Sheep shearing demonstration © David Evington© David Evington

Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts offer free advice on legal, finance, tax, insurance, farm management and land issues.

Here Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist, NFU Mutual – offers guidance on opening the farm to school visits.

See also: Business Clinic: Cattle on road cause big insurance claim

Q I’m considering showing children from a local school round the farm. I think we have a good story to tell and if things go well we may consider opening the farm to boost our income.

What are the insurance implications and what should we do to prepare for visitors?   

A Farmers can sometimes overlook the potential hazards everyday activities can present to the public.

Sensible safety precautions are needed, alongside insurance to protect farmers in case legal action follows an accident.

Insurers will study plans for open farm ventures very carefully. They are likely to want detailed information about the enterprise, from parking facilities, access to potentially hazardous areas, how contact with livestock will be managed, to how normal farming activities such as tractor movements through the yard will be managed.

tim price
Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist, NFU Mutual

Any vehicles used to transport visitors will also need to be suitable, driven by specially trained staff and insured for this purpose.

Insurance

Consult your insurer very early in the planning process.

This can help ensure that insurance will be available before money is spent, and enable any insurer’s requirements such as fencing of hazards, signage or access restrictions to be built into the plans.

Consider bringing a risk management consultant in to survey the farm. A fresh pair of eyes will pick up potential hazards such as poorly stacked hay, tractor tyres leant against walls, or inadequate fencing round slurry lagoons and ponds.

Commitment to risk management is also important so you can demonstrate efforts made to protect the public.

Insurers tend to be more relaxed about one-off events without charges to the public, such as Open Farm Sunday (OFS). Some extend farms’ public liability insurance cover for OFS without charging an extra premium.

Even so, contact you insurer well ahead of the event to talk through your plans and ensure they are comfortable with them.

Thorough preparation is vital for a one-off visit to minimise risk to the visiting public.

Farm open day checklist

  • Decide which areas of the farm you want people to visit. Make sure routes around the farm divert visitors from dangerous areas such as working machinery, chemical stores, slurry lagoons, grain stores, silage pits, etc. Access to danger areas must be prohibited.
  • Keep the farm as clean possible and ensure areas to which visitors have access are kept free from any build-up of faeces.
  • If visitors are to be allowed to pet and feed animals, adequate supervision must be provided in contact areas. If you do not wish visitors to have contact with animals, either arrange routes away from areas where animals are kept or install double fencing.
  • Information signs can help inform of danger but do not negate the need for adequate supervision. Such signs may remind visitors of the need for good hygiene, and request that they only eat or drink in designated areas.
  • Everyone involved in hosting the visit must be trained and instructed on what visitors should or should not do. Segregate any farming operations and plan car parking carefully to ensure visitors do not cross the path of farm vehicles. Warn delivery vehicles of the visit.
  • Children are naturally curious and can often get into apparently inaccessible places. Parents have a particular responsibility to prevent their children straying into risk areas but you must take responsibility for the safety of visitors to your site.
  • Where visitors are encouraged to contact animals you need to provide washing facilities – warm running water, liquid soaps and paper towels. Buckets or troughs of water used by several people are not suitable, nor are cleansing wipes.

The information provided in these articles does not constitute definitive professional advice and is provided for general information purposes only.


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