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Apple Orchards, Pumpkin Patches and Agri-Tourism - what COVID rules apply?

Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator - On-farm Food Safety

Annie Klodd, Extension Educator- Fruit Production

If your farm is considering agri-tourism activities this fall, here is a summary of rules that apply to your operation related to COVID-19 from the most recent executive orders from the state of Minnesota.  

The Guidance for Food and Agriculture was updated 8/26/20, so this information is new.

All businesses must follow applicable guidance for their industry. All of the guidance for industries can be found here on the Stay Safe Guidance for Business and Industry page. This summary and examples of farm scenarios is meant to help direct you to the industry guidance that might apply to your farm and is not an exhaustive list of guidance requirements. You will need to read the guidance documents.

Which guidance should my farm follow?

Your farm might have to follow more than one industry guidance, based on your activities. Here is an overview of the two main scenarios.

1. If your farm operates exclusively in the area of agriculture production, and customers come to your farm to do U-pick or purchase your agricultural crops, or you sell them at markets, your farm would follow the guidelines described in the guidance for Food and Agriculture (updated 8/26/2020). This guidance will likely apply to all farms growing and selling crops for consumption, such as fruit and vegetable farms, livestock operations and other production farms. 

2. If your farm offers non-critical entertainment (like corn pit, petting zoos, games, hay rides intended for non-required movement of people, or basically any other non-critical activities meant for entertainment), then your farm moves to the entertainment category, and you must follow the guidance for Recreational Entertainment

Corn Maze Exception: As of 8/26/20, there has been as addendum made to the guidance for Food and Agriculture. If you are operating a corn maze it will not put your farm into the Recreational Entertainment category. But, you must follow the guidance to offer the corn maze, including controlling access to one entrance point at the maze and limiting occupancy. See page 19 of the Farm and Agriculture guidance to learn more about the corn maze exception.

What will it mean if I offer entertainment and need to follow the guidance for Recreational Entertainment?

Some key requirements your farm must follow if you choose to offer entertainment this season. Read the guidance document for a full listing of the requirements. 

  • The guidance for Recreational Entertainment includes a limit of 250 customers at one time on the premises of the farm, no matter the size or acreage of your venue, and you must monitor the entrance to ensure the numbers are within the 250.
  • This 250 customer limit does not include workers or employees.
  • You must follow the other guidelines as described in the Recreational Entertainment guidance

What about concessions? 

If you sell concessions for on-site consumption like hot dogs and donuts, you will need to follow the requirements as laid out in the guidance for Restaurants and Bars. These rules will apply to the area of the farm in which food is being consumed. As per the Restaurant and Bar Guidance, you have two main options for dining set-ups and occupancy guidelines.

1.) Designate eating area where people sit and eat the food. Cordon off this area. Keep fewer than 250 customers in this area at one time. 

2.) Designate entire farm/market as eating area. People must sit and eat. You must monitor occupancy on farm, and keep fewer than 250 customers in entire farm at any given time, since you are designating entire farm as the eating area.

Here are some example scenarios to illustrate how this might apply to farms. 

Example Scenario 1:

An apple orchard offers U-Pick apples and U-pick pumpkins, and has an indoor shop selling pre-picked apples, pumpkins, baked goods, and fall-themed merchandise. There is also a concession stand selling apple cider and donuts, with picnic tables for families to enjoy their concessions. Because this farm does not offer any entertainment activities, this farm does not have to follow the 250 customer occupancy limit for their farm property. They will follow the guidelines for farms outlined in the guidance for Food and Agriculture for their operation and develop a COVID-19 preparedness plan that details their protocols. They will clearly designate an eating area and ensure safe social distancing inside the area, following the guidance for Restaurants and Bars for their concession area.

Example Scenario 2:

A pumpkin patch has entertainment activities at the patch for their customers. In addition to the U-pick pumpkins, hay rides out to the pumpkin patch, and the shop/concessions, they also offer a jumping pillow, corn hole and a corn pit. Because of these entertainment activities the entire farm must follow the state guidance for Recreational Entertainment. One key point of those guidelines is that the number of customers is limited to 250 on the premises at one time. The hay rides do not count as an entertainment activity if the goal of the hay ride is to transport customers to the pumpkin field/apple orchard for U-pick. The guidelines for the concession area follow the Restaurants and Bars guidance as described in Scenario 1.

