Farm Visitors

Protect Visitors on the Farm

Updated August 3, 2016 . AmFam Team

Whether you’ve got a pumpkin patch, pony rides or barnyard tours, make your farm as safe as possible for your guests with this handy guide.

Agritourism — where agriculture and tourism meet to provide an exciting experience for those who want to get their hands a little dirty. You may transform your working farm into an agritourism destination because you want to provide an educational opportunity for the public. Or you might do it as a way to supplement income in the off-season. Either way, agritourism is a booming business and becoming an increasingly popular industry. And why wouldn’t it be? Picking fresh fruit and vegetables, hayrides, interacting with animals and everything in between gives people the chance to experience the incredible work you get to enjoy every day.

Showcasing your hard work is fun, but it’s also important to make sure the fun is done safely. Often, guests are inexperienced with farms, and many guests include young children, which is why it’s so important to make sure you put the right practices into place to keep guests protected from potential hazards when visiting. Use this guide to keep all of your visitors — young and old — safe on the farm.

Proactive Protection

Stay on top of insurance needs. Using your farm for agritourism might call for a special endorsement or separate policy from your farm coverage. Consider farm/ranch umbrella liability insurance, too, which gives you an extra layer of liability protection on top of your primary farm/ranch policy’s liability limits. Also, you’ll need to get certificates of insurance and additional insured status if hiring another company to provide a service (for example, transportation/food truck). Make it a priority to check with your insurance agent so you’re confident you’re properly covered.

Consider waivers. Be proactive about protecting yourself from potential liability by requiring visitors to sign waivers. A signed waiver can help you avoid possible lawsuits if a guest is injured or harmed during a visit. Of course, waivers shouldn’t be your sole method of protection, and they’re not always 100% effective, but they can give you added protection on top of your insurance. Consult with an attorney for specific language to use in your waiver.

Keep it clean. Keeping your farm well-maintained can make a big difference to your guests. Keep the grounds tidy and mowed, and prevent trips, slips and falls by having clear paths throughout your farm. Make walkways as smooth as possible by filling in any holes and removing debris. Also be sure to add sturdy handrails to any stairs or above grade platforms. And provide sanitary restrooms and handwashing stations so guests can clean up after touching any animals.

Store safe. It’s important to store all machinery, equipment and tools out of the way of guests — especially curious children. If you’d like to put machinery and equipment on display, that’s A-OK — just be smart about it. If you allow guests to view the equipment, it’s best to have an employee who is familiar with it to supervise the action.

Inspect regularly. One of the best ways to manage risks on your farm is to inspect it regularly. Walk around all areas that could be accessible to visitors (even the areas you post as off limits) and keep a detailed log of any safety concerns you discover and when you corrected the hazard.

Have a Plan, Be Prepared

Emergency preparation. An emergency response plan and training can give you peace of mind that you’re prepared in case the unexpected were to occur. This could include things like inviting local first responders to tour the farm, capturing contact information for farm owners/employees, drawing a farm map, detailing important locations and locations of equipment (first aid, fire extinguisher, etc.), and keeping a current list of emergency contacts.

Train your employees. To better ensure the safety of your guests, train your employees how to respond in the event of an emergency. They should know basic first aid and CPR, and be trained on the use of the Incident Policy and Incident Report forms. Also, employees should know a fire evacuation and safety plan so they can assist guests if something were to occur. Before opening the gates and letting visitors in, make sure your employees are well informed and on top of their game.

Keep an eye on weather. As a farmer, you know that weather can be unpredictable. Have an operational weather radio that is frequently monitored, and equip your farm with a sturdy shelter that can house the guests from potential weather hazards. Your employees should also be trained to know when your guests should take shelter, as well as which areas to avoid during bad weather.

First-aid kit. A first-aid kit isn’t much use if it’s not stocked with the essentials. Make sure a kit is inspected regularly, has adequate supplies, and is easily accessible by all employees. Have a number of first-aid kits stashed around the farm so they’re always on hand in case of emergency.

Be Thorough, Be Direct

Post signs. Creating signage is probably the simplest way to create a safe environment on your farm. Be sure to create signs with clear language and include images if possible. You can make signs that feature your farm’s rules, warning signs for any hazards, information in case of an emergency, and clearly mark any areas that are off limits. It’ll also be helpful for your guests if you post signs directing them where eat, enter and exit the property. Remember to put the signs in clear view and to replace old signs when needed. Clearly posted rules equals lower risk! Some states have limited liability laws for agritourism and require posting of the sign to be eligible — check your local laws and ordinances.

