In a time when people are getting more connected to their local farm, more and more farms are responding by hosting public events for the local community to engage with what they do. Hosting a farm event can be a great way for farms to get new customers, educate the general public on what they do, and sometimes even make some extra money
Types of Farm Events
There are a couple of different types of events you can host to help engage the public and draw in new customers
Teach a Class
People are always eager to learn a new skill. Cheesemaking, soap making, candle making – anything where someone can learn something new and take home the fruits of their labor is incredibly popular.
Basic farm skill classes are also great, and don’t require any production or materials to do a class. Is your forte raising great organic laying hens? Give a class on raising healthy chicks. Do you know how to knock ’em dead in the showring? Give a showmanship class.
Classes are a great way to add to your revenue stream with little to no overhead, while engaging people in what you do. You also get the added benefit or showing you are a valuable resource, and local expert in your field.
“Petting Zoo” Style Event
People love to pet cute animals. Period. Young, old, and in between, rarely will anyone say no to snuggling something fuzzy and adorable. Any kind of event where people get to hold some adorable animals is always incredibly popular. The Baby Goat Day we do at our local Blue Seal brings in hundreds of people every year. We have a lot of fun and get to connect with our community in a big way.
I also put events like Goat Yoga under this category as well. Any style of event where the primary focus is on interacting with the animals would qualify.
Open Farm Day
Having a day when people can come to your farm and see first hand what you do is great exposure, especially if you don’t hold regular visiting hours. Show guests your daily routine, talk about some things that help you get your products to market, show them the human face of your farm. This is also a great way to set up anything you sell for a chance to get it into more hands directly.
As farms become a more popular event location, you can also offer your farm as a location to host events. Weddings. Farm to table dinners. Private goat snuggling party. This is a great way to make your space work for you without much effort on your part.
Location: On the Farm vs. Off the Farm
Knowing where to host your events is key. Some events are fun to host off your farm so you can reach more people. Other events are great to host on your home turf. When trying to decide where to host your event, consider a few important points.
In today’s sue-happy world, unfortunately liability should always be a top consideration when bringing people onto your farm. If your farm is operated as a business, you may have additional insurance coverage and the added protection of an LLC or corporation designation behind you. If not, be aware that if someone gets hurt, bit or pecked by an animal, gets sick from salmonella or e coli, etc. it can all fall on you and your homeowners insurance.
Make sure that you do your best to keep your liability risk low. Be sure the area where you’ll have guests is in good repair. Have a hand washing station or hand sanitizer available. Put up signs about petting or feeding the animals without supervision.
Unfortunately, not only do you have to worry about liability concerns, but broader safety concerns as well. Several farms have received threats from animal activists, and there has even been incidents of animals being stolen from farms during open farm events. Consider investing in a good security camera, and make sure your event is well staffed with attentive people. This is a much bigger concern when holding events on your property.
Not every farm has a good space to host visitors. Not every farm has a kitchen to teach in. Sometimes it’s just overwhelming to get your barn ready for guests. Or your kitchen. Or you house. Or Your life. But I digress….
There are a lot of advantages to hosting your farm event at another space. It can be a lot less work for you and keep a bunch of people from parading through your farm, which can present a biosecurity nightmare. When we hold out annual Baby Goat Day at our local Blue Seal, it’s a huge weight off our shoulders knowing they’re going to handle the set up, and our baby goats are safe and secure while people visit them off the farm.
If you do decide to use your farm to host events, make super the space is welcoming and ready for guests. Clean, clean and some more. Provide adequate seating for guests. remove anything your guests may hurt themselves with – shovels, rakes, buckets laying around, etc. Try to keep you event area contained as much as possible to help mitigate biosecurity concerns. Good lighting is also important. Our barn is pretty dark, so when we hosted our event in the barn we purchased some nice lights to put around. It looked great and made it easier for people to take pictures at the event.
To me, no event can be a true success without good food. While not all events will be able to facilitate food, I highly suggest working it wherever you can. This is especially true if your farm produces food products. Feature those foods in snacks, or a full meal depending on the event.
When we hosted our Wine, Cheese and Baby Goats evening on our farm, I made sure all of the foods I offered featured as many of our farm products as I could. I used our eggs and plain chevre for Herbed Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs. I used our sweetened chevre to stuff strawberries. I filled mini fillo shells with various goat cheese creations. Everything looked great, tasted awesome, and showcased how versatile our cheese was. For our next event, I hope to create recipe cards guests can take with them for everything they get to sample at the event.
Make an Impression
Your farm event is your time to shine. Use this chance to dazzle your local community, future fans of your work, and most importantly, future customers. Put your best foot forward and your events can be a springboard into a lot of great things.