U-Pick Apple Orchard Safety

J.T. Benitez, OSU Extension, ANR Educator Butler County

Late summer into autumn means it is u-pick season on many agritourism farms across Ohio.  It is a time for visitors to make a trip out to the farm to pick their favorite fruit or vegetable and spend quality family & friend time on your farm.  As a farmer, it is a great way to diversify your business and bring in a much higher farm income on commodities that you sometimes may be lucky to break even on.  Not only are you selling the intended commodity at a premium, but you also have value added products to sell that will also boost profits.  While you see your farm income improving, you are also seeing you have added a lot of additional risk because now having hundreds or even thousands of people visiting your farm with dozens of additional employees to manage, much more than just your regular farm chores.    

U-pick apple orchards are one of many agritourism activities available late summer through fall.  Families visit these farms to experience a small piece of what life is like on a farm, learn where their food comes from and take home some fresh apples they pick by hand.  Typically, this is a positive experience for the visitor but there are some risks to u-pick apple picking.  Below is a listing of things to think about at your u-pick apple orchard.

Visitor Risks to Consider

Unstable Footing Areas:  

  • Loose apples on the ground
  • Uneven areas in orchards
  • Groundhog holes or other holes in orchards
  • Limbs and roots of trees
  • Uneven steps, broken concrete/pavement 
  • Tree climbing (fall risks)
  • Ladders (fall risks)
  • Areas around the farm 

Food Safety

  • Rotten apples (disease potential)
  • Washing apples before eating (bacteria, dirt, spray residue, etc.)
  • Allergies (example:  nuts on the caramel apples in Market Barn)

Lack of Maintenance 

  • Tractors & Wagons for transportation to orchard (Is something going to break)
  • Tree trimming (dead limbs, problem limbs)
  • Mowing areas of u-pick orchard (trip hazard, unpleasant for visitor to walk through)

Outdoor Unknowns

  • Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, etc. (stings)
  • Weather (lightning, flash flooding, wind, heat, cold)

You as the operator, do you have a plan for the risks listed above?  Do you have a farm safety or emergency plan? Have you had an outside party evaluate your farm risks so you can make corrections? Do you have warning signs, rules of the farm or some other type of posted statement for your visitors to observe?  All questions to think about!  You may have more risk to add to the list than what is listed.  

Now is the time to look at your operation and see what you can do to lower risks.  

Creating a safe farm environment also extends to all your workers.  They are a vital part of your operation and require a respectful, safe work environment.  While many of the risks listed above also apply to workers on the farm, there are additional risks to consider for worker safety.  Below is a listing of additional risks for workers.  

Worker Risks to Consider

Lack of Maintenance or Usage Risk

  • Tractors, wagons, bushhogs, etc.  (general risks, do workers know how to operate machinery)
  • Weed eaters, mowers, chainsaws, tools, etc.  (loss of limbs, lack of operation knowledge)
  • Barns & other structures (holes in barn floors, unstable buildings or structures, etc.)

Ladder Dangers 

  • Falls
  • Incorrect usage of ladders 
  • Types of ladders used

Should all these risks keep you from conducting a u-pick operation?  Absolutely not!  Be smart, think things through and think safety first!  Overthinking safety is better than underthinking as that is when accidents may occur.  Have a great u-pick apple season! 


Please follow up with the additional information listed below to assist you in your operation.    

Orchard Ladder Safety - AEX-591.7.10, Ohio State University Extension



Orchard Safety Stats, University of Washington, Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety & Health Center



Food Safety Considerations in Vermont Apple Orchards, University of Vermont Extension



FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule (FSMA), Ohio Department of Agriculture



J.T. Benitez, OSU Extension, Butler County, Agriculture & Natural Resource Educator, can be reached at (513) 887-3722 or benitez.6@osu.edu. This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team, https://agsafety.osu.edu.