Farming as Therapy

In our farm we believe that farmers and the health-care community working together can create an environment in which the care and nurturing of plants and animals is an important aspect of therapy for disadvantaged individuals.The therapy takes place in the context of a regenerative farming model focusing on gardening for the guest/resident. This transcends therapy using outdoor experiences that provide nature opportunities without the personal responsibility of caring for nature. Gardening and farming, as in working with plants, has, in some form, played a role in treatment, rehabilitation and/or residential care of disabled individuals over the last two centuries. During the nineteenth century most, psychiatric hospitals included agricultural components.It is clear that programs related to use of plants and animals in therapy are seen as beneficial for individuals in treatment or rehabilitation. The greatest focus for these programs currently is among the aging population. Animal-assisted therapy, however, continues to grow rapidly in rehabilitation for physically and visually impaired individuals, and horticultural therapy is expanding among programs for youth-at risk.

Psychiatric patients are now treated with drug intervention and outpatient talk therapy, limiting their useof plant and animal-based therapies. Likewise, such programs have been reduced for developmentally disabled youth by that population’s inclusion in the general classroom. Changes in the way that rehabilitation and therapeutic services are offered, however, have occurred concurrently with new types of programs being developed. There are now treatment programs involving plants and animals to address physical, mental, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Treatment audiences include: individuals with AIDS, cancer, PTSD, or other health issues, acquired or genetic physical and developmental disabilities, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, brain injuries, chronic pain, substance-abuse problems and learning disabilities, adults and children with psychiatric disorders, mental and developmental disabilities, speech and hearing impairments, physical disabilities and neurological impairments.


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