Social Return and Economic Viability of Social Farming in Catalonia: A Case-Study Analysis

Open access


In Europe, Social Farming (SF) and agritourism are multifunctional agriculture activities that arise when agricultural land is abandoned in rural and peri-urban areas; it is difficult to develop commercial agriculture if it is not intensive. In our research, we studied SF in Catalonia, carrying out a census and classification of 161 initiatives and a more in-depth analysis of 10 projects (or 9 in some cases), identifying their viability and the economic, social, and environmental return on investment (SROI) for the resources used in each case. The methodology included questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and Canvas and SROI analyses. Although SF has developed in many European countries, it is incipient in the Iberian Peninsula. The projects in Catalonia combine agrarian activity, socio-health care and social policies, with the aim of offering innovative solutions to the needs of different groups at risk of social exclusion.

[1] Armesto, López, X. A. (2005). Notas teóricas entorno al concepto de postproductivismo agrario. Investigaciones geográficas 36, 137–156. DOI: 10.14198/INGEO2005.36.01.

[2] Bowler, I. R. (1992). The industrialization of agriculture. In Bowler, I. R., ed., The Geography of Agriculture in Developed Market Economies (pp. 7–31), Harlow: Longman.

[3] Dessein, J., Bock, B. B. & De Krom, M. P. (2013). Investigating the limits of multifunctional agriculture as the dominant frame for Green Care in agriculture in Flanders and the Netherlands. Journal of Rural Studies 32, 50–59. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2013.04.011.

[4] Di Iacovo, F. & O’connor, D., eds. (2009). Supporting Policies for Social Farming in Europe. Progressing Multifunctionality in Responsive Rural Areas. Firenze: ARISA.

[5] Di Iacovo, F., Moruzzo, R., Rossignoli, C. M., Scarpellini, P. (2013). Innovating rural welfare in the context of civicness, subsidiarity and co-production: Social Farming. In: Gather, M., Berding, J., Lüttmerding, A. & Villarroel, G. P., eds., Social Issues and Health Care in Rural Areas in the Context of Demographic Change (pp. 4–21). Erfurt: University of Applied Sciences.

[6] Estela, O. (2015). Politiche pubbliche per economie locali resilienti, Territorio della Ricerca su Insediamenti e Ambiente. 15, 81–94. DOI: 10.6092/2281-4574/3733.

[7] Esping-Andersen, G., ed. (1996). Welfare states in transition: national adaptations in global economies. Sage Publications, London.

[8] Faus, P., Blanco, E. & Poitras, J. (2012). La ciudad jubilada: breve diccionario sobre los huertos informales en los ríos de Barcelona. Barcelona. P. Faus.

[9] Finoula, R. & Pascale, A. (2008). L’agricoltura sociale nelle politiche pubbliche. Roma: INEA.

[10] Guirado, C., Badia, A., Tulla, A. F., Vera, A. & Valldeperas, N. (2013). L’agricultura social. Aproximació conceptual i dinàmica en el context europeu. Biblio 3W: Revista Bibliográfica de Geografía y Ciencias Sociales, 18(1046), 1–27.

[11] Guirado, C., Badia, A., Tulla, A. F., Vera, A. & Valldeperas, N. (2014). La agricultura social en Catalunya: innovación social y dinamización agroecológica para la ocupación de personas en riesgo de exclusión. Ager 17, 65–97. DOI: 10.4422/ager.2014.04.

[12] Guirado, C., Tulla, A. F., Valldeperas, N. (2016). Social Farming in Catalonia. Rural local development and social integration of people at risk of social exclusion. In: Second International Conference on Agriculture in an Urbanizing SocietyReconnecting Agriculture and Food Chains to Societal Needs (pp. 1–2). Roma: AiCARE.

[13] Guirado, C., Valldeperas, N., Tulla, A. F., Sendra, L., Badia, A., Evard, C., Cebollada, A., Espluga, J., Pallarès, I. & Vera, A. (2017). Social Farming in Catalonia: rural local development, employment opportunities and empowerment for people at risk of social exclusion. Journal of Rural Studies, 56, 180–197. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.09.015.

[14] Guirado, C., Tulla, A. F., Valldeperas, N. (2018). La Agricultura Social en Cataluña: diagnosis de un fenómeno emergente. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles, 77, 148–185. DOI: 10.21138/bage.2537.

[15] Halweil, B. (2002). Home Grown. The case for local food in a Global Market. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute.

[16] Hassink, J. (2003). Combining Agricultural Production and Care for Persons with Disabilities: a New Role of Agriculture and Farm Animals. Wageningen University.

[17] Hassink, J. & Van Dijk, M., eds. (2006). Farming for Health: Green-care Farming across Europe and the United States of America. Dordrecht: Springer.

