Saturday, January 14, 2012

To Tour or Not to Tour: that is the Question (and the risk)

By Donna OShaughnessy AKA The Midlife Farmwife

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. I don't have an answer for you, but I share your ambiguity! Love that waiver, btw!

  2. Thanks Deborah, it's hard isn't it? We're doing wonderful things on our farms and want to share with others but risks are accumulating. Still, I will choose to trust in human nature as is very good.

  3. yes, we are struggling with the same dilema. we started a CSA last season and was asked by a nearby universary if the students could come by for a tour. we agreed. it was wonderful, although one student did get stung by one of our honeybees (totally a fluke--we almost never get stung, but she panicked and swatted). luckily, she had a good sense of humor about it. she also won the prize of our raw honey for the garden quiz i gave that prob helped. it was a good experience, for us and them, but we are unsure how to handle this issue too. i like calling it something different and i think the disclaimer is key. we dont charge, so that's not an issue, but the donations idea might be good if we continue the walk=abouts!! thanks for the input


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