The Social Farming in Italy

sf in italy 01The SF practices include either rehabilitation and care for people with serious mental and physical disabilities, through therapeutic or co-therapeutic (garden therapy, pet-therapy, donkey therapy) activities in collaboration with the social-health services of the territory, that training and placement activities for people with a low bargaining power and at risk of social exclusion. Furthermore the SF includes regenerative activities and several forms of acceptance for elderly, young and people with difficulties. 

There is no specific legislation at national level, the SF is indirectly regulated by the laws regulating  agriculture, health, social policies and labor. Some Regions have Regional Laws (Calabria, Toscana, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Campania), other Regions have bills (Lazio, Sardegna, Lombardia).

The relationship between SF and organic farming is very close, not only for the context of increased safety and well-being that the organic farming offers to the farmers, but mainly because both of them are aimed at defending the common goods and affirming the social value of the ecologically sustainable agriculture.

A research carried out by AIAB, in the Bioreport publication of the National Rural Network,  documented a significant increase of the organic-social agriculture compared to a previous census of 2007. The survey reported 221 organic-social farms in 2011, with a higher incidence (38%) in the North (23% in the North-East, 15% in the North-West, 34% in the Centre and 28% in the South). At regional level is the record of Lazio with 29 farms, 13.1% of the total. The major organic-social players are the social cooperatives (57.4%), followed by farms and agricultural cooperatives (32.9%), non-profit organizations and association of social promotion.

The surveyed farms mainsf in italy 02ly operate in the fruit and vegetable sector, in the cultivation of oil and cereals and in the breeding of small animals. The majority (54%) also carries out activities related to the processing of products, agri-tourism, catering and it is also a teaching farm.

Regarding the disadvantaged, the research showed that 32% of the farms works with persons with mental disabilities, 18.8% with physical disabilities, 17.2% welcomes people with addiction problems (10.7% drug addicts and 6.5% alcohol dependents) and 9.3% includes minors and young at risk of social exclusion. 12.5% of the farms works with detainees and former detainees.

The majority of the surveyed farms uses the direct selling channels for the marketing activity (38%), then they use the Ethical Purchasing Groups, local markets, restaurants and the on-line selling. Thus farms use mainly the selling channels that allow a more direct relationship with the citizen/consumers. The use of the short chain helps to stabilize the farm and to strengthen links with the territory.

The social farms carry out activities in collaboration with the health sector, health authorities and drug services (25.5%), thus with local authorities, voluntary organizations, universities and the schools.

The SF, despite the difficulties facing the operators for the lack of economical resources and public support policies, is a factor of dynamism and innovation in both the agricultural and social fronts.