Coaching the process of designing a farm: Using the healthy human as a metaphor for farm health

J.R. Bloksma, P.C. Struik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is on coaching farmers in (re)designing a farm. It describes how farmers can become inspired to design a sustainable farm by the way medical doctors look at the human being and his health. Sustainability in farm management is usually strived for in such a way that damage to People, Planet or Profit is prevented. However, preventing such damage does not automatically mean that humans, animals, rural societies, landscape, and nature can develop and manifest themselves to the full extent. Only in examples where the emphasis is on positive characteristics of and actions in farming, and where the approach is based on coherence between the three layers described (agricultural production, agri-culture, and the meaning of life and existence), we observe that all stakeholders can fully express themselves. This approach is comparable with the positive way in which the World Health Organization describes human health, distinguishing three different layers of health: physical health, socio-cultural health, and mental health. Applying the metaphor of the healthy human enables us to ask relevant questions as to how to achieve farm health. The power of the metaphor of the living human lies in the possibility to introduce the concepts of life, the conscious direction, transformation and health in the process of (re)designing the farm organism. The living farm emerges under the direction of the farmer as a new entity in which the possibilities of the site, the societal and agro-ecological context and the people involved are all mutually fine-tuned. Only if all three interconnected layers of health (i.e., the physical, socio-cultural, and mental health) are equally addressed, true farm health, and, in our definition of farm health, also sustainability can be achieved. This paper does not address the issue of creating an absolutely healthy and sustainable farm but is about farm transformation and the art of development, step-by-step reshaping specific farm elements, thus allowing the entire farm to become healthier
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-429
JournalNJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • farm management
  • sustainability
  • health
  • identity


Dive into the research topics of 'Coaching the process of designing a farm: Using the healthy human as a metaphor for farm health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this