by Emma Garrison, Bilingual Agricultural Safety Educator, The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health
Each year, more and more farm owners welcome eager and curious visitors onto their farms. The nation’s agritourism industry has grown significantly in recent years, mostly in response to consumers becoming increasingly concerned about how and where their food is produced. Millions of agricultural tourists visit thousands of farms each year to harvest their own produce, learn more about agriculture, enjoy hay rides through pumpkin patches, and much more. Frequent visitors include small children and older adults with little to no experience on farms. What this means for you — the farm owner and agritourism operator — is that you must consider a wide range of potential safety and health concerns for guests of all ages. To ensure visitors leave your farm with nothing but a new found knowledge of food production and an abundance of fresh produce, farm safety experts have weighed in to offer a few simple safety guidelines for your agritourism operation.
Post plenty of signs: Effective signage is simple and short and often includes some sort of self-explanatory pictogram that small children can easily understand. Replace weathered signs and don’t let overgrown brush cover up any of these important safety messages. It is also recommended that farms post “In Case of Emergency” signs with the farm’s emergency contact, phone number, and the farm’s physical address in case emergency responders need to locate the farm in a hurry.
Store your tools and machinery: Some farms may chose to put machinery, vehicles and other tools on display for visitors to admire. While this can be educational and exciting for many visitors, they also pose a very tempting safety risk, particularly for children. Even if the vehicles or machinery are shut off or parked, they can still pose a plethora of risks including falling, tripping and crushing hazards. In the case that children and other guests are permitted to climb on and explore the equipment, it is recommended that an employee who is familiar with the equipment is supervising.
Clearly designate parking areas and control traffic flow: Identify parking areas with highly visible signage about a half mile before visitors even arrive at the farm. This will help prevent motorists from parking illegally on roads or in places that will inhibit the farm’s traffic flow. If possible, direct visitor traffic away from roads that are most frequently used by farm vehicles and large machinery, as many motorists and pedestrian visitors may be unfamiliar with how to safely yield to these types of slow moving vehicles.
Fill in the potholes and clearly mark pedestrian walkways: Do your best to prevent slips, trips and falls by ensuring that all areas where visitors will be traveling by foot are mostly level, free of clutter, and void of potholes. Walkways should easily funnel visitors from one attraction to the next by using signage to clearly marked paths. Any stairs on these walkways should have well-built handrails.
Be mindful of “attractive nuisances”: An attractive nuisance is a “place or object on the farm that unintentionally attracts children” and presents a significant safety hazard. For example, open ponds, stacked hay bales, farm machinery and unsecured ladders, are all considered attractive nuisances. If you haven’t already done so, survey your farm from a child’s eye view and do your best to secure all potential attractive nuisances, as they are accidents just waiting to happen.
To learn more about how to design an agritourism operation that has carefully considered every aspect of visitor health and safety, visit the Marshfield Clinic’s website at: www.marshfieldresearch.org/nccrahs/agritourism. Here you will find agritourism safety checklists and handbooks created by a team of farm safety researchers and experts.