Example Scenario 3: 

A farm has a corn maze, U-pick apples, a store, and a pumpkin patch. Because the corn maze is the only "entertainment" activity they have, this farm only has to follow the guidance for Food and Agriculture; it does not have to follow the guidance for Recreational Entertainment, unless they decide later to add other entertainment activities like an apple cannon, etc. However, they will still need to make sure their corn maze is set up in ways that follow the guidelines for corn mazes, which are described in the Guidance for Food and Agriculture, page 19.

COVID-19 Preparedness Plans

All critical businesses, which includes farms, must have developed and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan as per Executive Order 20-74. This includes farms. No matter what guidance your farms falls under, you must develop a COVID-19 preparedness plan. You can use the templates available from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) to prepare your plan. You may use other templates, such as the farm-specific plan from the University of Minnesota Extension, if all components outlined in the DLI template are addressed.


1.) Do my employees have to wear masks when they are outside? 

Yes, workers must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose in accordance with Executive Order 20-81 that went into effect July 24th. This Executive Order requires everyone—including workers—to wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public spaces.  Additionally, the Executive Order requires workers to wear face coverings when working in outdoor settings in situations where social distancing (i.e., keeping at least 6 feet of physical distance from other individuals not in the same household) cannot be maintained.

2.) Are my customers required to wear masks, even when they’re outside?

Customers are not required to wear masks outside, unless your farm decides to require them to do this. They must wear masks when in indoor settings however in accordance with Executive Order 20-81.

3.) My shop is an event tent with open sides. Do customers need to wear masks inside the tent?

As per definitions in the guidance for Recreational Entertainment, if the ceiling covering is at least 50% and it has two walls, it’s considered an indoor setting, and customers (and workers) must wear face coverings in all indoor settings. 

4.) When do hay rack rides count as entertainment?

Hay rides do not count as entertainment when they are used for critical activities such as bringing customers to the orchard and moving customers to areas of the farm for picking purposes. If they are used for entertainment purposes only, such as just for a fun ride around the farm, then that is considered entertainment and the entire farm would then need to follow the guidance for Recreational Entertainment including following occupancy limits. 

5.) Can I provide samples of apples?

Yes you are allowed to offer samples of apples and other foods. You should follow applicable food safety guidelines in the Minnesota food code, including having a handwashing sink available, ensuring samples are single-serving and allow customers to pick up one without touching the others.

6.) Can we have self-serve games, like cornhole and apple and pumpkin cannons? 

Yes, you can have these games at your farm. If you have them, then your farm must follow the guidance for the Recreational Entertainment venues as outlined above. 

7.)  Do I have to require ticketing or advance reservations?

If your farm offers recreation and entertainment, then your farm falls into the Recreation and Entertainment guidance and you must follow all the applicable guidelines outlined in this document, including developing a system for customers to purchase tickets to your venue. 

8.) What guidelines can I follow for the U-pick part of my farm to make sure customers are safe?

As of 8/26/20, the Stay Safe MN guidance for Food and Agriculture has added guidance for U-pick operations. Please see page 18.

Suggestions for managing the farm this season in light of COVID guidelines:

  1. Consider the economic cost and benefit of closing the agri-tourism activities other than a corn maze, and only offering U-Pick, concessions, and the farm shop. Decide what would be better for your business and family/employee health to cancel these agri-tourism activities, depending on your farm’s individual circumstances.
  2. Consider expanding open hours to spread out the flow of customers. Encourage customers to come during non-peak hours like weekdays and early mornings on weekends. 
  3. Communicate with customers via social media and email ahead of time, so that they are aware of the changes and know what to expect when they visit the farm.
  4. Create clear signage throughout the farm to help with social distancing and encourage customers to understand the farm’s procedures as they pertain to them.

For more information:

With questions about which guidance to follow: 

Paul Hugunin Director, Ag Marketing & Development Division
Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Katherine Simon, Division Director, Food and Feed Safety Division

Assistance with COVID plans and questions:

Contact MNOSHA Workplace Safety Consultation at 651-284-5060 or or

Minnesota Department of Agriculture MDA COVID Question Line at or see the MDA COVID and agriculture website.

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