GR-MR-37-Host-a-farm-tour1312by Michael Wren
Hosting a tour or any other event for the public has its ups and downs. It requires a lot of planning and preparation, but if done successfully can reap huge benefits. Jayflora Designs recently held their second annual flower farm tour for members of the flower based CSA. This tour allows the members an inside look at the ins and outs of living and working on a flower farm. Owner of Jayflora Designs Jamie Sammons says, “It’s important for members to see how and where it’s grown. It makes it more personal.”
While it does wonders for her business, and members love coming down to her fields to see the makings of their next bouquets, it takes proper planning and preparation for any event to run smoothly.
Once you have decided on what type of event and what your target audience will be, it is important to let the world know about the event. For a CSA, it could all be accomplished by sending a letter, making a phone call, or putting a post on Facebook that the members are invited to the farm tour. However, if you are looking to make it a public event there are different ways in which you can market your event. Simple marketing techniques such as newspaper ads, Facebook posts, fliers, word of mouth, and signs can help make people aware of your event.
One thing to keep in mind as you are setting up for a public event are boundary limits, it is best to incorporate signs and fencing to let people know that some areas are off limits due to safety or privacy. Areas or equipment that you feel are clearly off limits or dangerous need a sign. Murphy’s Law holds true on farm tours and it is better to over prepare than to leave some things to chance. It is also a good idea to incorporate a map that shows where the main buildings or other landmarks are. While it does take a little time to make a good map, it will make it much easier for your group to get around.
Safety and insurance
Another key on a farm tour is making sure not only your guests are safe but that you yourself are protected from possible injuries sustained on your farm. The first step is to let them know that there are dangers associated with working on any type of farm. Next it is best to move sharp equipment or machinery out of the way and out of reach will help with minimizing injuries. Noting trip hazards and dangerous areas will help immensely in the long run. While you want the attendees to get a good feel for what you do on a day-to-day basis, it is better to be over cautious than under. Depending on your insurance plan coverage, preparation required will be different. Please call your insurance provider with questions.
Know who is coming and what they want
Knowing your audience and what they will be looking for will help your event come together. If they want to see the cuttings or starter trays, don’t bring them over to the compost pile. While many will already know what they want to see, it is a good idea to give other options and give the attendees as full of an experience as you can. While some people enjoy browsing and keep to themselves, it is a good idea to have a set tour schedule and let people know when and where the events will be held. Making a printed version of the schedule as well as a map will help cut down on potential confusion.
After the tour
After the festivities it is a good idea to have an immediate clean up. Keep in mind that this is your place of business and after the event you will still need to be working in the area. While people generally don’t actively try to make a mess, it is inevitable. Leaving up, or making some permanent signs or other boundary markers might be a good idea to in order to save time at the next event as well as offering more warning to employees or anybody else that happens to visit.
It may also be helpful for your next event if you have follow-up conversations with the attendees to see what they liked, or didn’t like and what could have been done to make their experience more enjoyable. A short survey at the end while the tour is still fresh in their minds may be a quick, easy way to do this.
Behind the scenes opportunity
Holding events like this gives consumers a chance to get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make the products they buy. This is why it is a good idea to be generally pleasant and follow Jamie’s advice, “The number one key is being the face of your business.” Allowing the public into your farm and helping them to understand what you really do day to day will help not only their perception of the farm but make them feel like they are a part of the farm life.