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:

Date

Meeting

Place

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.

Contacts:††††††††††††††††††††††††www.socialfarming.eu

APCC, Portugal -†mario.verissimo@apc-coimbra.org.pt

Cooperativa Sociale Ponteverde, Italy† - †clemens@il-ponte.it

Wageningen University / Ulmus Project Realise, Netherlands -†marjolein.elings@wur.nl††††w.joop@ulmus.eu

University College Dublin , Ireland -†deirdre.oconnor@ucd.ie

© SOFIEU-project 2012