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  • 29 Aug 2019 3:00 PM | Anonymous

    Essentials of Hayride Safety

    By Randy White

    Hayrides are a popular and enjoyable attraction for visitors at agritainment/agritourism farms as well as at many other entertainment facilities such as family entertainment centers and parks in the Fall. However, hay wagon rides can be extremely dangerous if not operated safely. Our research shows that since the year 2000, hayride accidents have caused 167 injuries and the death of at least 22 people including 14 children.

    Over our company's 25 years of agritourism/agritainment consulting and design work, we have visited very few existing farm operations that were safely operating their hayrides. We have always made it our first priority to advise our clients on needed improvements to make their hayrides safe. And fortunately, most followed our advice, making a visit to their farms much safer.

    Here's a summary of essential safety procedures every farm or venue that operates a hayride should follow:

    • The hayride route should have non-climbable barricade-type fencing along its route wherever it is in or near areas where visitors will be so there is no possibility of anyone, especially children, wandering into the path of the hayride. At the loading and unloading areas, the fencing should have gates that are operated only by the loading/unloading staff. The hayride path should NEVER cross or travel through any areas that the public has access to.
    • The loading area should have a sign stating the safety rules for passengers.
    • Separate unloading and loading areas. To speed loading, the loading area can have a corral fenced area where the number of visitors the wagon ride can hold are pre-counted into.

    • The hayride trail should be kept smooth as depressions and ruts can cause wagons to grab hold and jerk, bouncing guests around. All trees and bushes along the trail need to be trimmed so riders won't be hit by branches.
    • Tractors and hay wagons should be thoroughly inspected at the beginning of each day. There should be written inspection check list where the drivers check off each item and sign and date the sheet. This helps assure the procedures will be properly followed.
    • All wagons must have a safety chain connecting the wagon's front axle to the tractor's draw bar or rear axle.
    • For adequate traction and braking, the tractor pulling the hayride must weigh more than the gross weight of the wagon it pulls when full of people.
    • The hay wagon must have railings and seating. Enclosure railings should be designed to prevent children from crawling through or climbing the railings. The front railing must be adequately tall and sturdy to prevent anyone from falling forward out of the wagon and being run over. The loading opening on the wagon should have a gate or enclosure that is kept shut other than when loading or unloading.
    • Training is essential for all staff involved. All tractor drivers should be trained in the operation of the tractor they will be driving, including how to properly start and stop smoothly. Just because an employee knows how to drive a tractor does not mean they understand how to drive a hay wagon ride. All employees who will be responsible for loading, unloading and supervising hayrides must also be trained. There should be a pocket size checklist of all procedures that each staff member keeps with them.
    • All wagons should have a tour guide riding in the wagon who has two-way radio communicate with the tractor driver. Tractor noise prevents a driver from hearing anything shouted from the wagon if there is a problem.
    • Tractors should have rear view mirrors that give a full view of the wagon.
    • There should be well-organized loading and unloading procedures.
    • Only after the tractor comes to a stop in the unloading area, is put in neutral and the brake engaged, should the unloading staff open the wagon gate and assist people off.
    • Once a wagon is unloaded, the unloading staff should close the barricade exiting gate, the wagon should be inspected for lost items, the tire inflation on the wagons and tractor eyeballed, the area around and under the wagon inspected to make sure there are no people or children, and only then should the tractor driver be signaled to proceed to the loading area.
    • The barricade gate at the loading area should not be opened until the tractor is at a full stop, put in neutral and the brakes engaged.
    • Once the wagon is loaded, the barricade loading gate should be closed, the wagon gate should be closed, safety instructions recited to the riders, riders checked to make sure all are seated, the area around and under the wagon inspected to make sure there are no people or children, the pins and safety chains on the wagons checked and only then should the tractor driver be signaled to proceed.
    • Ideally communication between the loading and unloading staff and the driver should be via two-way radio communication. Otherwise, the driver's go-signal should be one that is visual, crystal clear and not mistakable.
    • Public road travel should be avoided. If absolutely necessary, there should be escort vehicles with proper safety lighting at the lead and following the wagon. In 1989 in New Brunswick, Canada, 13 wagon riders died and 45 were injured when a logging trailer crashed into a hayride. In 2016 in Chucky, Mississippi, three people were killed when a pickup truck rear-ended a hay wagon traveling on a public road.
    • Due to the hazardous nature of hayrides, children's field trip hayrides should have higher adult to child ratios than for the classroom. The following are recommended:

    Hayrides are a great fun attraction for visitors. Just make sure you take the time and effort to operate yours safely.

  • 28 Aug 2019 3:00 PM | Anonymous

    Agritourism Risk Tops Concerns at Lawmaker Tour

    By Tom Venesky

    Insurance costs are a major headache for agritourism operations, farmer Chris Maylath told local lawmakers this week.

    Tuesday’s farm tour at Maylath Farm & Orchard was organized by the Luzerne County Farm Bureau.

    Maylath raises produce and grass-fed beef, and runs a fall agritourism program that includes a corn maze, pumpkin patch and hay rides.

    The agritainment business is booming — Maylath recently expanded his parking area from 1 acre to 5 — but liability has become a major hurdle.

    “We’ve even had claims for tick bites,” he said. “One year kids were throwing corn and one got hit in the eye with a cob. I called the insurance company just to let them know, and the company called the parents to start settling. There wasn’t even a claim filed. How do you stop that?”

    Maylath thinks his insurance costs are high in part because not many insurers offer coverage for agritourism ventures.

    A bill in the state Senate would protect farm owners from lawsuits when no party is at fault for the injury or damages. Farmers would still be liable if they are grossly negligent.

