German agriculture actually is characterised by a momentous change in agro-structure and its demographic environment. Farmers counter these changes in multiple ways. One of them is to diversify agricultural production. Against this background, social farming over the last 10-15 years is attracting greater interest as one possible diversification strategy especially for family owned farms.

Also in the field of social work the potential of agriculture as a „setting” for employment, therapy or vocational training is gaining more and more positive reception. Social farming creates room for personal development and offers therapy as well as education. Social farming can also create a healthful place where doing work is not crucial (e.g. assisted living for people that are officially not able to work for more than three hours a day, but are willing to work in an supportive environment).

Currently in Germany new ways of funding for supporting employment opportunities for people with special needs are discussed. The Federal Participation Act became applicable in 2017. It aims at enabling people with special needs in participating in a professional life. Social farming experts in Germany currently discuss how this new act can be used to create new ways of social farming that focus on employment opportunities for disabled people.


Social farming is practised in different ownerships and in various organisational coherences: institutions of charity associations, independent farm communities, single farms, youth welfare institutions etc. There are various client groups in social farming. They reach from children and youth to elderly people and from mentally or physically handicapped to homeless persons or drug addicts. In recent years also refugees became a client group of social farming. There is no general assignment of social farming to one specific administration and it is not regulated by one specific law. In addition the 16 federal states can decide for themselves how to deal with Social Farming.

Some federal state governments do support social farming, while in other federal states social farming is off the cards. Especially compared to countries like the Netherlands or Norway public funding of social farming is rare. Federal state governments rather focus on making the idea of social farming public. In some federal states consultants for social farming do exist.


These varieties produce a feeling of insecurity for farmers, therapists, social workers or clients and people in need of help and their parents, who themselves want to take the initiative, but also therapists and social workers who are in search of suitable farms for their clients, all find themselves faced with an almost impenetrable jungle of laws and authorities associated with different contact partners, funding bodies and government departments which, in addition, vary from one Federal State to another (Van Elsen & Kalisch, 2008). The professional field of social farming is quite a new one and only a few formal possibilities to learn the required skills and competencies exist so far.

To define social farming in Germany the following position is most often used: „Social farming adopts a multifunctional view of agriculture: the main products, in addition to saleable produce, are health and employment, education or therapy. Agriculture offers opportunities for people to participate in the varied rhythms of the day and the year, be it in growing food or working with domestic animals. Social farming includes agricultural enterprises and market gardens which integrate people with physical, mental or emotional disabilities; farms which offer openings for the socially disadvantaged, for young offenders or those with learning difficulties, people with drug dependencies, the long-term unemployed and active senior citizens; school and kindergarten farms and many more. Prevention of illness, inclusion and a better quality of life are features of social agriculture“(Van Elsen & Kalisch, 2008).


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