On-farm events are a great way to connect the agricultural community with consumers. For many consumers, this may be their only exposure to agriculture. These events are fun, educational, and a great way to network and make connections for years to come.
Depending on your vision, planning an on-farm event takes many volunteers. Form a committee with a variety of expertise and networking connections. Be sure the group is not too large as it can impede the planning vision and process.
I have been involved in different on-farm events, each of them with a slightly different focus. But at the end of the day, it is about connecting consumers with those who grow their food.
I recently attended the Minnesota Farm Bureau LEAP conference and one of the breakout sessions was on how to host an on-farm event. I will share some tips I learned from that session and other tips that I learned from past experiences.
1) Find your volunteers
First meeting: Who will help with the event? Together discuss: What will be your theme? What are the event’s goals? Will the event be open to the public or will you have a targeted audience? If it is a targeted audience, who will you invite? Or will this be a family-oriented event or an adult event such as a “wine on the farm” event? If so, think about how you can bring in the “on-farm” experiences.
Another important tip – don’t feel that everyone has to do everything. Be sure to delegate. Find what your volunteers are good at or enjoy and delegate those tasks to them.
2) Decide on a place, date and time
Think about things like transportation, parking, space, biosecurity. Make sure there is plenty of room at your site, and if not, will there be parking off-site. If off-site, how will they be transported? Bus, hay rack behind a tractor or other means? Biosecurity may be an issue depending on the type of site you hold the event. Work with the owner so visitors follow biosecurity measures.
In addition, depending on your location if the site has livestock, please be aware of animal activists. Finally, if your event is open to the public, it’s definitely something to be aware of.
3) Find sponsorships
More than likely your event will incur costs. What is the price? It will depend on what the event entails. Will you serve food? If so, what kind of food. You can possibly tap into some local service clubs, such as your local Lion’s Club, to help with food and/or costs, or maybe other local food venues will assist. If you plan on serving food, make sure you plan on enough food especially if the event is open to the public. It seems fairly common to have more people than you planned. Prepare for that.
Sponsors can also help with other costs of the event. You may want to have a tiered sponsorship program such as Gold, Silver and Bronze. Many of your sponsors will be looking for advertising with their sponsorships. Welcome sponsors.
Be sure to investigate liability insurance. Sometimes organizations have insurance to cover events such as this. Also, will participants have access to farm animals? What is the liability of that exposure? Research a liability plan.
Do you need a license or are there any other regulations? Again, research with your local planning governmental departments.
6) Decide what activities you will have available
Will this be a morning, afternoon, and night event? What will they do when they arrive? Will there be an agenda or will it be a walk-through event? Will you need signs to help people find their way?
People love all things agriculture. I highly suggest showing and/or having hands-on activities for participants. People love the touch and feel. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would like to see and do.
For children, make sure you have a separate children’s activity area that is hands-on. Children learn best with hands-on activities. One of the best resources is Minnesota Ag in the Classroom and Farm Bureau. Trust me, kids love these activities and as adults, they may also learn right along with them.
When deciding on what to provide, think about the outcomes. Are they meaningful? What will people think and say when they leave? Was this be a valuable and memorable experience for them?
Another added possible eature — Will you be selling any merchandise or food? Will you have outside vendors? Lots of possibilities.
7) Be Unique!
Try having some activities or displays that are unique. Think outside the box. Try it. You will never know if they will be successful unless you try it. Have some fun!
What will you do if the weather is not cooperating? Will you have a rain date? Will it be held rain or shine? Will there be an alternate site for uncooperating weather?
Have plenty of volunteers. Please make sure they talk with the people attending. It’s all about making connections and networking. It’s not about forcing education on them. Have conversations and answer questions. Be relatable.
How will you promote the event? Social media? Print media? Radio media? TV media? Personal invitations? Find someone who is good at this and delegate.
11) Enjoy yourself!
No more to say than that!
In the end, what did you learn? What went well and what didn’t? What would you change for next time?
I think what I love most about on-farm events is how they all can be so different. You literally can tailor your on-farm event to the way you want it. Here are a few links of some of the types of on-farm events you may wish to learn from.