Saturday, January 14, 2012

To Tour or Not to Tour; That is The Question (and the risk)

As seen in todays issue of

When folks call us to ask about our farm, its products, location, etc...they invariably ask the toughest question of all, "Do you give tours?"

The answer is indubitably Yes, unless of course it is No, not really. Why so wishy-washy? I'll have to refer you to our insurance carrier, who gets nervous about tours. Where we see opportunity to educate city dwellers, share techniques with other farmers and provide children with the means of touching a real live animal, she sees it as a lawsuit waiting to take root and spread faster than a pack of Morning Glory Seeds.

School children love the opportunity to visit farms and help with chores
Make sure the parents come along to help.

Her advice to us is to avoid labeling it a "Tour" and whatever you do, don't charge for it. Instead, she suggests, call it a "Walk-a-Bout" and inform people they can leave a donation if they so desire. If we do decide to give real tours it could cause our liability insurance to double. She also strongly recommends we have all farm visitors sign a waiver, something like this;

Thanks for visiting us. Farms are highly dangerous and could kill you. A cow might gore you in the abdomen, a boar might bite off your arm, a chicken might peck your eyes out and our milk could curdle in your stomach before you get back down the driveway. We are not responsible for anything. Have a great day.

Or something similar to that. We understand her concern, farms can be dangerous, but then again so is life in general. We hate to assume the worst of people, that they might sue us if our turkey pecks at their open-toed sandal (and WHY would you wear those to the farm?) and we love teaching them about the benefits of free range eggs and pastured meat. We really love seeing a child pet the soft warm nose of a newborn calf.

We're just strange that way.

Stranger than many of our own farmer friends who don't allow visitors for fear of disease that might be brought onto their farm from outside sources. I've been on a few farms like that where visitors wore more masks, booties and gloves than a medical team did prior to open heart surgery.

Allowing Graduate students and journalists to visit your
farm can be a real asset, unless you see it as a risk

How did farms and folks get so leery and untrustworthy of each other? How will we ever foster the love of farming in our youth, enough so that they might want to own or at least work on a farm of their own, if we don't allow them to touch the farms livestock or taste its produce before giving full disclaimers and 10 page liability waivers?

What do you do at your farm? Do you give tours? Do you charge a fee for them? Do you have visitors sign waivers? Do you carry extra insurance against injury claims?

Or do you just put up a huge NO TRESPASSING sign at the end of your driveway, and be done with it? I'd love to hear what you are doing about this on your farm and why. You can comment publicly here or send me an email at


  1. Way way way back in the 50's Dad wouldn't let anyone in his barn until they dipped their boots in a disinfectant. He really didn't want anyone in there but us. Things haven't changed I take it.

  2. I am a no trespassing sign kinda farm. But the reason is one not mentioned here. In our area farms have become an easy target for , shall we call them looters? The more people that pass through your property, the more who see just what you have. Most farms have some type of metal laying around that is often stolen to sell for scrap and some farmers have even lost their tractors to thieves. We all have fuel tanks to fuel our farm machinery and even with locks those are targets. Also if you have an ammonia tank, it is often burglarized since it is used in making crystal meth. What a world we live in! So we have to resort to ,if someone is on the property, they are most likely up to no good. This is a VERY sad state of affairs, but I feel it will just get worse as the economy continues to drop. Sigh.

  3. We don't have a "real" farm per se, but I would love it if one day it could bring in children from our local homeschooling group, for the same reasons you stated. Children NEED to know where that egg came from (from it's BUTT??!!) and that the burger they just ate WAS a living, breathing animal. But like Jane said, there is the looter thing to think of. That, and the fact that if he had his way, DH would line the driveway with land mines and laser guns to deter anybody silly enough to go past the "We don't dial 911" and "No Trespassing" signs.

    It's really such a shame.

    Oh, and the whole "lawyer" thing. So, it's ok if you call it a WalkAbout, but not a "Tour". Really? Come on, it's the SAME thing! Oh, and just sign this waiver and it'll be ok? How pathetic is it that our legal system (meaning crummy lawyers and immoral people who just want to sue somebody) can sue you for all you're worth because of how you WORDED your little farm show & tell? Insane!!

    Ugh! Must stop rant. Must think happy thoughts...
    Fuzzy chicks, soft calf nuzzling, newborn goat kids.....

  4. I had to take a whole course on farm liability when I got my degree. Since then, we have decided to do a lot of "Donations Accepted" activities, and invitation-only (church, homeschoolers, etc.) In addition, we are planning to design a "farm rules" sign to post in a nicely visible area, as well as hand out flyers containing all safety rules when we have events (like our farm day this summer). This gets the message out to everyone, and helps limit your liability since you did fairly warn guests. Our goal is to really utilize as much word-of-mouth advertising as possible, partly because we aren't zoned for running a big farm business, and partly because word-of-mouth actually provides quite a bit of protection for the farmer (customer often won't refer someone they don't trust, as they want to keep their farmer in business!). We have absolutely decided AGAINST the "sterile" mask/boots/shoe/covers type farm, and rather, we are striving to establish very hardy, healthy animals. Although, we do offer hand-sanitizer for the city-folk kids when they finish loving on the critters! I am looking forward to reading others comments, as this is something I am continually looking for ideas for!

  5. I also wanted to ad that we have found our dogs to be a great deterrent to people who make me nervous. If I am not completely confident about someone's character, I always make a point to have my dog running around. I have even gone so far as to mention how he knows that "when I am around, he's good, but he happily watches over the place if I'm not!" Just the sheer size of a dog like a GP will help in the looter area!

  6. Our ranch was wide open. Anyone could come in, anytime. They would drive in and holler and someone would come out to greet them. We had never heard the word 'liability'. Often, people came to visit and ended up staying for three days. What a different era!

  7. OK -- We do tours on the farm. Little different, as the most ferocious animals we have on the farm are old wet hens.

    1) Always always charge. Your time is valuable. There was a time that I did not ... did the tours and no one bought anything.

    Garden clubs do not buy cut flowers! Who knew???? I walked into the house, broke with 2 hours less time and bitter feelings.

    2) I do have a $1,000,000 liability insurance.

    3) I do provide hand-sanitizer.

    However, if you offer me a cookie while I am digging in the garden, I will wipe my hands on the butt of my jeans and eat the cookie. We are way too scared of good healthy farm soil!

    4) I no longer do tours without an appointment. I kind of set one day a week for tours. It works better .... I can focus ... and I can have some back-up help.

    5) Insurance companies are always nervous.

    I was at one ag-tourism seminar where the insurance specialist wanted all of us to private label jellies and jams from some huge mega-company that was using artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup.

    Obviously, he did not understand the term "farm to fork".

    That's my thoughts on it.

    Let me know if I can offer more insight.

  8. How would I get to the store without trespassing?

  9. We offered pasture walks. Our farm was pretty open to anyone who wandered down the driveway. We hosted groups from the local summer camp each week, young explorers and we were featured on the annual Secret Garden tour. (For some reason some folks were confused as to why a real farm would be on a garden tour!)
    We never charged but more often than not people insisted on paying us.
    I wouldn't want a farm where I had to police everyone to be sure they were wearing protective gear. Animals and people need to be exposed to germs. It helps develop the immune system and natural resistance.
    Animals, plants and people need to interact to promote a better understanding and appreciation of food.

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