Agritourism is activity that incorporates tourism and agriculture by bringing individuals to farms, ranches, vineyards, and other agricultural enterprises. Agritourism helps to educate the public and often generates income for farmers and agriculturalists. There are many types of agritourism enterprises, including pick-your-own farms, agriculture museums, corn mazes, hay rides, winery tours, barnyard animals, etc. There are certain risks inherent in inviting the public onto an agricultural operation which can be mitigated by taking a few simple precautions. These precautions the most important part of the law regarding agritourism.
Agritourism – Any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, ranching, historic, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. An activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant paid to participate in the activity. N.C.G.S. § 99E-30(3).
Accessibility and Disability Services
NCDA&CS Agritourism Information
Is agritourism allowed on my land?
Generally, agricultural operations are exempt from county zoning requirements, and therefore a bonafide agritourism operation would not be limited by a county’s zoning ordinance. N.C.G.S. § 153A-340(b). Within a municipality, there is no agricultural exemption and therefore you must find out from your local zoning/planning board whether or not your land will allow agritourism activities.
Before you buy land or additional land for an agritourism activity, make sure the land is suitable for the activity and that the land use you are planning is allowed. Local zoning will often regulate land use by limiting the percentage of a lot that may be developed, the size and standards of buildings, signage for parking, and other regulations that may affect your agritourism operation.
Must I warn agritourism participants of anything?
Yes. To qualify for the liability limitations of N.C.G.S. § 99E-31, the operator must place at least one clearly visible warning sign at the entrance of the agritourism activity and additionally at the site where agritourism activities begin. More than one sign may be used. The warning sign must have black letters that are a minimum of one inch in height. The warning must read as follows:
“WARNING: Under North Carolina law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant in an agritourism activity conducted at this agritourism location if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity. Inherent risks of agritourism activities include, among others, risks of injury 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 or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.” N.C.G.S. § 99E-32(b).
Must I provide any additional warnings?
Yes. All contracts entered into by an agritourism professional for the providing of professional services, instruction, or the rental of equipment to a participant, whether or not the contract involves agritourism activities on or off the location or at the site of the agritourism activity, must contain in clearly readable print the warning notice. N.C.G.S. § 99E-32(a).
To what extent could I be liable for damages if I operate an agritourism operation?
As long as a warning sign is posted, the agritourism operator’s liability may be limited for any injury or death that is the result of an inherent risk in the agritourism activity. However, if the injury or death occurs as a result of a danger that is not typical of the agritourism activity, the agritourism operator may be held liable. N.C.G.S. § 99E-31. The agritourism operator may also be held liable if the operator commits an act or omission that constitutes negligence or willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant and that action results in injury, damage, or death. N.C.G.S. § 99E-31(b)(1). The operator may also be held liable if he/she knew or should have known of a dangerous condition and did not inform the participant of the danger. N.C.G.S. § 99E-31(b)(2).
For an article that may offer further insight into the extent of protection provided by the agritourism liability law, click here.
What if I do not charge a fee for agritourism participants?
The NC agritourism statute limits the liability of operators whether they charge a fee or not. If no charge is associated with the use of the land then the operator may also have limited liability under the NC Recreational Use Statute.
How does the NC Recreational Use Statute limit liability?
If no fee is charged to enter the land and the participant is using the land for recreational or educational uses, the landowner owes a lower duty of care to the participant than what he/she would normally owe. The landowner must not willfully or wantonly injure the individual and must warn direct invitees of artificial or unusual hazards that he or she knows about.
Must I provide accommodations for those with disabilities?
Possibly. You may have to provide accommodations for those with disabilities if your agritourism operation falls under one of the following categories:
- Place of lodging
- Establishment serving food or drink
- Place of public gathering
- Sales or rental establishment
- Service establishment
- Public transportation terminal, depot, or station
- Place of public display or recollection
- Place of recreation or exercise
- Place of education
What types of accommodations must I provide?
If your agritourism activity is subject to the ADA’s guidelines then you must do the following:
- Provide goods and services in an integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity;
- Eliminate unnecessary rules that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the goods and services of a place of public accommodation;
- Make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless a fundamental alteration would result to the nature of the goods and services provided;
- Ensure effective communication through the use of auxiliary aids and services when necessary, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result;
- Remove architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities where readily achievable;
- Provide goods and services through alternative measures when removal of barriers is not readily achievable.