Agriculture - Who cares? An investigation of 'Care Farming' in the UK

Chris Leck, Nick Evans, Dominic UPTON

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73 Citations (Scopus)


‘Care farming’ (variously ‘green care in agriculture’, ‘farming for health’, ‘social farming’ and ‘therapeutic agriculture’) in the UK has grown rapidly over the last five years from the low base identified by preliminary scoping studies conducted at that time. In countries where the activity is most widely practised, the research focus has been primarily upon the care provided by farms, leaving a paucity of knowledge about the farms providing care. However, such care is ‘co-produced’, meaning that insights from both agricultural geography and the geographies of care deserve to be unified. In the British context, an agricultural perspective has seldom been applied; where done so, it has dismissed care farming as merely ‘hobby farming’ or conceptualised it as a minor economic activity helping to diversify the farm business and illustrating ‘multifunctionality’. Surprisingly little attention has been paid to either its relationship with productive ‘core’ farming activities or the consequences for farmers themselves. Using questionnaires and interviews, the express purpose of this paper is to identify and explicate the characteristics of care farms and farmers. Analysis reveals that it is not easy to pigeon-hole care farmers according to their age, motives, size of farm or land tenure. The paper moves on to discuss the transformative nature of care farming on the way in which farmers live their lives. In particular, symbiotic human–animal relations emerge regardless of whether livestock are kept as pets or commercial enterprises. Also revealed is the altruistic satisfaction of farmers as they provide ethical care and see positive changes in their service users. The paper concludes by suggesting how the multiple connections that are found to result from the interaction of agricultural practises and care provision might be more accurately conceptualised and articulated as ‘connective agriculture’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-325
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


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