Control traffic. Minimize headaches for your guests, neighbors and other drivers by clearly marking where visitors should park. That way, you’ll reduce the risk of illegal parking and congestion. Also keep in mind that many visitors may not have experience driving near farm vehicles, so try to direct them towards roads and areas that reduce risk of contact.

Think like a kid. Let’s be honest, kids create mischief — so it’s best to be one step ahead of them. Survey your farm through the eyes of a child, and see if you can spot any accidents waiting to happen. Think about open water, stacked bales of hay, machinery, fences, ladders and animals — and be sure to minimize risk by removing any potential for injury, adding warning signage, or roping off that section of your farm.

Animal behavior. You work with your animals every single day, so you know their temperaments and routines. However, a guest won’t have this familiarity. If visitors will be interacting with animals or if they’ll be in their vicinity, have clear rules and expectations in place. If people will be riding the animals, like horses, it’s especially important they sign a liability waiver that says they understand the potential risks of riding. Here are some tips for farm animal safety.

Opening your farm up to guests is a great way to introduce farming to the general public — there is much to learn and discover through agritourism! But it’s important you have a safe space for people to come explore. Implementing these safety strategies into your daily operation will help you manage risks on your farm and provide a fun, safe and educational experience for your guests.

To make sure you’ve got your insurance needs in order, connect with an agent (Opens in a new tab) and set up a personal insurance review. That way you’ll be all set for a safe and exciting season!

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    Creating the website. You’ll need to decide if you want to hire someone to create your website or if you plan on crafting one yourself. Many sites exist that make it super easy to create and maintain your own website — and most of them are even free to use! If you choose to have someone develop a website for you, make sure it implements a content management system so you can update the site yourself. This way, you can easily keep things relevant without always having to go back to the designer (and pay them) to make changes.

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    Newsletter content. A good rule of thumb to follow is to include content that’s 90% educational and 10% promotional. Chances are the person who subscribed to your e-newsletter wants to get to know your business better and continue to stay informed — not be pushed to buy something. Providing educational, relevant information builds trust between your reader and your business. Here are some ideas for content you might include:

    • Whether you sell meat or vegetables, recipes are a fun way to mix your product with something useful to the consumer. It may even encourage a customer to buy your product.
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    • If you offer volunteer opportunities, include how to volunteer and/or a testimony from a previous volunteer.
    • Will you be at a farmer’s market or farming expo? Be sure to list anywhere you plan on appearing as vendors.
    • Reward your subscribers with a discount or coupon every now and then to show you appreciate their business.
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    There’s no end to the content you can include in your newsletter, but most importantly, make sure it’s relevant and have an understanding what your reader is looking for.

    Newsletter design. A newsletter can be sent by mail, email or included on your website. Our suggestion is to send your subscribers an email as well as include a web page for your newsletters on your website. That way non-subscribers can view the newsletter and hopefully become subscribers! Here are a few things to keep in mind for the layout of your newsletter:

    • Create a header at the top of the page that includes the title of your newsletter, your company name and logo.
    • Use subheadings to organize and break up the pieces of content. A subhead should be smaller than your main heading and bigger than the text you use for your content blocks.
    • Choose a color scheme. If you have a brand logo, defer to those colors.
    • The legibility of your newsletter is very important, so stick to one or two fonts, since too many fonts can give a disorganized look.
    • Have a balance of images and text. An image grabs a reader’s attention and offers a visually appealing element to your newsletter. It can be used to break up the page so as to not overwhelm the reader with too much content.
    • Don’t create a five-page newsletter. Keep it to a page or two. The newsletter is designed to provide quick, digestible information that grabs your reader’s attention.

    Newsletter frequency. How often should you send your newsletter? Most people choose to send a weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter. It all comes down to your own personal goals and what your business offers. If you have a lot of events happening on your farm or are very customer-focused, sending a weekly newsletter is a good idea. If you don’t think you’ll have much time to put into a weekly newsletter, go for the quarterly and make sure to spend time filling it with all the great things that have gone over the last three months. A monthly newsletter is a good, doable balance for busy farmers who need to keep their customers updated but don’t have a lot of time.

    Just remember — your newsletter is meant to attract your target audience and give them a reason to stick with you. Do what’s realistic for your business and have fun with it!

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    A thought-out, well-run digital presence can benefit your farm in many ways. With the right goals and strategy in place, you can give your farm a digital edge. Your next steps? Go dig around the Internet and do some research. What kinds of farming websites exist? What kind of information do other farms include in their e-newsletters? Start following some successful farm’s on social media. Take a look at what already exists on the web to gain ideas on what might work or not work for your own strategy.

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