Are You Properly Insured?

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When you throw agritourism into the mix, farms aren’t just farms anymore. They’re more like amusement parks, and a farm that has potentially thousands of visitors in a year will need a much different insurance policy than a farm that’s not open to the public.

Know Your Business
ERIC Toftegaard of Tompkins Insurance says growers need to know their
risks:
What areas of your business are the most accident prone?
What safeguards do you have in place?
Do you have accident plans in place?
Do your employees know what to do if there’s an accident? (fire, lightning storm, falls, animal bites, etc.)
Are these things documented, and do
employees sign off on them?

Eric Toftegaard, account executive, commercial lines, for New York-based Tompkins Insurance, says it’s important for growers to understand the risks they face when opening their farms to the public. “With agritourism, you’re putting people who are not used to being around farms on your farm. Therefore, you get kids who are excited and parents who are not often used to having their kids have 10 acres to run on,” he says. “You get the normal stuff — slips and falls, which are pretty common.”

However, he adds, a lot of farms tend to “self insure” and not carry as high a limit as they should. “You’re taking two completely polar opposite things — an amusement park, which has all sorts of safety features, procedures, medical staffs, and waivers, and you’re crossing that with a farm, which typically has nobody on it, and has a lot of machinery that is big, bulky, and dangerous,” he says. It’s paramount that growers think about how much they’re worth, the risks involved in agritourism, and how much liability they might need in the event of an accident.

Make Proper Assessments
One of the biggest mistakes Toftegaard says he sees growers make in regard to their insurance policies is not properly assessing what they have. A farm that has animatronics, jumping pillows, rat wheels, and other kinds of games and rides is going to need a much different policy from a standard farm, for example.

On top of that, Toftegaard says agritourism is uncharted water for a lot of insurance companies. “It hasn’t been around for a long time, and there’s not a lot of data or research that they can go by, because it’s so new,” he says.

The best thing agritourism operators can do to make sure they’re protected, says Toftegaard, is sit down with a broker or agent who really understands the business, the culture of the people in the area, the target market for customers, and also how to help with more than just insurance. “You need someone who can tell you what information you should get if somebody falls and gets hurt — someone who knows how to create procedures and can offer advice,” he explains.

You should also be careful not to sell yourself short, Toftegaard says. “The more things you’re doing — offering cooking on the premises, for example, — that all comes with more premiums,” he says. “When you add the pumpkin cannons and jumping pillows and bring 25,000 people on your property, you’re no longer just a farm.”

Ann-Marie Vazzano was managing editor of American Fruit Grower magazine, a Meister publication.

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