Getting started, safety, insurance, farmstays, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Agriculture Marketing Resource Center
There is a great deal of interest in agri-tourism. People are looking for an authentic experience that might link them to their past or an opportunity to learn something new. Experiences can be varied from U-pick to harvest festivals to a farm bed & breakfast to a farm restaurant to day camps for kids. Three key basics to agri-tourism are: have something for people to see, something for them to do, and something for them to buy. Expanding farm operations to include agri-tourism can be a means to increase farm income. Seneca County is known for the Cayuga and Seneca Lake Wine Trails. Visitors enjoy coming to the county to partake of the wine produced in the area and immerse themselves in the lake views.
Getting started in a new venture is risky. Before investing money, time, and energy into an agri-tourism venture, farm operators should complete personal, market, project feasibility, and financial evaluation. Think about resources of the farm that can support agri-tourism and think about the experience that your customer desires to have. Agri-tourism brings people to your farm. Farmers, their families and the people hired to conduct the agri-tourism activities need to enjoy working with people and have the flexibility and problem solving capabilities as situations might arise. Farm operators also need to honestly evaluate the curbside appeal of the farm. Even though people desire to visit a working farm, buildings should be well-maintained and painted, parking areas well-drained, driveways free of mud, and animals free of manure, etc.
Getting Started in Agri-tourism provides information on getting started with agri-tourism, visitor expectations, customer relations, income sources, liability issues, and marketing.
Considerations for Agri-tourism Development provides information on planning a tourism business but also includes several case studies of farm businesses, agricultural events and opportunities for regional agri-tourism efforts.
Entertainment Farming and Agri-Tourism provides suggestions on educational tours, historical recreation, processing demonstrations, crop art, festivals, pageants, special events, farm schools, educational workshops and activities, petting zoos, accommodations for outdoor sports enthusiasts and naturalists, and farm stores.
Taking the First Step: Farm and Ranch Alternative Enterprise and Agritourism Resource Evaluation Guide provides extensive information on how to evaluate the resources on the farm for an agri-tourism enterprise along with information on marketing the business, and liability considerations.
Customer safety is critical to the success of any agri-tourism enterprise or event. By default if a person with an agri-tourism adequately addresses safety issues of children they will address most, if not all safety concerns of adults.
Agritourism Health and Safety Guidelines for Children provides background on providing a safe tourist experience. The publication includes among other things a sample inspection and repair checklist, safety strategies for children based on their age, how to communicate the health and safety message, traffic management, fencing, machinery and animal safety, pond and water safety recommendations, food safety and hygiene.
Policies and Procedures Guide Supplement A: Policies and Procedures Guide will help agri-tourism operators and workers prepare and plan for emergencies, pre-arranged visits by groups, documentation, supervision of children, proper hand-washing, traffic and parking, fires, tractors and display equipment, locations for barriers and fencing, pest control and hayride operations.
Worksite Guide Supplement B to Agrito urism Health and Safety Guidelines for Children will help agri-tourism operators check the operation’s preparedness for emergencies, communication with guests, animals and hand-washing, fires, tractors and display equipment, walkways and structures, barriers and fencing, recordkeeping, food handling, and hayride and corn maze operations. It contains checklists to help agri-tourism operators perform a hazard identification walk through to view and correct hazards before visits by guests.
Insurance requirements may change as farm operators engage in agri-tourism activities. Navigating the Insurance Maze provides some basics on liability, forms of insurance and questions that you might ask your insurance provider.
Farmstays are similar to bed and breakfast enterprises but located on a farm. FARMSTAY, Diversifying Your Farm Business Through Agri-tourism: A How-to Manual for Establishing a Farmstay in Minnesota provides elements of a farmstay and insights into operating and marketing of the enterprise.
Concerns can arise by neighbors, local government officials and others when a farm starts an agri-tourism venture. Traffic and noise might increase. Through time the business may start to look “more like a theme park” and “less like a farm.” The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets through NYS Agricultural Districts Law 25-AA protects most agri-tourism activities that support the marketing efforts of product produced on the farm up to certain thresholds. The Department has produced guidelines to help farmers and local officials understand the law related to agri-tourism activities. As requested, the Department reviews these activities on a case-by-case basis.
Guidelines for Review of Local Laws Affecting Direct Farm Marketing Activities notes that the activity will contribute to the production, preparation and marketing of crops, livestock, or livestock products. The activity must be used as part of a marketing strategy with the primary purpose of the activity to sell the farm’s products or services, not to serve as a recreational use of the land. If a farm is conducting on-farm special events and charging admission, facility rental, or vendor fees then the annual sales of the farm’s crops, livestock and livestock products must exceed the admission, rental, and vendor fees less the farm’s actual cost to offer the activity or hold the event. Farmers must keep sufficient records to prove that the requirement is met.
Guideline for Review of Local Laws Affecting Farm Distilleries, Breweries and Wineries indicates that on-farm wedding receptions, parties and special events are part of a farm operation under certain conditions. The per event sales of the farm’s distilled or brewed products, wine and wine-related products must exceed the fees charged for such activities. Farm distilleries, breweries and wineries must keep sufficient records to prove that this requirement is met. As requested the Department reviews these activities on a case-by-case basis.
The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center has an exhaustive list of resources useful for people who want to start or expand an agri-tourism enterprise.
Page content compiled by Derek Simmonds, Agricultural Economic Development Specialist at CCE-Seneca County.
Last updated March 27, 2020