The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 52,000 U.S. farms – or 2.5% of total farms – earn income from agritourism. The attractiveness of agritourism continues to grow as more consumers turn to local farmers and ranchers for fresh, organic or naturally grown products, as well as for interactive social, educational and outdoor activities.
The terms "agritourism" and "agritainment" encompass a spectrum of activities, ranging from on-farm stores to corn mazes. Petting zoos, haunted houses, hayrides and summer festivals are other examples of attractions that bring increasing numbers of urban dwellers onto farms for leisure, education and entertainment.
Rewards and risks
Besides the positive monetary impact, agritourism increases the public’s understanding of, and appreciation for, the role of farming in the American economy and food supply.
It’s important, however, for farmers to understand the increased liability that comes with inviting the public onto their premises. Legal responsibilities for agritourism exposures are unique.
"Studies have shown that farming is one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations," says Jerry Hillard, Nationwide AVP, Agribusiness Regional Sales. "That risk increases dramatically when producers market their farms to attract the public. And the risks are especially high when children are involved."
Talk to your insurance agent
Farmers who offer agritourism activities need to discuss their specific types of businesses with their insurance agent. "It's important they get coverage for the activities they conduct on their farm premises. Usually, the policy that provides liability for the farm business does not extend to liability from other profit-making activities," says Hillard.
"Nationwide's farm insurance operations is rooted in agriculture, with strong ties to the Farm Bureau. Our company recognizes we must make changes to continue properly serving our policyholders," adds Hillard. "We offer liability coverages that can be written as a package, in conjunction with a farm policy, to cover agritourism or agritainment ventures."