Topic: Care farms as an innovation linking different social systems
Keywords: social system theory, care farms,
The proposed paper is connected with the sub-theme “The type of rural transformations driven by social innovation”. It is based on results of the research projects conducted by the Agriculture Advisory Centre in Cracow in years 2016-2017.
Public institutions and rural dwellers in Poland are taking many actions in order to develop social farming. In recent years the attention has been focused in particular on care farms, that can help to solve problems associated with the aging society. The development of social farming in Poland is a good example of how social innovations trigger changes in rural areas in Europe.
Family farms in Poland have always had caring functions. Is the development of social farming really a social innovation then? Yes, because the innovativeness of the care farms lies in a fact, that they combine agriculture with social security services. This phenomenon can be explained by using Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory.
Traditionally, rural households used to combine both food production and care functions. Modernization, however, led to the progressive separation of their various functions. “The agriculture” and “the care” have become separate areas (social systems) managed by different state agencies. In simplification we can identify them as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Social Policy. They have separate functions, logic of operation and “languages” codified in the law. These systems are rationalized, but they do not function perfectly. They solve some social problems, but at the same time they generate new problems. These problems arise from internal system contradictions and from globalization. The production of food on family farms in Poland is becoming less and less profitable. Many rural families are also unable to provide care to people in need. This problem is also not solved by the existing social security system. Modernization and rationalization, which once led to the creation of separate systems of food production and care, now start to demand their reconnection. This aspiration is revealed on two levels. On the one hand, there are grassroots initiatives related to social farming, undertaken by scientists, social activists, NGOs and farmers. On the other hand, these are also actions initiated by state agencies that result from the internal needs of the social systems they manage. The innovativeness of the care farms is exposed in the places, where once separated social systems are reconnecting. The nature of these connections will have great significance for the rural future.