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One of the most important aspects of social farming is that it enables people to make improvements to their physical health and well-being in a very natural way that is not labelled ‘exercise’ or that makes demands for dramatic change. People will usually become healthier, fitter, stronger, more agile almost without noticing it.
The farm can be designed in such a way that older participants can easily walk around the farmyard because there are benches everywhere. An older participant can move around the farm and sit down once in a while and experience the farm. This makes the older participants feel free to move around at their own pace.
Social farmers indicate that the farm environment keeps older people mobile and allows them to exercise their muscles spontaneously. The farm environment takes care of this itself without the need to organise specific activities.
For both people with learning difficulties as well as for youth and children physical activity gives people exercise, burns calories and helps prevent weight gain.
For many groups with behavioural problems and people with mental-ill health, social farming is about getting in motion again.
The activities on the farm give children with behavioural problems the possibility to get back in their rhythm.
Activities on social farms can provide opportunities for people with mental health challenges to get physically tired but in a positive way. Combined with good routines, it may help them to sleep better and reduce the need for sleep medications.
For people with learning difficulties, children and youth, some of the physical activities like using tools and sowing seeds can help to improve their motor skills.
Being aware of the body and body posture is a positive effect of social farming for people with mental-ill health. It is about awareness and getting out of their head and into their body.
Eating and preparing dinner together with healthy food from their own garden is an important positive effect for people recovering from an addiction or who have mental health challenges. Being on the farm and having good food can get them to think about their own diet.
Working on a social farm enables participants to make more and new social contacts (being part of a community, family or social structure).
People get to gather and come together at key moments during the day for example, to have lunch , or to sit around the fire. Social farming is about having personal contact and meeting people. Often participants live alone or in a residential home and by meeting other people, they learn to build new personal relationships.
On the farm it is not only about work but there are also plenty of informal moments where you can have fun together, drink coffee and tea together, eat together or celebrate together.
It is not just the farm community that participants come into contact with. It is also about being part of a wider society. People from the village or other visitors will often come to the farm. Equally, participants will often get the chance to take to take part in activities in the village or simply be part of ordinary life – going to the shops, using the local café, etc.
It's not only about being part of society but also contributing to society, having a real job and gaining real work experience.
A social farm is a special environment, a safe environment where participants can come without judgement and where they are not judged for their limitations, a place where people feel welcome. This is especially important for people recovering from mental health problems or addiction, people with learning difficulties, youth and children with autism.
Participants learn from each other. This is reinforced by the fact that on social farms, different target groups will often work together.
People laugh and seem happy, come early, and always want to go to the farm. These indicators are particularly useful when people are non-verbal.
People have something to look forward to and something to talk to others about.Social farming improves the mental well-being of youth. It makes them be proud of themselves. People have something positive to tell their families and their peers.
Social farming improves the mental well-being of youth. It makes them be proud of themselves. People have something positive to tell their families and their peers.
Work on social farms increases the self-esteem and self-confidence of young people and people with limited work experience.
Physical work is very valuable in taking people with an experience with drug addiction out of themselves and helping them forget their troubles.
People can find themselves amazed by nature, by how plants grow or how beautiful the behaviour of animals can be
People feel more connected to nature and can experience the seasons more than if they live or work in more urban areas. If you experience nature, you can also feel part of a bigger picture.
Participants feel that as a person, they are important in this greater whole and that they matter, and that they can make a difference. For example, they are important for the farmer for the animals and plants they care about.
Social farming is about putting things into perspective. Despite our worries, quarrels and problems, nature will take its own course, it will be spring, summer, autumn and winter. This can also be a metaphor for people not to worry too much because things will eventually turn out all right.
Participants can have an increased sense of purpose and meaning and an opportunity to care for others like animals and crops.
Nature itself is transcendent, and the same counts for human connection.
Some social farms have a specific religious background (e.g. Christian). The farm activities therefore reflect this religion, for instance, in having a prayer at the start of the day or celebrating Easter of Christmas.