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Agritourism Activities: Safety and Liability

We recently went to a farm for pumpkins, sunflowers and fall festivities. As we bounced up and down on the hayride, I started to think about the possible liabilities in "agritourism". I expect that inviting the public to your farm increases your liability and legal responsibilities. First, what is an agritourism activity? An "agritourism activity" is any agricultural related activity consistent with a bona fide farm or ranch or in a working forest which allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy activities, including farming, ranching, historical, cultural, or harvest-your-own activities and attractions. An agritourism activity does not include the construction of new or additional structures or facilities intended primarily to house, shelter, transport, or otherwise accommodate members of the general public. An activity is an agritourism activity regardless of whether the participant paid to participate in the activity. In 2013, Florida passed a law limiting the legal liability of landowners, agritourism operators, and employees for the inherent risks associated with the activity. This protection is afforded to those who post a notice of the risks. What is considered an inherent risk? Inherent risks of agritourism activity means those dangers or conditions that are an integral part of an agritourism activity including certain hazards, such as surface and subsurface conditions; natural conditions of land, vegetation, and waters; the behavior of wild or domestic animals; and the ordinary dangers of structures or equipment ordinarily used in farming and ranching operations. The term also includes the potential of a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to the injury of the participant or others, including failing to follow the instructions given by the agritourism operator or failing to exercise reasonable caution while engaging in the agritourism activity.

If you are interested in reading the language of the statute, simply perform a web search for Florida Statute 570.963 and 570.964. The required notice to be posted, pursuant to F.S. 570.964, states as follows: WARNING: Under Florida law, an agritourism operator is not liable for injury or death of, or damage or loss to, a participant in an agritourism activity conducted at this agritourism location if such injury, death, damage, or loss results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity. Inherent risks of agritourism activities include, among others, risks of injury inherent to land, equipment, and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury, death, damage, or loss. You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.

So what does all of this mean for us as visitors to these farms? Be aware of your children and what could be a "risk". Make sure they stay sitting down during the hay rides and keep their hands in the trailer. Marsha Salzwedel, research specialist for the National Farm Medicine Center, reports that approximately 14,000 children are injured each year on farms and ranches and 40 percent of the injured children are visitors.

To learn more about safety at recreational farms, click here: http://www.safeagritourism.com/

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