[18] Haubenhofer, D. K., Elings, M., Hassink, J. & Hine, R. E. (2010). The development of green care in western European countries. Explore, 6(2), 106–111. DOI: 10.1016/j.explore.2009.12.002.

[19] Hine, R., Peacock, J. I., Pretty, J. (2008). Care farming in the UK: contexts, benefits and links with therapeutic communities. Therapeuthic Communities 29(3), 245–260.

[20] Hoggart, K. & Paniagua, A. (2001). What rural restructuring? Journal of Rural Studies 17(1), 41–62. DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(00)00036-X.

[21] Ilbery, B. W., Bowler, I. R. (1998). From Agricultural Productivism to Postproductivism. In Ilbery, B. W., ed., The Geography of Rural Change (pp. 57–84). London: Longman.

[22] Leck, C., Evans, N. & Upton, D. (2014). Agriculture – who cares? An investigation of ‘Care Farming’ in the UK. Journal of Rural Studies, 34, 313–325. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2014.01.012.

[23] Lanfranchi, M., Giannetto, C. (2014). Sustainable development in rural areas: The New Model of Social Farming. Calitatea: Access la Success 15(139), 219–223.

[24] Lockwood, J. A. (1999). Agriculture and biodiversity: finding our place in this world. Agriculture and Human Values 16(4), 365–379. DOI: 10.1023/A:1007699717401.

[25] Lohrberg, F., Licka, L., Scazzosi, L. & Timpe, A., eds. (2016). COST Action Urban Agriculture Europe. Berlin: Jovis VerlagGmbH.

[26] Marbán, V. & Rodríguez, G. (2006). Estado de bienestar y tercer sector social en España. El estado de la investigación social. CIRIEC 56, 117–139.

[27] Marsden, T., Lowe, P. & Whatmore, S. (1990). Rural restructuring: global processes and their responses. London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd.

[28] O’Connor, D., Lai, M. & Watson, S. (2010). Overview of social farming and rural development policy in selected EU member states, NRN Joint Thematic Initiative on Social Farming [research report]. European Communities.

[29] Osterwalder, A. & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Generación de modelos de negocio. Bilbo/Donostia: Deusto.

[30] Pallarès-Blanch, M., Prados, M. J. & Tulla, A. F. (2014). Naturbanization and Urban-Rural Dynamics in Spain: case study of New Rural Landscapes in Andalusia and Catalonia. European Countryside 6(2), 118–160. DOI: 10.2478/euco-2014-0008.

[31] Pölling, B., Prados, M. J., Torquati, B. M., Giacchè, G., Recasens, X., Paffarini, Ch., Alfranca, O. & Lorleberg, W. (2017). Business models in urban farming: A comparative analysis of case studies from Spain, Italy and Germany. Moravian Geographical Reports, 25 (3), 166–180. DOI: 10.1515/mgr-2017-0015.

[32] Sempere, J., Tulla, A. F. (2008). El debat teòric sobre el periurbà i la concreció d’un planejament urbanístic en un entorn complex: el cas de Barcelona i Toulouse. Documents d’Anàlisi Geogràfica 52, 125–144.

[33] Sempik, J., Hine, R. I., Wilcox, D., eds. (2010). Green Care: A Conceptual Framework [research report]. Loughborough University.

[34] Tulla, A. F., Vera, A., Badia, A., Guirado, C. & Valldeperas, N. (2014). Rural and Regional Development Policies in Europe: Social Farming in the Common Strategic Framework (Horizon 2020), Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis 6(1), 35–52.

[35] Tulla, A. F., Vera, A., Valldeperas; N. & Guirado, C. (2017). New approaches to sustainable rural development: Social farming as an opportunity in Europe? Human Geographies (Journal of Studies and Research in Human Geography) 11(1), 25–40. DOI: 10.5719/hgeo.2017.111.2.

[36] Walker, B. & Salt, D. (2006). Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Washington D.C.: Island Press.

[37] Woods, M. (2005). Rural Geography: processes, responses and experiences in rural restructuring. London: SAGE Publications.

[38] Galiakis, D. (2014). Typologies of Social Farming activities in Greece. Europe for Citizens, Ruract, Hellenic Republic, Municipality of Agia.

[39] IDESCAT (2017). Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya.

[40] SoFar project (2009). «Social Farming: re-connecting economy with social needs in rural areas», Francesco Di Iacovo (Pisa University) as Coordinator.

[41] The SROI Network Accounting for value (2012). «A Guide to Social Return on Investment» The SROI Network by Matter & Co. 2nd ed.

European Countryside

The Journal of Mendel University in Brno

Journal Information

CiteScore 2017: 0.78

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.265
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.607


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 37 37 37
PDF Downloads 26 26 26