Social Farming in Germany

The development of Social Farming in Germany is concentrated on two areas: farms which integrate people with mental disability and schoolfarming. Farms which integrate people with mental disabilities are mostly organized as so called “green areas” in sheltered workshops or as communities where people with learning disabilities live and work together. Many of these communities have an anthroposophic background.

When the Federal Republic of Germany was funded there has been the idea of gathering people with disabilities to large units. The idea was, that in large groups the most humane handling of a group of persons which was seen during the Third Reich as “worthless life” and which was murdered, could be guaranteed. For the formation of a sheltered workshop with entitlement to sponsorship the minimum number of people is 120. Organizing institutions are often social and ecclesiastic institutions. Nationwide “green workshops” and school farms are organized in networks. Regularly they arrange conferences and training events and they maintain their own websites (

Arbeit mit Pflanzen unt Tieren

In contrast the development of social farming in Germany lags behind educational activities in the green sector. The “Witzenhausen Position Paper on the Added Value of Social Farming” („Witzenhäuser Positionspapier zum Mehrwert Sozialer Landwirtschaft“), which was written participative by attendants of the conference “Added value of Social Farming” abstracts the state of affairs.

Farmers 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 con-tact partners, funding bodies and government departments which, in addition, vary from one Federal State to another. School farms which are funded independently have to fight for eco-nomic survival because, as places for extracurricular learning and experience which offer the children a new relationship to animals, plants and nutrition, they receive almost no recognition. Doctors and therapists are often unable to find suitable farms which would be able to provide many a patient with new prospects. And farms which receive requests from those in need of help or their relatives are seldom equal to the demands, because they lack the support struc-tures for professional supervision. There is a shortage of advice, professional support, educa-tion and training opportunities, and structural and funding instruments which could promote the development of social farming (van Elsen & Kalisch 2008).

Arbeit mit Pflanzen unt Tieren

In spite of difficult financial conditions there are multiple initiatives, examples of a multifunctional agriculture, which play an important role in the development of rural areas, of landscapes, and regional networks. The results of the SoFar- project show that organic farms in Europe are notably qualified and often used for integration of external people into agriculture. Compared to conventional agriculture, organic farming has the benefit of a higher diversity in structure of the farms. There are more prospects for manual labor and less sources of danger (for example because of not using pesticides). That was the staring point in the project “Social Farming on Organic Farms in Germany” (“Soziale Landwirtschaft auf Biobetrieben in Deutschland”), which was started in 2009, to look for promotion strategies of social agriculture in Germany. Aim of the project was to make the potentials of social farms more transparent and to build up networks where no or only little exchange has been before. Especially initiatives which have social, therapeutic and educational concerns and which had not found official acceptance have been detected and analyzed as case studies (final report of the first year of the project with case studies: van Elsen et al. 2001).

The founding of the German working group of social faming (Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft Soziale Landwirtschaft, DASoL), which was established to develop an alliance of diversity of social agriculture in Germany, went in line with the project. Already existing networks, for example the “Green Areas” (“Grüne Bereiche”) of sheltered workshops, the network of School Farms (BAGLoB) and the association alma which connects, according to the Dutch example, offerers and consumers of sheltered jobs in farming, are involved. According to the European community of practice “Farming for Health” not the institutionalization but the casual alliance, hold together by a mailing list, is the aim. In this alliance “process owners” will take duties and responsibilities. Currently there arise working groups in terms of regional and topically networks. Such a team can help to promote social farming in Germany in order to give it a local value such as it is already given in other European countries. This can be a serious chance for very different, until now barely networked initiatives and farms in the area of conflict of therapy, income, quality of live and employment.

The website as well as the subscribtion of a newsletter (Thomas.vanElsen[at] informs about the current development of the DASoL. Via online search it is possible to research social farms.