Care farming

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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.[1]

The purpose of care farming is to promote mental and physical health by giving people the opportunity to spend time working on the land.[2] Care farms can provide supervised, structured programs of farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management.[3]

On a care farm, people, animals and the earth work together for mutual healing, attempting to alleviate the effects of nature deficit disorder.[4]


Various situations and developments in the past have led people to discover the value of care farming and/or contributed to how care farming is practiced today.

  • Need for self-sufficiency in case of outcasts or socially excluded (incl. asylums for mentally ill)
  • Lack of proper, professional care facilities in rural areas (staying home on the farm)
  • Anthroposophic communities and other idealistic, self-sufficient communities

More recently, agricultural multifunctionality has given a boost to the development of care farming. Farmers are seeking new sources of income and a reinforced relation with society and their direct customers (license to produce).

Benjamin Rush (1746–1813) is said to be one of the first medical scientists referring to the positive effects of the practice of horticultural therapy on the well-being of mentally diseased. Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and professor of (a.o.) medical theory at the University of Pennsylvania, published 5 books in a series of Medical Inquiries and Observations, the last being concerned with The Diseases of The Mind (1812). In this volume, the practice of horticulture is mentioned twice.[5]

It has been remarked, that the maniacs of the male sex in all hospitals, who assist in cutting wood, making fires, and digging in a garden, and the females who are employed in washing, ironing, and scrubbing floors, often recover, while persons, whose rank exempts them from performing such services, languish away their lives within the walls of the hospital.[6]

Students learn how to weed in the specially designed wheelchair accessible garden beds.

Types of farms[edit]

Care farms may support various agricultural production processes and related activities. Farm types may range from dairy farms to poultry farms, from livestock keeping for meat production to manege / horse riding schools, from orchards and vineyards to market gardens.

Care farms may be large scale or small scale, both in terms of agricultural production as well as in number of clients for the care services provided. In general however, there are less care farmers to be found in large scale, intensive, industrial agriculture.

A significant number of care farms focus on organic farming. One reason may be the need for extensive manual labour and direct contact with plants or farm animals in the organic farming processes. Another reason may be the focus on a local market, i.e. customers from around the farm interested in buying local and sustainable food.

Though participating in market-oriented agricultural productivity (providing agricultural produce for the market) may contribute to a client's healing process and/or sense of well-being (i.e. feeling useful for society)[citation needed], there are numerous care farms where the farm activities are subservient to the therapeutic process. Depending on what the focus of the farm is, the activities that are offered on the farm may depend on the type of clients the farm targets or the type of available agricultural processes on the farm.

Some care farms serve as animal sanctuaries to provide homes for formerly abused animals.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ National Care Farming Initiative (UK)
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-26. Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  6. ^ Rush, B. (1812) Medical Inquiries upon Diseases of the Mind, The History of Medicine Series, No 15, New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1962

Further reading[edit]

Editors Francesco Di Iacovo, Deirdre O'Connor, 2009
Editor Joost Dessein, 2007
Editors Jan Hassink, Majken van Dijk, 2005

External links[edit]

National care farming organisations and networks[edit]

Other care farming groups[edit]

Care farms (examples)[edit]