A blog about all things rural and agritourism related
3 Basic And Important Questions To Get Right At Your Agritourism DestinationJuly 21, 2023
Tags: agritourism, farm culture, sustainable design, VELD architect Categories: Agritourism, farm design
Master Planning farm market and pick your own play farm
One of our clients has a really good motto for covering the main bases for your agritourism operation. Beyond “what are they going to do?” you need to be able to handle these other questions if you want to keep people at your property.
And the stats are clear, the longer people stay the more they have a memorable experience, and the more money they spend. So, can you answer these questions and do you do it well?
- Where will people park?
- Where will they use the WC?
- What will they eat?
These are some of the major features that if you don’t do them well the impression can sour your visitor’s whole experience.
Can you remember a place you went to where the Washrooms were disgusting, or it took forever to get in? And those bad experiences soured the whole day.
So where are people going to park?
This is one that your municipality will also have an opinion about in the Site Plan Approval stages (learn about site plan approval here).
Let’s start with how many.
If you are a family-oriented farm, you can expect 4 people per car, if you are targeting a more luxury experience you can expect 2 people per car. (The Zoning by-law will also give you a guideline).
Then getting to the lot should be easy and clear. Use signage or clear lanes, landscape and cues. Make sure you have wide entries for two-way traffic and even separate entries and exits. If you ticket people from their car, make sure you have a long crush lane on the property so you don’t clog the road (this will get you in trouble with the neighbours and the township!)
What are the surface options? This can be a contentious issue, especially with the township approval process.
I recently helped a client provide paved parking and access for barrier-free (wheelchair) access to their building. We only paved a small area for 2 BF parking spaces and a walkway. Gravel is not an acceptable wheelchair-access surface, but crushed limestone is an alternative to asphalt. Then I know there are many of you out there using your hay field! This can be great overflow parking for occasional events. But it comes with some really clear downsides, mud and bumps are a big one. These don’t leave a great impression on your visitors.
So, if you go that route, make sure you are prepared, or construct the area to avoid these experience-ruining conditions.
We also strongly believe that large gravel surfaces aren’t authentic or appropriate for farm properties (they also contribute to the area calculated towards your 2% or 2ha area on-farm diversified use guideline from OMAFRA). So we like to integrate the parking into the farm more seamlessly. You aren’t a shopping mall, after all, and that’s not the impression you want to give. Here are a few nice parking lot layouts you could consider.
The middle parking is much more enjoyable and peaceful as it is fully integrated into the farm landscape with its tree rows. It also has planning approval benefits
So now that parking is figured out, let’s talk about washrooms!
Just ask women, a whole building can be defined by the quality of the washrooms! If they walk in and say wow, you nailed it!
In general, townships do not like or permit temporary washrooms (porta potties) as the solution. The building code tells us, based on the number of people and the type of use your building is a required washroom count. However, we also know that most people coming to your farm are outside and not strictly in your building. So, we evaluate your normal traffic, the building occupancies, and your peak seasons to determine an appropriate number of washrooms.
Washrooms are most efficient when they are all together. It’s the most cost-effective and easiest to get to the septic tank and weeping bed. However, depending on your site layout that isn’t the most visitor friendly. My 4-year-old is excellent at holding “it”, but if we are in the back 40 and the only washroom is at the front near the “buildings” we aren’t going to make it.
Sometimes you need a separate building, but sometimes you can simply allow access to the washroom bank directly from the exterior. This means people traffic don’t have to go through your store, or ticket area and clog that area, but can access WC from the nearby play yard without trafficking through the whole building.
There are so many Washroom layouts. The building Code dictates much of the sizes and dimensions, but that’s minimum and there is lots of room for customization and flair!
Other tips for family-oriented washrooms. Make the stalls larger (for parent and kid), provide kid-friendly sized toilets, sinks (or stools), soap, paper towels and hand dryers. A mom (or dad) with their hands full of kids will thank you. Offer breastfeeding rooms. Provide changing tables or large counters in the men’s and women’s washrooms. And hooks in every stall.
For those venues aiming for a more refined client, provide an on-theme surprise in the washroom. Is it a concrete trough sink, themed faucets, recycled farm décor, or an impactful colour scheme?
Make it memorable that they tell their friends “Make sure you check out the washrooms!”
A little tip, when you are designing your septic system, there is a magic number of 10,000 litres per day you want to avoid crossing. This number requires permission from the MOE (Ministry of Environment), and will take years and costly. 10,000 litres per day is around 500 people on site for parks, 80 people in a restaurant, or 277 people for an event space.
Ironically, however, if you are close and pass this threshold, MOE allows for more creative septic calculations and you may end up below 10,000 in the end (Source: Rivercourt Engineering, one of our dream team members) when seeking approvals from them rather than your local building department!
And finally, when my kids are hungry, they are h-angry, so if you don’t have food, and we’ve run out of snacks we are leaving! Offering some sort of food makes a day out on your farm go from 2 hours to 4-6 hours. This would be especially important for locations that are further away from city populations (IE longer than a 1/2-hour drive).
Traffic flow of food service. Make sure to include lots of crush space for your kids to make their choices!
Your concession can vary from premade/prepackaged snacks to a simple food truck, to a full kitchen. If you considering the latter, learn more about commercial kitchens in this post. [LINK] And to go with food you need a place to sit (in the shade), garages, and a large crush space for people to stand, decide, move along, linger or loiter. Make sure the order lineup is clear, the waiting zone is separate and away from the order point, and condiments are plentiful with multiple access points. Having a kid assessment nearby is also helpful while they “die from hunger…!” And don’t forget the napkins!
The mark-up on food is not the highest sale point, but its revenue you are leaving on the table if you don’t offer it. Or you might decide not to provide food because you don’t want your guest to stay that long! Assuming you’ve got the “what” taken care of, how do you deal with parking, Washrooms, and food?!
Let us know what your other pain points are.