What is a “Care Farm or Social Farm”?

November 4, 2015

Since we began farming our slogan has been “Farm feeds soul”. For years I have been working on developing a way to integrate my love of farming with my holistic health background and passion for alternative treatments for our community.

We have decided to gear into becoming a care farm ( or sometimes called a social farm) starting as of 2016.

Care farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices. Care farms use the whole or part of a farm, provide health, social or educational care services for one or a range of vulnerable groups of people and provide a supervised, structured programme of farming-related activities.

The purpose of care farming is to promote mental and physical health by giving people the opportunity to spend time working on the land. Care farms can provide supervised, structured programs of farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management.

On a care farm, people, animals and the earth work together for mutual healing, attempting to alleviate the effects of nature deficit disorder.

Care farming or social farming, a fast growing sector across Europe is an innovative practice where agricultural production is being combined with health and social services. It is an interesting example of a nature based intervention. It is an innovation at the crossroads of agriculture and health care, where the agricultural sector is actively involved in providing care for different client groups. Clients, or participants in the vocabulary of care farmers, are involved in agricultural production.

Care farms offer day care, supported workplaces and/or residential places and in some cases therapy for clients with a variety of disabilities. Care farming is emerging in many European countries due to the increasing focus on different aspects of multifunctional agriculture, as well as concerns about public health expenditure and the efficacy of social services. Different orientations can be identified. In Italy and France, care farming is directed towards labour integration and care inclusion provided by community-based organizations like care cooperatives is dominant. In Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders), care farming is mainly provided by private family farms and care farms are examples of agricultural diversification. In Germany, Austria, Ireland, Slovenia and Poland, most care farms are community-based care services offered by institutional partners. Our care farm will start off private and not affiliated with any institutions.

Care farming has developed into a diverse sector offering unique services for a diversity of client groups in a range of contexts. They can be considered as innovative example of community-based services that contribute to empowerment and socialization of vulnerable citizens. The challenge is to stimulate the development of similar initiatives in urban areas and involve urban citizens actively in nature and farming activities. It can contribute to reducing complex health problems in urban areas related to e.g. social exclusion and segregation, lack of citizen participation, social inequalities, chronic diseases and unemployment. There is a great potential as the number of bottom-up green urban initiatives in western Europe is increasing rapidly.

Farming for Health is the utilization of agricultural farms, farm animals, plants and landscapes as a base for promoting human mental and physical health and social well-being.

Ecopsychology explores how to develop emotional bonds with nature. It considers this to be worthwhile because when nature is explored and viewed without judgement, it gives the sensations of harmony, balance, timelessness and stability.

In its exploration of how to bond with nature, ecopsychology is interested in the examples provided by a wide variety of ancient and modern cultures that have histories of embracing nature. Examples include aboriginal, pagan, Buddhist, and Hindu cultures, as well as shamanism and the more recent hesychast tradition. Of interest is how identity becomes entwined with nature, so that loss of those sacred places is far more devastating to indigenous people than often understood. Native American stories, in particular, illustrate a socially recognized sense of community between humans and the natural landscape. The Māori philosophy, and practice of kaitiakitanga, or eco-guardianship, and preservation emphasizes a deep connect between humans, and their environment. Eastern Orthodox monks led a contemplative life deeply intertwined with nature. Other lessons include how to live sustainably within an environment and the self-sacrifices made to tolerate natural limits, such as population control or a nomadic existence that allows the environment to regenerate. Moreover, certain indigenous cultures have developed methods of psychotherapy involving the presence of trees, rivers, and astronomical bodies.

Ecopsychologists have begun detecting unspoken grief within individuals, an escalation of pain and despair, felt in response to widespread environmental destruction. The field of ecopsychology intends to illustrate how environmental disconnection functions as an aspect of existing disease, without creating a new category. The contention is that if a culture is disconnected from nature, then various aspects of an individual’s life will be negatively impacted. It also believes that that without the influence of nature, humans are prone to a variety of delusions, and that to some degree life in the wild forms the basis for human sanity and optimal psychological development. The topic is explored in detail Paul Shepard‘s book Nature and Madness. It is also proposed that separation from outdoor contact causes a loss of sensory and information-processing ability that was developed over the course of human evolution, which was spent in direct reciprocity with the environment.

Clients and participants attend the farm regularly as part of a structured care, rehabilitation, therapeutic or educational programme. They provide a supervised, structured programme of farming-related activities including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production, woodland management and horticulture.

Care farming helps make a difference to disadvantaged people’s lives by giving them an opportunity to work on the land and on land based activities. It combines care of the land with care of people. It is a partnership between the farmer or other land manager, the relevant health care, social care, employment, probation or education agency and the participant.

Our farm will be using several types of therapies including therapetuetic gardens  & horticulture therapy, Animal Asisted therapy and Green excerice ( exercise in nature such as yoga etc.). Several programs and trainings will be offered to facilitate feeding your body, mind and soul at our farm.

I am very excited about this new step forward towards doing something I deeply believe in to serve my community! If you are interested in participating in our training to offer this type of therapy, please email me: suchernovafarm@gmail.com

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