Can I pat the pretty cow, please mom please!?
Tourist season is gearing up and many folks from away want to include a farm visit as part of thier Vermont experience. There are a couple of groups that can help visitors find farms and provide the transportation. Vermont Farm Tours and The Center for an Agricultural Economy are soup to nuts on the whole thing, or should I say berries to cheese. Both of these groups bring folks to places where the products like milk, morf into added value tastie treats. But if you want to go your own way, then check out the Vermont Farm Assoication. They have a ton of places to go, people to meet and things to see. Farms with veggies and farms like Liberty Hill Farm Inn, where the farmer will cook dinner and breakfast for you.
These farms and the groups that bring you to them are ready for visitors. A much safer way then just pulling into an interesting farm and asking if you can pet the pretty cow. Sometimes electric fences are on, sometimes farmers are actually farming and don’t have the time to stop, sometimes there might be a farm dog that simply doesn’t like visitors.
And if you are thinking about adding farm visits to increase sales there are a couple of things to think about before you find out the hard way.
1. Have clearly designated signs of where cars should park and where visitors can go and also should not go.
2. Have all electric fences that are accessable to the public clearly marked as being electric.
3. Biosecurity will keep unanticipated costs down. Animal diseases that can hurt your visitors such as ringworm or orf (sour mouth) can be easily transported to your farm by unintending visitors that have just come from another farm. Boot scrub or slip on shoe covers will help keep your farm free from these nasties. An ounce of prevention really is worth the cost of having either infection come your flock or herd.
4. Keep working machinery away from where small children might get access and what to climb up and play tractor.
5. Limit the exposure of guest to your livestock, too many people all at once might spook or aggrivate your critters.
6. Keep all farm chemicals, medications and fuels far away from where visitors might get into trouble. And have clear hazard signs posted if it is a hazzard.
Not to be a wet blanket on this topic, but taking a walk about the farm and farm stand before the visitors come and finding all the places where trouble can happen, and then addressing it by removing or posting keep out signs will benefit both the farmer and the visitor. It will make for a more relaxed and enjoyable visit and hopefully return visits with returning steady sales of products!