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Agritourism safety tips

From apple picking at a pick-your-own operation to pumpkin patches complete with hayrides and corn mazes, consumer interest in agritourism is high this time of year. Farm operators need to make sure that they are not only prepared for the additional traffic, but that their operations are prepared for safety, according to safety experts from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Agritourism is a significant and growing industry for farmers, said Eric Barrett, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

Between wineries, fall pumpkin farms, pick-your-own farms and other types of agritourism operations, there are hundreds of thousands of visitors to Ohio’s farms each year, many of whom may not be as familiar with farms or farm safety, he said. And while visits to farm operations that also offer agritourism is a year-round activity for many farmers, October is typically the busiest time for the industry, Barrett said.

Starting in spring with fruits like strawberries and blueberries, as well as farmers markets, going all the way to wintertime pick-your-own Christmas trees, any farmer that has visitors to his or her operations needs to think about the safety aspect, he said.

“October tends to be the peak time of year with apple picking, pumpkin picking, people taking hayrides, going into corn mazes,” Barrett said. “So even something as simple as having hand washing stations, to warning people that there may be uneven ground in the pumpkin patches and making sure little kids don’t run off, famers have to think safety for those who are coming to their farms.

“One of the biggest challenges is that agritourism can be like a festival with large attendance numbers on the farms, so you have to add that extra level of safety.”

To that end, members of the college’s agriculture safety team are promoting “u-pick” safety tips to help protect visitors, workers and farm families from farm-related injuries. The tips are applicable to farmers, producers, business owners and anyone who operates farm markets, pick-your-own operations, wineries, farmers markets or festivals, said Kathy Mann, an OSU Extension program coordinator in agricultural safety and health.

“Agritourism has been a great way that many farm families have been able to earn additional income and a great way to get people to better understand agriculture and learn more about farmers and agriculture,” she said. “But because these activities bring many visitors to the farm — many of whom have little experience with the hazards that exist on a farm — it is important that the safety of these visitors along with employees be of utmost concern for the farm operators.”

The tips are very easy, inexpensive and fairly universal guidelines to follow with the overall goal of making sure those visitors are safe while they are on the farm, Mann said.

“That can be as simple as making sure that they aren’t around farm machinery that can be hazardous to making sure that farm workers are trained in first aid,” she said.

Some safety tips for farm operators include:

• Plan hayride and sleigh ride routes so they do not cross public roads or highways.

• Ensure that any tractor pulling a hay wagon weighs more than the gross weight of the heaviest wagon it will tow.

• Tow only one wagon at a time.

• Train workers in first aid and CPR through a local certifying agency.

• Workers should be able to recognize visitors who show signs of weather-related distress or the onset of a possible medical condition and take appropriate action.

• Invite your local fire department to do a site visit to ensure that your operation provides appropriate access for emergency response vehicles.

• Have an emergency response plan with detailed information pertaining to emergency contacts, actions to take during various emergencies such as fires and inclement weather, and location of first aid kits and fire extinguishers.

Consumers also need to be aware of safety precautions to ensure they enjoy their farm visits without injury, Mann said.

Tips for visitors include:

• Obey any posted rules for the operation.

• Obey smoking policies, which could include a “No Smoking” policy on the grounds, or designated smoking areas.

• Use handwashing stations when exiting petting zoo areas to prevent the spread of germs.

• Stay seated at all times during hayrides or sleigh rides.

• Stay out of restricted areas such as around machinery, open water and chemicals.

• Follow communicated directions in the case of inclement weather.

More information on agriculture safety can be found at http://agsafety.osu.edu.

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