Social farming is contributing to agricultural growth in Southern Italy. The combination between two seemingly distant worlds, agriculture and social domain, is working and is producing important results both economically and in terms of health and social care. This sector already has a thousand experiences in Italy, with more than 390 cooperatives, 4,000 employees, and a turnover of 200 million Euros.
These structures are normally traditional farmhouses, or breeding farms of various kinds, economically and financially sustainable, managed by one or more people in cooperation. The company carries out its agricultural or livestock activity to sell its products on the market, but does this in ‘integrated’ way and for the benefit of vulnerable people (people with disability, drug addicts, prisoners, elderly people), residents in fragile areas (mountains or isolated centres) and in collaboration with public institutions. This type of social associationism can be defined as ‘multifunctional’, because it realises therapeutic, rehabilitative, and reintegration paths for those concerned. It can now act as a model that our Country is called to let know and appreciate in Europe, allowing this innovative project the access to the large project funding in the near future.
After the approval of the law on social farming, both implementing decrees and transposition of the national legislation by the individual regions are now expected. The hope is that regions adopt regulations that allow farmers to network with social cooperatives and make available their know-how and skills. The agri-food cooperation, which is the prevailing legal form of the experiences of social agriculture, plays a fundamental role in creating a real bridge between farms and existing social cooperatives, allowing the operators to get to the stage of commercialization of their products.