Growing up on a farm I learned that a farm can be dangerous. I was not allowed to feed the animals alone and it was important to keep a barrier between me and the hungry animals. Safety issues are not new to farm life, but growing numbers of visitors to farms today has promoted some states to pass laws related to agritourism.
Nationwide, more people are visiting farms who have no knowledge of farm safety. In the United States, agritourism has grown 42% from 2007 to 2012 and in Louisiana our numbers have more than doubled. Visitors are eager to see a farm but sometimes in their excitement they fail to listen to the rules of the farm, thereby creating safety issues.
With visitors today having no knowledge of farm safety, it is imperative for agritourism professionals to seek ways to protect them. As a general rule, most visitors today do not understand machinery, animals or farm safety in general. It is important that visitors to a farm have an educated and protective guide.
Over the last few months, the media has mentioned agritourism accidents in Maine and New Jersey. These accidents could have been prevented if the agritourism operator had followed proper guidelines. In Louisiana, our agritourism limited liability law passed in 2008 specifies a plan for safety.
Agritourism professionals as defined by the Agritourism Limited Liability Law (R.S. 9:2795.4) are required to create a plan to ensure the safety of their visitors. This plan known as a “plan of operation” lists activities (i.e.: animal alley, garden spot and pig races), their risks, suggestions for minimizing risks and a plan for the location of warning signs. All these elements help insure the safety of visitors to the farm.
The requirement to complete a plan of operation differentiates the Louisiana Agritourism Limited Liability Law from others passed in the United States. It holds the agritourism professional accountable for planning safe, non-life threatening activities for their visitors. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry determines the list of approved agritourism activities and provides certification for applicants whose plans have been reviewed and approved by the LSU AgCenter. To learn more about the application process visit the LSU AgCenter’s agritourism website: www.lsuagcenter.com/agritouirsm click on “Agritourism Certification Steps.”
Louisiana certified agritouirsm operations have complied with suggestions in the LSU AgCenter’s publication, “Agritourism: Best Management Practices and Plan of Operation”, to keep their visitors safe. This guide can be found at www.lsuagcenter.com/agritourism. Other creditable sources can be found at the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in Marshfield, Wisconsin online at https://www3.marshfieldclinic.org/
Together with knowledge and the desire for agritourism professionals to seek all safety precautions, Louisiana farms are ready to open their doors for fall tours. To learn more about agritouirsm in our state or how you can become a certified agritourism operator contact: Dora Ann Hatch, area agritourism coordinator with the LSU Agcenter.