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Visitors Add Risks and Rewards to Your Farm or Ranch

When you welcome visitors to your farm, vineyard or ranch, you also welcome risk. Yet agritourism affords small farms a growing business opportunity.

Depending on your interests and operations, the activities you promote can include equipment displays, rent-a-garden plots, barn dances, pick-your-own produce, corn mazes, hayrides, product sampling and more.

Develop a plan to avoid hazards

When you open your farm or ranch to visitors, you risk injuries from equipment, falls, animal bites, physical activities and more. But most of your guests will have little awareness or understanding of these risks. Even if you don’t charge for visits, you’re still liable if someone is injured or their personal property is damaged while you’re acting as their host.

In addition, a posted sign reading “Participate at your own risk” doesn’t absolve you of your responsibilities. And a signed liability waiver won’t prevent a person from filing a claim if they feel you are in the wrong (although these forms can be helpful during a court case to prove you tried to inform visitors of the risks).

Don’t assume that a risk that is obvious to you is obvious to others. Develop a comprehensive safety and risk management plan, starting with the basics.

  • Hold regular employee training sessions. Review how to handle emergencies, like hazardous spills, visitor injuries and weather-related dangers.
  • Cover visitor expectations and safety rules at the beginning of every guest visit.
  • Regularly inspect your property and equipment. Include employees in these inspections.
  • Regularly maintain equipment, machines, buildings and other property features like fencing or irrigation.
  • Clearly label any obstacles, hazards, restricted areas or damaged property.
  • Schedule appropriate veterinary visits to prevent and treat injuries and diseases.
  • Supervise all animal interactions and do not allow visitors to climb on machinery.
  • Follow safe food-handling rules and labeling requirements.
  • Prominently display all food allergens on signs and labeling.
  • Provide safe parking areas with clear signage.
  • Comply with all state and local regulations that apply to your chosen agritourism activities.

Above all, remember that you set the example. Put safety at the forefront of your own work. Take time to observe and reward employees who also make safety a priority. Thank them for their safety mindset.

Once you’ve identified and addressed your known risks, it’s time to discuss insurance.

Choosing the right agritourism insurance

You may already have crop insurance as a safety net for crop losses. Other insurance covers your barns, equipment or employees. But you’ll need additional insurance before inviting visitors to tour your operations, purchase products or participate in activities.

Think of agritourism as an entirely new business for you. Before anyone steps foot on your property, ask your insurance professional to help you find risks you overlooked and advise you on the coverage you need to protect your business. This kind of commercial insurance includes multiple policy types often grouped under the term “agritourism insurance.” This can usually be added to your existing farm policies as endorsements. If not, they can be added as stand-alone policies.

Given the range of activities you may offer, such as Christmas tree cutting, overnight camping, horseback riding, wine tasting, animal petting areas, hunting or skeet shooting, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, the goal is to identify and address any on-premises activities that are not part of regular farming or ranching operations, as these could be expressly excluded from your standard farm policy. You should also check if guest participation in regular operations requires changes to your insurance coverage.

Dig into the details

Your insurance agent will need to understand exactly what you envision for your agritourism enterprise.

  • Will you offer regular tours or simply invite people for a few special activities during harvests or the holidays?
  • Will visitors watch or participate in chores?
  • What equipment be accessible or in use during visits?
  • Will animals be part of the activities? Will guests be able to touch animals on your property?
  • Will visitors have access to all areas of your property? Will they be supervised or free to wander on their own?
  • Will you include a safety talk, post rules and provide safety equipment?

The details you provide are important because each activity comes with unique liabilities. For example, certain risks are inherent with selling products from a farm stand: food contamination, allergens, loss of personal information if you process credit cards, etc. These risks might require product recall insurance, a foodborne illness policy or cyber liability insurance. And your general liability insurance policy may need to be written or adapted to cover visitor injuries by animals or farm equipment.

As you add activities notify your insurance agent. Curious visitors may ask to see more, but you’ll want to make sure your insurance still applies when you decide to open your barn doors or add new features to the experience.

Check your commercial property insurance

Agritourism can also impact your commercial property insurance. Say you upgrade your existing property or invest in new structures or equipment, such as a playground, tasting room, picnic area or parking shuttle. These should be added to your commercial property or commercial auto policy to cover any damage or losses.

Another example is specialized commercial kitchen equipment or refrigerated storage units. These should be included in an equipment breakdown policy. Depending on the scope of your agritourism operations, you may also want to add business income protection. This will help you avoid revenue shortfalls if you are forced to temporarily shut down your agritourism operations.

Workers’ compensation

Workers’ compensation coverage for all agricultural workers isn’t required in every state, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry it. Check if adding job responsibilities changes the requirements for individual employees, and don’t assume any exemptions extend to the new employees you might need for your agritourism activities.

Give us a call today! We can clarify your state’s regulations. We can also suggest the additional insurance you need for work-related injuries or illnesses that weren’t an issue before. If you use volunteers, ask how their injuries or illnesses would be covered, since workers’ compensation doesn’t necessarily apply to volunteers.