Owning a small "u-pick" farm can be very rewarding and have all the benefits of living and working in the country, while still interacting directly with your community and customers. One challenge for many farmers with public access is dealing with parking. Parking lot construction is expensive and invasive, but dirt lot parking can quickly become a mess after a couple of rainstorms. The following can help solve the problem.
Dedicate a Space
Don't make the mistake of using a fallow field for parking. Traffic and ruts will compact your good soil, and there will be the concern of contamination from engine fluids and pollution from the vehicles. Instead, choose a dedicated space near your main farm entrance for an appropriately sized parking lot. Placing it near the entrance helps funnel customers to the right entrance area. Putting in a dedicated lot ensures there is only parking available for your determined max capacity of visitors, so it can also help with crowd control. Further, many customers prefer to know what to expect when it comes to parking and entering your farm. You can also move the parking lot in later years as your farm grows and evolves.
Choose a Paving Option
Although you can go with a dirt lot, permeable pavers will help prevent stormwater runoff issues, and they will provide some protection for the soil structure — both helpful if you ever want to use the area as a field again. You have the options of either concrete pavers or plastic paving grids. Generally, the grid-style pavers that have openings in the center are better for the soil and less expensive than solid pavers. You can grow a sturdy meadow grass paver opening, which will prevent topsoil loss while still allowing rainwater to soak into the ground and enter your farm's groundwater system. The grass, like most plants, will also help feed the soil so it is easier to recover it if you ever decide to convert the lot back to a field.
Once your lot is constructed, control traffic to help prevent accidents and aid in the flow of guests. If possible, choose a one-way setup with a well-signed entrance and exit at opposite ends of the lot. Angled parking spots further help encourage the one-way flow of traffic. Striping sprays, such as those used on athletic fields, can be used to indicate parking spaces. Separate parking lanes can be divided by the use of flagging. On busy weekends it may be necessary to have an employee in the lot directing traffic
Contact a permeable paver supplier to see your options and find the best prices on the materials you need for your farm parking lot.