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How to safely run an agritainment operation this fall season

Post written by: Lisa Kirby, AINS, AFIS

Pumpkin patch_hay rideFrom corn mazes to hayrides, opening your farm to the public for fall-themed activities can add a new revenue stream to your business. But doing so also presents risks if you fail to take measures to keep people safe.

If someone is injured on your farm, the toll on your business in the form of lawsuits and liability could be extensive.

For example, suppose a client made a catapult used to sling melons and pumpkins into the sky past a line of trees and into the woods. Let’s also suppose an unaware bystander in the woods was hit by a pumpkin and seriously injured. If your client had secured the landing sites, posted signage, roped off target areas and used lookouts to spot wayward pedestrians, they could have avoided the ensuing lawsuit and expenses.

Here are some other tips to minimize the safety risks associated with agritainment activities.

Petting zoos

Bunnies, chicks, goats and other small animals are cute, but they can nibble or butt children, causing minor injuries. More seriously, petting zoos can pose a salmonella risk if children (or adults) touch animals and then eat without washing their hands. To mitigate the risk, provide hand sanitizer or washing areas for visitors to use after interacting with animals, and post signage stating the health risk and encouraging cleanup. Even better, consider turning your petting zoo into an observation area, where visitors and animals are separated by a fence.

Hayrides

Hay bales can shift on bumpy trails or paths, so install safety rails on the wagon to protect people from falling off. Also keep slow-moving tractors off public roads to avoid the danger of other vehicles.

Bounce houses

While bounce houses are designed for jumping children, problems can occur when bigger kids (or adults) and smaller children play together. Limit the number of children using the bounce house at one time. In addition, set age or size limits, or section off the house to separate different ages and weights.

Other safety considerations

When opening your farm for agritainment, also keep in mind these general safety rules.

  • Post signs and enforce rules against smoking under any conditions.
  • Let police and firefighters – and your neighbors – know that there may be significant crowds.
  • Keep foot traffic out of areas with mounds, gopher holes or other obstacles. Remember, you’ll be hosting visitors of all ages and physical abilities.
  • Don’t let cars with hot exhaust pipes park near dry husks of corn or other harvested crops. Direct visitors to park vehicles on grounds that have been cut short and pose no threat of fire.

Fall is the perfect time to transform dormant fields into agritainment destinations. Follow these safety tips to ensure you provide a good — and safe — time for all.

Does your farm have any interesting stories about agritainment? If so, post your comment in the Comments section below.

For more information about the risks associated with agritainment ventures, contact your local independent insurance agent. For a list of independent agents in your area, click here.

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