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From hayseed to hayride: How to address the risk exposures of the modern farm

“Old MacDonald” had a farm. And on that farm, he had a cow, a chicken, and acres of land — all of which he used to make money at the market.

The “new MacDonald” has a farm experience. There’s a corn maze here, a pick-your-own field there, here a hayride, there a petting zoo, everywhere some potential revenue.

Iso Farm Insurance Program

And the new MacDonald isn’t alone.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, agritourism (aka “agritainment”) is nearly a billion-dollar market, contributing $950 million to farm revenues—up from $704 million in 2012.1 As the Economic Research Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has noted, farms that offer “multiple opportunities for human interaction and visitor engagement” tend to “attract more visitors.”2

With the new attractions, however, come new risks. Most farms are designed for raising crops and livestock, not entertaining visitors.

Potential Risks

You don’t have to live on a farm to know some of the risks. Consider the following scenarios:

Unpaved paths: Most farms are covered with dirt or grass, not asphalt. While taking a tour or picking some fruit, a visitor could fall and break an ankle.

Animal licking: A group of children feeding animals in a petting zoo could contract bacterial infections. Some of those children could suffer from significant gastrointestinal pain, and a few might develop kidney and blood conditions.

Bumpy ride: A patron taking too bumpy of a hayride up a hill with the family could begin to develop neck pain. The pain might become chronic in nature.

Considering agritainment as a whole, one can probably count more than 40 types of income streams, each of which brings its own unique risks. There are horseback rides, haunted houses, concerts, wine tastings, and camps — and most have the potential to see injuries to children and adults. There are also farm stands, or stores, that sell not just the farm’s produce but cider donuts, sauces, and spreads. The potential for related liability for injury can rise as each of those products is added to the shelves.

Mitigation Measures

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help mitigate the risks. For example, farms with hayrides should carefully plan routes to avoid inclines that could make the wagon unstable. They should also inspect the wagon every day and make sure it’s sturdy and safe for passengers.

Farms that operate petting zoos may not be able to eliminate all potential for animal-borne disease, but farmers can set up washing and disinfecting stations next to every coop or pen. In addition, posted signs can notify visitors that those who feed animals are required to thereafter wash or otherwise sanitize their hands.

For farm tours, farmers can map out a tour path that’s kept clean and used by guides. If it’s a self-guided tour, they can install signs that clearly indicate the route and fence off areas that could be hazardous to visitors.

Coverage options and classifications

Because of the growth of agritainment and its potential risks, ISO has developed endorsements, and drilled-down risk classifications, to help insurers to customize their approach to insuring various agritainment exposures. The classifications in the ISO Farm Insurance Program apply to a wide range of activities, including bike riding, cross-country skiing, farm-related educational classes, and pick-your-own fruits and vegetables.

The endorsements address separate liability coverage, including bodily injury and property damage coverage, and property coverage with respect to the agritainment described in the endorsement.

The liability endorsements also address medical payments coverage.

To learn more about the ISO Farm Insurance program, please email info@iso.com.

  1. Christine Whitt, et. al., “Agritourism Allows Farms to Diversify and Has Potential Benefits for Rural Communities,” Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, November 4, 2019, < https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2019/november/agritourism-allows-farms-to-diversify-and-has-potential-benefits-for-rural-communities/ >, accessed on February 22, 2021.
  2. Ibid

Jamie Petersen

Jamie Petersen, AFIS, is farm product developer at Verisk. She can be reached at Jamie.Petersen@verisk.com.


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