The Conference “Social Agriculture and Care Farm: Work Opportunity, Social Partnership and Opportunity” was hosted by the European Landowners’ Organization in Brussels, on Tuesday 25th June, 2019. The conference was opened by Lindsey CHUBB of the European Landowners’ Organization, who introduced the project and the purposes of the day’s events. Dr. Massimo CANALICCHIO from CIA Umbria Servizi all’Impresa srl., project partner of CARE-T-FARMS provided an overview of the project including the content, goals and expected results. This was followed by a brief summary from project coordinator, Józefina KRÓL of CDR, Agricultural Advisory Centre, and Karolina BOBA who provided a demonstration of the online training system.
Guest speaker Dr. Gabriele ROCCA of World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) explained the aims of WAPR, rehabilitation in mental health and the history of work and treatment for persons with mental disorders and handicaps. He emphasised the transition from total control by the staff in traditional environments such as psychiatric hospitals to a more flexible approach, allowing the patient to have more autonomy in their daily activities and work. Mieke BROEDERS, Treasurer of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) highlighted care farming and opportunities for accessible tourism. She explained that accessible tourism is about making environments, venues and services suitable for the widest range of customers, not only the disabled but also seniors, families with small children, people with long-term health conditions and many more. BROEDERS highlighted a surprising statistic that only 9% of European Tourism Suppliers have “accessible” offers (ENAT Study of Tourism Supply for the EU Commission (2015)) and this lack of accessible tourism is costing the economy billions. She also addressed a very common misconception that accessible tourism is too expensive as it is usually the decision to adapt and change infrastructure after construction which is more expensive. When accessibility is considered in the initial planning, it is much less costly. Dr. ir. Jan HASSINK, Researcher at Wageningen University & Research and Founder and Coordinator of the care farm Hoeve Klein Mariendaal discussed social farming in the Netherlands and how it has changed since the late 1990s. In 1998, there were approximately 75 care farms in the Netherlands, while today there are 1.100 care farms and more than 20.000 clients that visit these farms. What began as an initiative for people with learning disabilities is now open to people with alcohol or drug addiction, psychiatric problems, elderly with dementia and children with behavioural problems. At present, people are not only interested in working on farms for a pleasant daily activity, but also join for labour reintegration or vocational training. Care farms now provide multifunctional activities for work, recreation and business.
Later, in the panel discussion, the focus was on several aspects of the project including ways we can make a substantial difference in accessibility for everyone, not only the disabled, and some practical advice for people interested in starting their own care farms. An additional point was the consideration of social agriculture in policy initiatives. Support from politicians for accessibility for the disabled and the use of social agriculture for therapy appears much less in European agricultural debates among politicians, however, it should be a topical point of discussion.
This event is only the first of a series of multiplier events that will be held in each partner’s country. The training system will be fully complete in October 2019 in English, French, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Turkish, but incorporates case studies from other European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Czech Republic.