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Managing relationships with neighbors

Agritourism can be an unusual business in that it by nature often involves inviting the public to residential or rural areas. Therefore, ensuring a successful and sustainable operation often means seeing your neighbors and community as part of your team.

For some producers, this may mean taking neighborly courtesies up a notch, for example giving annual holiday gifts and working extra hard to be a good neighbor. Many find it helpful to give neighbors guest passes to see the experiences first-hand, or to gift farm products if they aren’t already. For others, it may make sense to enter some sort of a more formal business agreement to reward neighbors for any inconveniences caused by your business.

No matter what you choose for details, experts agree the best approach is to know your rights but to focus on collaboration in an open and frank conversation before beginning business. Share with them the why and the potential benefits to your customers and your community. If you’ve already passed this point and missed this conversation, it’s not too late to start, and these conversations should continue throughout the length of the business. Check in on how things are going, including any concerns your neighbors might have, and see what you can do to address them.

It may not always be enjoyable to have these discussions, but keeping an open dialog can minimize much bigger challenges down the road from a disgruntled neighbor who feels powerless to address their concerns. Some producers even find them enjoyable over time, as it becomes an opportunity for collaboration and opportunity to share heartwarming successes.