Sustainable Farm Families™

The most important aspect of a healthy Australian farm? A healthy farming family.

The multi-award winning program, Sustainable Farm Families™ (SFF™) was developed by the Western District Health Service and started as a research project in 2003 to improve health, wellbeing and safety of the farming population.

The SFF ™ project sought to address premature death, morbidity and injury on Australian farms, and illustrate how increasing health literacy through education and physical assessment can lead to improved health and knowledge outcomes for farm families.  In particular, based on a model that engages farm families as active learners committed to healthy living and safe working practices, the project is an effective model for engaging rural communities in learning and change.

A practical program of straightforward health assessments, education and advice, the SFF program has proved life-changing and life-saving for many participants.

Aims of SFF™ programs

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Identify and track farming family health indicators and include them in farm management quality assurance processes.
  • Design and deliver training programs that help farming families identify ways they can improve their health, wellbeing and safety.
  • Communicate program findings to farming families and health and agricultural sectors.
  • Provide information on the relationship between family health, health as a social issue in rural communities and farm productivity.

Program delivery

The SFF™ program consists of three workshops (held 6 months apart) that cover physical health assessments, education, focus groups and action planning.

The program is delivered by trained Registered Nurses (Division One) in partnership with agriculture facilitators and requires strong industry support and an understanding of adult learning and social research models.  Through cross-sector collaboration the program builds capacity in the workforce, community, agricultural industry and the individual.

Each workshop involves an individual health assessment for every participant including referrals to a health or medical professional, if necessary. During the program, health and wellbeing topics relevant to farming and rural populations are covered, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health, stress, nutrition, physical activity, diabetes and farm safety. Participants are also encouraged in the workshops to make action plans for their health, wellbeing and safety. The action plans include personal goals and strategies for participants to implement to achieve their goals.

By attending the follow-up workshops, participants are able to share the progress of their action plans and track changes to their health, wellbeing and safety results.

100% practical, 100% applicable and 100% understandable’

Queensland farmer

‘Without a doubt – this program empowered me’

New South Wales farmer

Evidence based research

The SFF™ program is a strong and effective tool with an evidence base which demonstrates that the program increases farm family’s knowledge and skills, while supporting them to change their lifestyle and reduce risk behaviours.

The research data and information collected as part of the program provides critical insight to the relationships between the farmer, their health, their farm and farming sustainability.

The program has been showcased as an innovative approach to long-standing rural health issues, and has been recognised with numerous awards.

In 2015, the program was embraced by the Farm Safety Center in Alberta, Canada and has successfully been transferred and delivered to over 1490 farm men, women and agricultural workers across Alberta.

The program fits well in the community and primary health portfolio because it:

  • Integrates health promotion with improved outcomes for the farming community.
  • Creates supportive environments for health as a result of personal skills development and strengthened community action.
  • Expands service options and access to information to support self-management.
  • Takes a coordinated approach to chronic disease management.
  • Promotes service coordination.
  • Values the participation of farm families in the continuous improvement of the program.

SFF™ program delivery locations

Important Information

Program enquiries

For any enquiries regarding the Sustainable Farm Families™ Program, please contact:

Tracey Hatherell
Program Manager
03 5551 8533
  1. SFF Programs
  2. What participants say
  3. What health and rural professional say