Have you considered ways to diversify your farm operation to generate income? Many families explore options for farm activities that invite the public onto their farm. In Pennsylvania, some of those activities include u-pick fruits and vegetables, community supported agriculture (CSA) pickup, corn mazes, hay rides, etc. As a business owner, one of your primary goals should be to maximize the fun and attraction to your agritourism operation while minimizing liability risks.
The most complete resource available to producers about ways to reduce hazards on their agricultural operation was developed by the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. A program titled ‘Integrating Safety into Agritourism’ is available on their website and offers three main resources including walkthroughs, checklists, and resources. The walkthrough section is an interactive option which shows photos and asks questions about the photo. Checklists can be printed and used to help identify hazards and resources including signs that can be printed and posted. Below are three sample topics found on the website along with many more topics:
Walkways, Surfaces and Structures
A topic that is relevant to all agritourism operations is walkways, surfaces, and structures. All of these areas can change on a daily basis because of weather, excessive people traffic, etc. Have someone check walkways at least daily for debris and garbage which could be a tripping hazard. For surfaces, is there a playground at your farm for visitors and does it have the recommended amount of groundcover under and around the playground equipment? Never assume that people will do what you think they should but rather provide signs that instruct people exactly what to do (e.g., how to feed the animals at the petting zoo, wash hands after the petting zoo and before eating and drinking,), where to go, and hazard warnings (e.g., post storage areas that are off limits to visitors,). The Integrating Safety into Agritourism website even offers signs that can be printed for use at your business.
Traffic and Parking
Signs that are large and easy to read with the name of your farm business should be located approximately one half mile from the farm entrance. These signs should be located in each direction and checked periodically to make sure they are still in the correct location and that nothing is blocking the sign (e.g., tall grass,). Once visitors arrive at your farm operation, is the parking area clearly marked? Examine your parking area to make sure entrances and exits are clearly marked, people know where to park and there are adequate parking spaces.
Emergency Preparedness and Planning
Do you have a first aid kit at your farm operation and is it inspected and re-stocked on a monthly basis? Post signs to alert visitors on the location of the first aid kits. Have available and instruct employees to complete an incident report for any incident that involves an injury to an employee or visitor or damage to property. In the event of an emergency, is there a communication plan in place for your employees? Employees can use cell phones or two-way radios to contact emergency personnel or other workers on the farm.
These three topics are a small sample of the recommendations and resources available through the ‘Integrating Safety into Agritourism’ website. Walk through your farm operation and use this information to look at your agritourism business with a fresh perspective to reduce the risk of hazards. Help make this a safe and productive season at your farm operation!