC, Portugal -†

Cooperativa Sociale Ponteverde, Italy† - †

Wageningen University / Ulmus Project Realise, Netherlands -†††††

University College Dublin , Ireland -†

The SOFIEU-Project

About the “SOFIEU” Project

The† project† approach† the subject of Social farming in Europe,† to create benefits in different sectors (Health, Social, Education, Economy, Environment) and positive impacts for people and society.

In Europe,"Social Farming" (S.F.)† utilizes farming and agriculture as a therapeutic tool to provide health, social or educational care services for one or a range of vulnerable groups and demonstrated a number of health, economic, and societal benefits; positive impact on rural areas; positive economic impact on local economy and farms; positive social impact: unemployed, people with disabilities, etc; positive environmental impact.

Consortium of the project are composed by† 4 different organisations (PT+IT+IE+NL) with† specific and complementary competences, from Research and Academic† to the Farms and practitioners.

Specific Objectives of the project are:†††††††††††

To create a good context for the development of a common† European framework for "Social Farming” sector;† To promote awareness raising about Social farming; To improve the qualifications †and competences of professionals working with different disadvantaged groups; To foster the integration of learning with working life (Europe 2020); To develop working methods about Social Farming† using social media;

There will be six transnational meetings† that preview† organisation of Coordination meetings, Workshops and Conferences as also Study Visits and Networking activities.

Products are an Web site, a Benchmark of the situation in partner countries, a Guidebook on Social Farming in Europe, and thematic Newsletters† on Social Farming.

About the Consortium

APCC – AssociaÁ„o de Paralisia Cerebral de Coimbra††(PT)

†is a private institution of social solidarity and a non profit making organisation, created in 1975, to face the needs of the people with special needs.

Our organisation have a qualified and recognised work in the areas of medical rehabilitation and functional education, Education, Vocational training (19 courses), multidisciplinary team for socio-professional integration, music, hipotherapy, hydrotherapy, sports, outdoor adventure education (Adventure Farm” Services) , Residential units and Occupational Centres. APCC has experience and knowledge in the organization of international events and projects. APCC is acreditated in the management of services in the areas of Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Employment.

APCC† develops several programmes of mediation, covering identities such as the family, community, teaching, sports and placement in the normal labour market.

APCC is affiliated in - SCOPE, CP ISRA, ICPS,† IAPA, FORMEM,† Scientific Institute of Cerebral Palsy, Non – Profit Union and Social Minimum Income network.

We create and develop Rehabilitation, Habilitation and Integration Services, as also to promote the development and specialization of Human Resources in the Rehabilitation field.

APCC is certified by Quality Standard ISO 9001 and is applying for EQUASS certification and is making their stakeholder’s involvement – AA1000. APPC† deliver diverse† and complementary kind of services through diferent facilities.

We† develop agriculture in† 2 different components: the conventional and the organic farm with vocational training courses.

University College of Dublin†(IE)

UCD is the largest university in Ireland with 24,000 students, 15% of whom are international.† It offers an extensive range of programmes, up to PhD level in all disciplines.† The development of an international profile is of great importance for the University and it is continuing to expand its co-operation agreements with universities worldwide.† Developing its emphasis on research and innovation, UCD has strong international research links through the EU-funded Framework Programmes and its membership of the Universitas 21 network.†

UCD has been a member of the EU Lifelong Learning Programme since it began as the Socrates programme.† Through Leonardo da Vinci and other EU-funded programmes, UCD supports student and staff mobility at all levels, supporting its mission to maximise the international dimension of its teaching and learning through student and staff exchange and provision of virtual courses.† Regarding this particular initiative, the UCD personnel involved have developed particular expertise in Social Farming through their involvement in FP6 Programmes ( a Specific Support Action on Social Farming) and through involvement in EU COST Actions (specifically EU COST Action 866 - Green Care inAgriculture.

Cooperativa Social Ponte Verde††(IT)

Ponteverde ONLUS is a social enterprise, working for the job placement of people with problems or disadvantaged people (prisoners, disabled people, drug-addicted people, alcoholics, etc.). They come from programs of social/occupational inclusion. Ponteverde work in gardening, catering, tourism, cleaning. We are working also in social farming with "Horticulture, economy, tecnicque, Innovative social inclusion" project (Orti etici - Its goal is the creation of concertation among: research, innovation, increase in value of public resources, high quality production, social and occupational inclusion, good practices promotion, social dialogue (distribution network; short food supply). In social farming activities works 3 people: an agronomist, a trainer for job placement and the administrative staff.

Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek(NL)

St. DLO, PPO/PRI is part of Wageningen University and Research Center (Wageningen UR), a collaboration between Wageningen University, Van Hall Larenstein School University of Applied Sciences and the specialised research institutes (St. DLO). In the department of Agrosystems Research there is a lot of knowledge on multifunctional agriculture in general and specific social farming. Mrs. Ir. Elings has more than 8 years of scientific experience in the field of green care and social farming. As a social scientist she was involved in different (European) projects concerning the subject and is (co) author of different publications on social farming. She was for instance project leader of a large effect study on the effects of working on social farms on people with a disability. Next to her scientific knowledge she has a good insight in the work field and have a large national as well as international network.

Ulmus Projectrealisatie (NL)-†The farm as platform for human-oriented development

Since the origin of agriculture thousands of years ago it has been playing a crucial role in shaping both the environment and our society as we know it today.†

Agriculture, where nature and culture meet, still can play an essential role in the well-being of people but it has been reduced and marginalised† for different reasons to a commodity-producing† industry subject to the whims of world-market economy.†

And so is the farmer. And so is the landscape. And so are we, after all..

We want to re-install† the farm as platform for human-oriented development and bring it back in it’s power as a generating force towards an environment which is economically sustainable, ecologically diverse and socially fair to all it embraces.

Many aspects of society are present on a farm in a way that they can be shaped and cared for by the individual connected to the place and the landscape: the professional farmer, as well as anybody under the farmer’s guidance i.e. citizens, children, neighbours, visitors, etc.

We understand people who take up the initiative to work towards this vision as partners of our network.

© SOFIEU-project 2012