Risk management plans needed

On-farm sales in Tennessee

Farmers who plan to sell directly from their farms should have a risk management plan in place. A liability assessment can protect both the consumer and the farmer. Photo courtesy UTIA.

On-farm retailing – inviting customers to come to the farm to purchase products – results in improved farm incomes, but there are liability considerations when inviting customers onto the farm, said Rob Holland, director of the University of Tennessee Extension Center for Profitable Agriculture. “Farm owners inviting the public onto their property should be proactive in developing a farm risk management plan for liability,” he said.

A farm’s risk management plan should be developed by consulting with qualified professionals, including legal and insurance experts. During those conversations, farm marketers should discuss several important areas, including liability risks and insurance needs. “Having a set of outside eyes looking at your operation can help you realize existing dangers or needs for additional coverage,” Holland noted.

“Many things that may seem ordinary to people accustomed to being on farms can present potential injury for farm visitors,” Holland added. Some of these include fences (children climbing and falling off), farm equipment and buildings that may have exposed corners, nails and other potential safety hazards. Ponds are another common concern for on-farm marketers.

Rob Holland said those inviting the public onto their farm should conduct an “insurance audit” with their liability insurance agent. That professional can provide a fresh set of eyes to the on-farm marketing setup, helping an owner reduce possible risks and tailor an insurance policy to an individual farm’s needs. The goal is provide a safe environment for on-farm customers and their families.

Tennessee law limits the liability for some farms involved in agritourism operations, which may include on-farm retail markets. Find out more about the law in UT Extension publication Liability and Agritourism, available online at the UT Extension publication website as publication number PB1787

Holland cautioned farm operators that no amount of planning can totally eliminate risk. “But by working with insurance, legal and other farm marketing experts, Tennessee farmers selling directly from the farm may provide themselves greater peace of mind by finding and fixing on-farm risks and carrying appropriate liability insurance coverage for their operation,” Holland said.

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a partnership between the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the UT Institute of Agriculture. The center is committed to increasing the value of Tennessee's economy through new, expanded and improved processing and marketing of agricultural and forestry products. For more information visit the CPA’s website.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.



Megan Bruch Leffew, Marketing Specialist, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777

Rob Holland, Director, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777, rwholland@utk.edu