Agritourism Part Four: What Are My Next Steps?

By now, you learned about agritourism, and the basic concepts to qualify (Part 1), we discussed several examples and how agritourism can benefit your business (Part 2), and I explored eight unique ways that agritourism protects you from particular legal concerns (Part 3). You did your research, you made your plans, and you are ready to get started on your new idea – now what?

Step One: Forming Your Idea

Maybe converting your farm to an agritourism business has been on your mind for a decade. Perhaps, you just noticed your neighbors are expanding their operations and want to get involved in that new market. Or possibly, you stumbled onto my Facebook page, and, over the last few articles, a lightbulb went off in your head. No matter how you got here, you have an idea about your next steps and the future of your farm.

Before advancing to step two, make sure that step one is complete. Know the services you plan to offer, your target audience, and the necessary personnel or teams to make it happen. Likewise, start listing what changes you need to make, what buildings need to be created, and what advertising you are planning. While this list will continue to evolve and change as your plans are brought into reality, a solid starting basis directs each of the next steps.

Step Two: Contacting Your Advisors

Once you have a solid, fundamental plan, the next step is to bring in advisors. Having the right protections in place will protect you from any concerns, having the right advice will allow you to open on time, and having the correct structure will smooth your operations. Like most things, you get what you pay for, so do not set your future business up for problems or failure.

Consider tax advisors, accountants, legal counsel, business experts, marketing or advertising experts, additional staff training, and similar concepts.

Step Three: Discussing Your Ideas

Now that you have found advisors you can trust, it is time to start working on the meat of the project – this is where your ideas will either change or materialize. Your accountants and tax advisors will be able to determine your fiscal strategy and the best way to offset your initial costs. Your attorney (*cough* me *cough*) will get you legally set up, navigate any red tape, and prepare you to be protected. Likewise, any marketing or training advisors will start preparing, allowing your launch to be flawless and on time.

In addition to realizing your ideas, your advisors can tell you what will and will not work. Many good ideas are not feasible due to safety rules in a local township. Likewise, there are great ideas that, due to the need to preserve a specific business structure or CAUV, cannot be implemented or must be carefully planned. The point of this is not to say “no”, rather, it is to create a business model for your use that will run without a hitch, achieve your goals, and, most importantly, keep lawsuits and the government from interfering with your plans.

Step Four: The Incidentals

During the planning phase of your agritourism venture, it is likely that unexpected issues will come up. It may be necessary to comply with a particular tax structure or adhere to a deed restriction on your property. Be prepared for new complications to arise and for any of your advisors to bring up concerns you may not have realized would exist – that is why you hire experts you can trust.

Though my list is longer than the space available, some items I initially look for are: your insurance documents, to determine if a new policy is needed; your employment practices, to update as needed or otherwise prepare; your business structure, to ensure it is set up and that you have a proper liability shield; your contracts and advertising, to ensure there is no accidental triggering of different codes; your local codes and rules, to ensure there are no special safety exceptions that apply; your current setup and tax structure, to determine if there are better options available with the new business opportunity.

Step Five: Walking Your Farm

Most attorneys I know are not willing to put on boots and jeans, and walk your fence line. At EQUES Law Group, we have walked miles upon miles of pipelines, coal piles, and easements. I have personally ridden horses around a track, an ATV to a remote camping site, and hiked paths to fishing holes to check the conditions for clients. Boots on the ground are different than eyes in the sky, and seeing potential liability concerns, or advising on better practices to avoid litigation, is a key component of my approach to agritourism.



Step Six: Paperwork, Lots and Lots of Paperwork

What is a trip to a lawyer without paperwork? Starting an agritourism business involves a lot of paperwork, including contracts, employment documents, policies and procedures, applications, and forms. While advisors can help with most of it, there are still many signatures and specific information that only you can provide. As your helpful assistant, I will ensure that all the necessary documents are crafted and ready for you to sign. 

Though each matter is unique, and each agritourism idea will have different concerns, some typical paperwork to expect would be new insurance documents; a complete business structure from articles of incorporation to operating rules; new employment policies and guidelines; new contracts; applications for variances or permits if required.



Step Seven: Opening

You’ve completed your initial plans, as they’ve evolved and changed. Your experts have completed the paperwork and gotten your signatures. Your architects have made their changes, and all filings have been stamped. Congratulations, YOU MADE IT, but there is still a lot to do.

Once all of the initial steps are complete, your advisors will focus on the immediate concern of opening day. Ensuring that your advertisements go out, and their contracts are fulfilled, becomes an important part of my world. Hiring decisions, assignment of duty, placating any irate local politician, and the like are all concerns that will need to be addressed for opening day. While Disney famously recovered from still-setting sidewalks and nonfunctioning rides, that is not a risk I am willing to take with your business, and you shouldn’t be either. It is important to remember that while you aren’t making money yet and are desperate to start, opening day is your first impression, and it can make or break your future.


Step Eight – Ongoing Concerns

Once you are open, your and your advisors’ role transitions to a long-term approach. You want your agritourism business to pay for your retirement, and your kid’s college and be passed down to the grandchildren in due time. This is a two-role job – business administrator and business owner. As an administrator, you will oversee the daily operations of your agritourism business, solving problems and keeping folks happy; your goal is to achieve your daily, monthly, and annual goals. As a business owner, however, you also have to make the tough decisions, switch insurance providers, change benefits, and focus on the long-term stability of your farm; your goal is to achieve your three-, five-, and ten-year plans.

Just like you, my role also changes once we get past opening day. Instead of specific, directed advice and services to bring about your vision, I become more of a general counsel. I ensure that you continue to meet requirements so your liability shield remains. I maintain regular communications of any change in the statutes or, with agritourism especially, changes in the case law. I become a resource for you to send ideas and questions to, allowing you to continue to grow while being protected.



How Can EQUES Law Group Office Help Me?

As you can tell, there are a ton of moving parts to start your agritourism business. If you want to explore your farm’s future, EQUES Law Group has the “boots to the dirt” approach you want, with the top-notch talent you need. With over 50 years of legal experience, an understanding of you and your farm’s unique needs and goals, and the skills to win in front of a Zoning Board or in the Courtroom, we are prepared to address every concern that your agritourism business will raise. 


Let EQUES Law Group focus on the regulations and rules behind the scenes and keep your focus on creating, growing, and expanding your agritourism business. Give Robert a call today in our Newark location, and see how we can help you transform your farm for tomorrow.


Robert M. Barga

Attorney At Law

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