In a move disappointing to many children, and their parents, the area’s nonprofit dairy farm has stopped allowing visitors into its cow barn because of legal worries.
The Lands at Hillside Farms had until earlier this fall permitted people to get up close to its Holsteins and Jerseys, walking past the milking areas and fully experiencing the barn’s sights, sounds and – whew – even those smells. No more. A trio of incidents in recent years, including a child’s nasty nosebleed, perhaps as a result of a head butt from a cow, have curtailed the activity for the time being and, some people worry, perhaps forever. The farm reportedly has received at least two intent to sue letters.
In one instance, a visitor who tripped and fell while at the farm, breaking an arm, began legal action, according to the organization’s executive director. The case has since been settled, he said.
Out of caution, however, farm staffers posted signs prohibiting visitor access to the century-old dairy barn while options, such as stationing an employee there during business hours or installing video cameras, are considered.
The development, reported in Saturday’s edition of the Times Leader, drew almost universal disgust from readers who faulted a lawsuit-prone culture. More than 250 comments were posted to the online article. “Very sad,” wrote one woman. “The farm provides wonderful opportunities for families. I don’t wish anyone harm. However, accidents happen. It is a shame that people are so quick to run to a lawyer.”
Most comments mirrored that sentiment but, in several instances, took a harsher tone.
Lacking knowledge of the specific incidents and injuries, we will refrain from speculating about the cases’ merits. Instead, we simply will point out that organizers created The Lands at Hillside Farms nearly a decade ago intending its property to be a “classroom without walls,” and this is yet another teachable moment – about the realities of modern farms and farm life.
The Back Mountain attraction, spanning more than 400 acres, is not a static museum, a Disney-like “farm experience” or a farm simulator.
It’s a farm. It carries all the inherent dangers of any other working farm, and those risks are not minuscule. Rather, farming and ranching routinely rate among the nation’s most dangerous occupations (right up there with commercial fishing, logging and mining). Hazards of the workplace include motorists speeding on rural roads, severe weather such as lightning, heavy equipment operation and, of course, daily interactions with large, unpredictable animals.
Cows kick or stampede. Tractors overturn. People producing our foods can, and do, die on the job.
It is not a pleasant truth, but it’s part of what visitors to The Lands at Hillside Farms should occasionally consider while touring the place or patronizing its store for fresh milk and ice cream.