Agritourism farms striving to safely offer fall famly traditions
As Cook County area families consider their annual farm fall traditions such as pumpkin patches, apple picking, u-pick vegetables, and other agri-tourism activities, local farmers are taking steps to protect their staff and guests. Area farmers are doing their best to help guests maintain safe conditions. Families may have to plan ahead, especially during peak fall days.
Agri-tourism farms in Illinois are following new health and safety policies and procedures based on state guidelines. These guidelines offer recommendations developed by Illinois Farm Bureau®, Illinois Specialty Growers Association, University of Illinois Extension, and several agritourism operations.
Customers need to expect agritourism businesses will not operate exactly as they did before COVID as they seek compliance with Illinois government guidelines and standards. Businesses’ and consumers’ expectations will need to be communicated, and possibly, adjusted this fall.
Here are some examples of what to expect:
- Cleaning and sanitizing have always been important, but more handwashing and sanitizing stations will be available around the farms.
- Controlling foot traffic and reducing congested areas will be new to prevent bottlenecks and to spread out crowds.
- Some businesses may turn to reservations with everything from selling admission tickets online to taking reservations over the phone as a way to maximize the number of visitors at a time.
- Businesses will use plenty of signs to help communicate new procedures and practices to patrons.
- Staff health will be receiving extra attention with seasonal and permanent employees. Each employee will receive in-depth training as well as daily health screenings and temperature checks before each shift.
- Both staff and patrons will likely be required to wear masks at all times “to protect each other and guests when social distancing is difficult”.
- Businesses will need to consider high-touch practices and activities, such as using baskets and wagons for customers to pick apples and pumpkins. Hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit as well as other key locations will be adapted.
- Giving customers different options of where and how to make purchases can reduce congestion and keep vulnerable customers safe. Pre-order curbside service for items ordered in advance may be an option.
- Businesses will keep social media sites updated with new policies and procedures, and customers will need to learn about those changes just as they have with other businesses.
Cook County agri-tourism farms are looking forward to the fall season and re-uniting with their customers from the Chicagoland area.