Addressing the Legal Side of Spring Agritourism Activities
Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
If you are an agritourism provider or are interested in learning more about agritourism, sign up for our AgritourismReady event on April 5th! Details of the event are here.
Spring has sprung and many agritourism providers are busy gearing up for spring agritourism activities such as maple syrup production, school tours, and berry picking. Agritourism providers should take time this spring to review the key elements of Ohio’s new agritourism law and understand how the law affects the agritourism operation.
Ohio’s new agritourism law applies to qualifying farms, including you-pick operations and farm markets, when an agritourism activity is conducted on that farm. A qualifying farm under the law is either at least 10 acres in size or a farm under 10 acres that grosses an average income of $2500 from production (the same requirements for qualifying for Ohio’s CAUV property tax program). Agritourism activities include agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activities. Below are two important benefits of Ohio’s agritourism law that agritourism providers should review this spring: liability protection and zoning protection.
One of the main benefits of the law is liability protection for agritourism providers against claims by participants injured as a result of an inherent risk of an agritourism activity. The law defines inherent risks to be dangers and conditions that are an integral part of the activity, including surface and subsurface land conditions, actions of wild animals and domestic animals other than vicious or dangerous dogs, dangers of farm structures and equipment, illness from contacting animals, feed or waste, and the participant’s failure to follow instructions or use reasonable caution.
There are several limitations and requirements under the law that impact this liability protection. Most importantly, agritourism providers must post signs either at the entrance to the farm or at each agritourism activity in order to receive liability protection under the law. The signs must meet the specifications of the law. For more information about posting signs and the law’s liability protection, our previous post on agritourism is here.
Ohio’s agritourism law also provides some zoning protections to agritourism providers. Under the law, township and county zoning authorities cannot prohibit agritourism activities on farms. But, townships and counties can regulate some factors related to agritourism to protect public health and safety. These factors include the size of structures used primarily for agritourism, setbacks for structures, ingress and egress from the parcel, and the size of parking areas. A township or county that wants to regulate these limited factors must have provisions addressing the factors in the local zoning code. We explain the zoning provisions of the agritourism law in more detail in our law bulletin, here.
Preparing for the 2017 Season
As agritourism providers prepare for the 2017 season, providers should take a few actions to ensure the benefits of the agritourism law for their operations:
- Post the required signs at the entrance to the agritourism operation or at each agritourism activity. Also, consider adding your own signs to give instructions, guide visitors safely around the property or warn visitors of potential hazards.
- Even with the law’s liability protection, make sure the property is as safe and clean as possible. Spring is a good time to walk the property to identify any dangerous conditions that might put a visitor at risk and fix those conditions before inviting guests on the property.
- Farms under 10 acres in size should take time to brush up on good recordkeeping practices. Farms that are under 10 acres may be required to prove that they qualify as a farm under the agritourism law by showing $2500 in gross receipts. Be sure to maintain all records of farm income.
- If starting a new agritourism activity, check the local zoning code to see if the township or county has zoning requirements for the few agritourism factors it can regulate. Be prepared for a visit by the local zoning inspector and be ready to show the inspector that the activity falls under the new agritourism law’s zoning protections because it is “agritourism” conducted on a “farm.”
A full description of the Ohio Agritourism Law is available via our law bulletin here.