Risks of Hosting Visitors to an Apple Orchard

10/06/2021

Nothing says autumn quite like apple-picking. Orchard owners know that the same care and attention it takes to grow apples is also spent making apple-picking a safe experience for their visitors. Unfortunately, having your customers visit your orchard in the middle of a global pandemic presents additional risks, and this year, social distancing and strict sanitation procedures are still in full effect. Fortunately, with the right planning, you can create a fun and safe agritainment experience for your visitors. Here are top risks many apple orchards face and what you should consider when planning for them.

Falls (and falling ladders)

Even though you're operating an apple orchard, you still need to think about slip and fall accidents, which are especially common among people of all ages, especially the elderly. In fact, falls account for more than 8 million hospital emergency room visits every year, according to the National Floor Safety Institute. To help prevent your customers from tripping, walk around your orchard and keep an eye out for holes in the ground or exposed tree roots that could cause your customers to fall and block them off so that customers don't go near them.

Fortunately, businesses that keep their property safe for customers can help prevent many accidents, not just from falls, but from other risks, too. The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center says that many injuries in apple orchards are related to ladders, so be sure to double-check that all ladders are safely tucked away when visitors arrive.

Still, accidents happen, which is why it's essential that you have business liability insurance. An AdvisorSmith survey on small business claims in 2020 found that 23.1 percent of businesses filed a claim related to customer injury. Having liability insurance will pay for medical costs incurred if a customer gets hurt on your property, despite your best efforts to provide a safe environment.

Theft

Theft can happen anywhere, even at an apple orchard. In fact, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune, thieves got away with 50,000 apples from an apple orchard in Indiana in 2019. The orchard couldn't recoup the loss because they didn't have insurance. Farmers with crop insurance, however, are typically covered in cases of theft.

Adverse weather

Unfortunately, bad weather presents plenty of risks to visitors, but there are steps that orchard owners can take to mitigate those risks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that preparation is the best strategy. Every morning, check your weather forecast and continuously monitor conditions throughout the day. Watch for dark clouds and increasing wind speeds, which can signal developing thunderstorms. In the event of hail or strong winds, have your visitors seek shelter in their cars or indoors. Bad storms can knock apples from trees and cause downed limbs, all of which pose risks to visitors.

Keeping a proactive eye on the weather forecast also gives you time to secure or put away outdoor equipment—such as tractors, pruning tools and chainsaws—before a storm hits. All of these can also be a risk to visitors if left loose.

Hayrides and tractor accidents

If you need to drive customers around the orchard on a tractor, or if you decide to offer hayrides, it's important to have liability insurance in the event that someone gets injured. If someone falls off a tractor, for example, you can be held liable. If you don't plan on offering hayrides all year, but only for specific periods, you may be able to get a short-term policy, which will provide coverage only as needed.

Food poisoning and allergic reactions

People can come down with serious illnesses, often unexpectedly. If someone eats an apple on your orchard, or eats a product in your farm stand and becomes ill, you can be held responsible. Fortunately, liability insurance can protect you if customers catch salmonella or E. coli or are otherwise harmed because of the food they consume. Given that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises rinsing your freshly-picked produce under tap water before consuming it, you may want to forbid customers from eating your apples onsite right from the tree.

COVID-19

The good news is that it's safer to be outdoors at an apple orchard than indoors, where COVID-19 spreads more easily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises that you stay 6 feet apart, avoid crowds, mask up and wash your hands.

If you have enough staff, you may want to consider extending your hours of operation to offer lots of availability for picking. It's also a good idea to put up signs reminding visitors to socially distance and to have plenty of hand sanitizer out, especially important if people are touching the apples. The Department of Labor recommends that when indoors, even vaccinated people should wear a mask, especially in areas of with high transmission, and to provide masks to your workers whenever possible to protect both your visitors and staff.

The right insurance coverage will keep you safe

Determining the types of insurance coverage that you need for your orchard isn't easy, but Westfield can help you understand the risks that you face as an apple orchard and how to protect your customers from them. Following good safety precautions that can help keep your customers safe and having agriculture insurance products like comprehensive agricultural liability insurance are some of the most important things you can do. Whether it's a customer accident onsite or theft, we can ensure that you're covered, no matter the situation. Contact us today to learn more how we can help.