    About half of U.S. states have laws that shift the assumption of risk from the operator to the participant, according to Peggy Hall, an ag law specialist at Ohio State University.

    “We’ve heard about these issues,” said Senate Majority Whip John Gordner, R-Berwick. “Agritourism is a huge help to so many farmers, and it’s also a benefit to the public from an educational standpoint.”

    Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, minority-party chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, offered to organize a meeting between legislators, insurance companies and trial lawyers to find a solution.

    “We need to get a fair price for agritourism insurance and make sure it’s balanced so the business is protected and the customer isn’t taken advantage of,” he said.

    Another big vulnerability for Maylath is uninsurable crops, such as pumpkins.

    If the crop fails, the farmer comes up empty even though the fertilizer and chemical companies need to get paid.

    “I’m a schoolteacher off the farm, and my goal was to get out at some point and come back to the farm,” Maylath said. “The problem is agriculture is such a gamble.”

    Pashinski floated the idea of a state fund to aid farmers in bad years.

    “Every business has some form of financial backup,” Pashinski said. “The difference between profit and loss management on a farm is so tight, the state has to help them stay in business during a difficult year.”

    Pashinski hasn’t introduced or even drafted a bill to the effect, but he did suggest the program could be funded by a fee paid by whomever is buying a product from a farmer.

    The money could be used to fund low-interest loans or grants to farmers.

    During the tour, farmers also said they’d like more information about grant offerings, improvements to deer control programs, and more USDA-inspected meat processors to serve direct-marketing farms.

    Several farmers said they would be interesting in growing hemp but aren’t sure it makes sense yet.

    “There are no processing facilities here,” said Keith Hilliard, the county Farm Bureau president. “You grow the crop, but where is it going?”

    Pashinski said the ag committee has been in contact with several processors interested in locating in Pennsylvania, but the businesses are still waiting on federal approval.

    The county Farm Bureau was encouraged by officials interested in the farm tour, and is planning future tours to keep the dialogue going.

    “We have people in office willing to help us,” said Martin Smith, the county Farm Bureau vice president.

  • 27 Aug 2019 3:00 PM | Anonymous

    Bringing Your Brand To Life In A Captivating Farm Market Booth

    By Joe Baer

    Everyone loves a trip to the Farmer’s Market. There is something un-describable and special about shopping from your local farmers, growers and makers that gives an extra sense of satisfaction that you don’t always receive from your grocery store. It’s a simple way to support your community and, at the same time, you are supporting yourself and your family with fresh, healthy and nutritious food. That support and participation within the community can make your food taste even better. 

    Part of the excitement of buying from a farmer’s market is the sense that you are buying the freshest possible items from the most direct to consumer route. It’s as easy as pulling the truck up with a fresh harvest right in the back. There is no real need for signage or marketing or special props.  A smiling face and perhaps a taste of the bounty are enough to make you feel satisfied, special and somehow lucky. But today farmers and makers need a little more than luck to get a customer to stop, shop and become a loyal customer of their booth and brand. 

    Here are FIVE ways to bring your brand to life in a captivating Farm Market Booth.

    1.     Extend your brand identity:  Once your logo has been created, look at how you can extend that identity by bringing it to life in your shopping experience. Determine your main colors. Determine a material. Consider a banner for your back wall, custom linens for your tables and perhaps a banner to run along the top of your tent.  Use color and texture to make your booth more inviting and captivating.  This is an opportunity to reinforce the essence or personality of your brand. Is your brand rustic yet sophisticated, colorful and fun or whimsical and humorous?  A customer should be able to look at your booth and get an initial feeling of your brand within seconds.  Yes, seconds.

    2.     Stock and display your products: One of the key goals of visual merchandising is to elevate the perceived value of your product. The way to achieve this is to pay close attention to the way you are displaying your goods. What type of container do you choose?  Do your goods look clean and fresh?  Is there order and organization that makes sense to the shopping flow?  Use merchandising techniques like vertical merchandising, pyramiding, consistency and repetition to feature your assortment.  Crates, bowls, baskets, trays and other containers can hold the products and elevate them to make the products feel special and high quality.

    3.     Tell a clear story with signs and graphics: Another great way to extend the personality and image of your brand while making the shopping experience easier is to incorporate signs with information and pricing. Signs help to further complete your image and work with your brand identity and display techniques. Signs act as silent salespeople answering questions and suggesting products while you are handling other tasks. I know, you’ve heard that silent selling line before…. but it’s true.  While you are serving another guest or answering a question the customer is looking around and making additional decisions while they wait.  The key to a great signage package is consistency.  Choose a style, look, font and material and stick to it.  Maintain a consistent format throughout your booth.

    4.     Sample the product:  There is nothing that makes me gravitate towards a booth more than a taste. Seeing a farmer cut slices from an apple with a pocket knife is like a magnet that draws me closer.  Before I know it, my arm is extending and I’m grabbing a taste of that delicious variety.  Samples are a great way to connect to the customer but visually they are also an attention grabber that will help draw the customers to your booth.

    5.     Create a moment: There’s no doubt that the majority of today’s customers are armed with a camera just waiting for the moment that something captures their attention, delights them and almost subconsciously urges them to take a photo to share with all of their friends and family to share in the excitement. Social Media is a part of today’s Farmer’s Market experiences. Creating a visual moment that makes a customer say “WOW,” makes them look or encourages them to snap a selfie is another way to make sure they stop at your booth and remember your experience.  Chances are they will mention your booth in several of their upcoming conversations.  I’ve met many creative and clever farmers over the years that can fix or rig almost anything. Apply some of that cleverness and humor to create a memorable moment in your booth.

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