Agri-Tourism has gone on for decades. Huber’s Winery near Starlight and Huber and Family Restaurant, not related, also near there, are examples. But it’s only become a buzz word and popular within the last few years. Everything from corn mazes to on-farm meat sales and petting zoos help niche farmers cash in on their location. It’s most palatable to those living near big cities. The farm festivals and tours held by Kelsay Farms near Whiteland each spring and fall are prime example. Their farm is located about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis, right along Interstate 65.
One factor that held some back from trying these ventures was the liability and risk involved if someone should visit the farm or engage in a paid activity and become injured. While established operations had already researched liability coverage, and knew how much to carry, some who might become involved had held back, believing the risk and exposure might not be worth any possible profit or the hassle.
Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. helped promote a legislative bill in the Indiana General Assembly this year that could make it more palatable for those folks on the fence to try some agri-tourism venture. Basically it limits the liability of the property owner or sponsor of the event by making the participant aware in advance that there are inherent risks involved in visiting a farm event.
Surprisingly, the bill sailed through both the House and Senate, and is now law. “We were surprised and please with how easily this bill moved,” says Bob Kraft, legislative specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. “We feel it’s an important step as a boost to agri-tourism possibilities in the state.”
The new legislation does not eliminate the need for adequate liability coverage from a reputable insurance company if you’re going into one of these ventures. It also doesn’t help in cases of sheer negligence on part of the owner or operator of the farm and/or event.
It will require either posting of certain risks on signs in a location every visitor can see, or signing of a waiver paper by every visitor instead, Kraft says. The exact wording for how these disclosures are to read are spelled out in the bill.
This will help even large, established agri-tourism operations, Kraft says. But he adds that it should be an extra shot- in-the arm for those just beginning in this field.