Agritourism operations are increasingly popular, especially in areas where urban expansion has resulted in a melting pot of rural and urban communities. What began mostly as fall season activities like pumpkin patches and hayrides has blossomed into a year-round industry of U-pick farms and other exciting on-farm experiences.
Despite the benefit activities like pumpkin patches and Christmas tree farms provide farmers and their guests, welcoming the public onto a farm invites risk and incites caution.
Thankfully, farmers are provided some protection under Alabama’s Agritourism Liability Law, Ala. Code § 6-5-347. Through this law, agritourism professionals are exempt from certain liability from injuries that might occur on their farm — if specific signage is posted at the entrance or place of payment. The sign must have black lettering at least 1 inch high.
The law defines an agritourism professional as someone who is “engaged in the business of providing agritourism activities.” This includes employees or authorized agents of the agritourism professional.
The law further notes an agritourism activity is “an activity at an agricultural operation…including but not limited to, farming, ranching, historic and cultural agricultural activities, self-pick farms or farmers markets, provided that the agritourism professional is selling his or her own product (at the) location.”
The agritourism liability law recognizes conditions, dangers or hazards integral to an agritourism activity. These include:
a. Natural conditions of land, vegetation and water.
b. Behavior of wild animals or insects.
c. Behavior of domestic animals or insects and the possibility they may act unexpectedly and in a way that may cause sickness, injury or death.
d. Ordinary dangers of structures or equipment used on a working farm. This excludes a dangerous condition on structures or equipment ordinarily used on a working agricultural operation that is known by an agritourism professional, is not obvious to visitors and is not made known to the participant.
e. Negligent acts of a participant that may injure others, including failure to follow instructions given by an agritourism professional.
The law protects agritourism operators by granting immunity from liability related to those inherent risks. However, it does not give blanket immunity from lawsuits. Agritourism operators should always exercise caution and care on their farms.
That includes properly displaying the required liability sign. Each sign must say:
“WARNING. Under Alabama law, an agritourism professional is not liable for injury, sickness, or damage to, or the death of, a participant in an agritourism activity at this location if the injury, sickness, damage, or death results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity.
“Inherent risks of an agritourism activity include risks of injury, sickness, damage, or death inherent to land, equipment, and animals as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury, sickness, damage, or death, or for another participant to act in a manner that may cause your injury, sickness, damage, or death.
“You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.”
To help members, the Alabama Farmers Federation in 2012 advocated for the agritourism liability law. Members who own agritourism operations can access liability signs, with the exact legal wording, from the Federation. For more information on obtaining a sign, contact Blake Thaxton at (334) 613-4309.
Compiled by John Allen Nichols, Alabama Farmers Federation Agriculture Counsel
The material presented above is for educational purposes only. The content does not constitute legal advice. If readers require specific advice or services, a lawyer or other professional should be consulted.