Agritourism: Have fun, be safe

Whether I was picking my weight in strawberries at the local U-Pick, exhibiting animals at the county fair, or capping off summer at the steam and gas engine show on the other end of the county, the highlights of my childhood summers involved some form agritourism.  As an adult, the ways in which I participate in agritourism are a little different, namely I now have to pick a lot more strawberries.  Regardless of your age, in Wisconsin, there are so many ways to have fun, learn, and most importantly, consume farm fresh products, while engaging with agriculture. Agritourism represents a very bright spot in both the agricultural and tourism industries of our state, providing a chance for the non-farming population to connect with agriculture and an opportunity for farmers and producers to share their passion, maybe even making money while doing so.

Agritourism offers experiences in environments that aren’t familiar to all who visit, which is part of the appeal, but also a potential source of injury to visitors.  Hazards common to agritourism destinations include animals, uneven terrain, machinery, stacked hay bales and other normal farm features that are incidentally kid-magnets.  Of course, those who operate agritourism attractions have a vested interest in keeping visitors safe and coming back.  While operators have a responsibility to identify and reduce risks, visitors can prepare themselves before venturing out to engage with agriculture.  John Shutske, University of Wisconsin-Extension bio systems specialist at UW-Madison provides the following recommendations for staying safe while enjoying your time at an agritourism attraction:

  • All children need close supervision – remember that young children are very curious and active. Pre-teen kids often don’t have a strong appreciation for safety and might take chances and risks that could have terrible consequences.
  • Read and FOLLOW all posted warning signs and written or verbal instructions.
  • Adults and youth should stay away from large animals such as horses, cattle or pigs: you can be bitten, kicked, stepped on, or rammed. If a 1,500 pound animal decides you’re in its way, resulting injuries can be catastrophic.
  • Stay behind all barriers and NEVER approach moving equipment – belts, chains, gears, and other rotating parts can lead to severe injury including amputations or even death.
  • Never ride on or allow a child to ride on a tractor or other machine unless there is a specific, designated seat made for such purposes (most extra seats on newer farm tractors are designed to train new operators, and they are NOT designed for children)
  • ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly during and after a farm visit – Use soap, warm water, and paper towels. Never eat unless your hands are thoroughly washed. Hand sanitizers are not discouraged, but, they are NOT a replacement for good handwashing.

Interested in safely engaging with agriculture this summer or fall?  Find a Wisconsin ag adventure at www.visitdairyland.com.

Leigh Presley, Agriculture Educator