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As more and more families opt for RV family vacations, it’s getting tougher (and more expensive) to find overnight campsites. Enter Harvest Hosts! Membership in this network of wineries, breweries, farms, museums and golf courses across North America gets you access to FREE overnight camping at more than 2,500 unique locations. Here, a TravelingMom who is a regular camper at Harvest Hosts locations, shares everything you need to know about Harvest Hosts membership. Are you ready to camp next to an alpaca?
Remember the excitement of being young and camping with your parents? You’d drive somewhere and easily find a state park or private campground. Dad would struggle to set up a musty smelling canvas tent. Or, if you were really high-class, your family had a pop-up trailer.
Then it was time to roam the campground, exploring creeks and, if you were like me, having stick fights with siblings. That was camping!
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What is Harvest Hosts?
Today, thanks to some entrepreneurial RVers, unique RV camping locations are available through Harvest Hosts, It’s an innovative camping option, whether you’re a full-time RVer or a newbie.
In 2010, Don and Kim Greene traveled Europe in an RV. They discovered France Passion, a program where campers stay overnight at wineries and farms.
They liked the program so much that they started Harvest Hosts in the United States and ran it until 2018 when Joel Holland and his wife Mary Ashley bought the company. Their goal? “To help a lot of people live happier lives by getting them off the couch and on the open road.”
How Many Harvest Hosts Are There?
Evidently lots of people are getting on the open road because Harvest Hosts is increasing at a staggering rate.
When my husband and I joined in 2020, there were 1,200 hosts. Today, there are more than 2,500! About 50 new hosts are added weekly.
Joining Harvest Hosts entitles you to stay at wineries, breweries, farms, museums and golf courses.
How Does Harvest Hosts Work?
Today, it can be difficult to find a camping space in an RV park. Many places are overpriced and overcrowded. To get a campsite in some National Park campgrounds you have to make reservations one year in advance!
The RV Industry Association calls it “RV Mania” with sales increasing by 20% in 2021.
So what do you do when campgrounds are full? That’s where Harvest Hosts fills a niche. This is RV camping with a smaller, more personal and unique experience.
Most Harvest Hosts locations have a few acres and three or fewer campsites available each night. Generally, the parking spots are near the house, barn or museum on the property. There are exceptions though. Six Sigma Ranch in Lower Lake, California, is a 40,300-acre ranch open to Harvest Hosts RVers!
TravelingMom Tip: Only plan on staying one night at each Harvest Hosts location, unless you get special permission from the host to stay longer.
Boondockers Welcome at Harvest Hosts Locations
The majority of Harvest Hosts sites are for dry camping or boondocking only. Don’t expect to find electricity, water or sewer hookups.
Although this, too, is changing.
On a recent stay with Silver Knott Harvest Hosts in Ronan, Montana, the host, Traci Johnson, told us, “We had 311 campers stay with us the last four months, so we decided to install six spots with electrical hookup.”
Read More: Essential Guide to RV Boondocking
How Much is a Harvest Host Membership?
Harvest Hosts charges $99 a year for membership. That fee provides access to a growing network of more than 2,500 wineries, farms, breweries and other attractions.
For an additional $40, you can also park for the night at more than 340 golf courses.
Where Are Harvest Hosts Located?
Have kids who enjoy animals? Stay at Shepard’s Rest Goat and Sheep Rescue near Lincoln, Nebraska. Your kids will meet 60 goats and sheep living in abundant pastures.
Like speed? Noise? Plan to stay at the Mobile International Speedway by Irvington Texas, and enjoy stock car races.
Like sampling the latest in craft beer? Stay at a brewery where the owner will teach you about the brewing process.
There are Harvest Hosts at a cranberry bog, a classic car museum and a sky diving facility, to name just a few of the unique spots.
When we camped at Magnolia Blossoms Alpaca Ranch, the owner, Kerry Bates, gave us an informative tour of the ranch while explaining how they harvest the wool from his 48 alpacas and llamas. Naturally I bought a pair of alpaca wool socks which keep my feet quite toasty!
Is Camping Really Free with Membership?
Well…yes and no. After paying the $99 registration fee, camping is free. You could simply greet your host at check-in, pull into the parking lot, and leave the next morning.
In the spirit of supporting locally owned businesses, Harvest Hosts “etiquette” suggests you support the business by buying an item in their gift shop, making a donation to their animal rescue effort or purchasing a wine tasting to help you choose a bottle of wine. (Or a case, as some people do!)
For many hosts, the additional revenue brought in by Harvest Hosts guests has helped them get through the pandemic when most of their customers stayed home.
While staying overnight at the Anelare Winery in Benton City, Washington, my husband and I sipped wine at sunset and enjoyed our “Mac Daddy” pizza while looking at the amazing vineyard view. So yes, we camped for free, but also supported the winery while enjoying dinner.
Even if you spend only $20, it helps the small business owners and still is cheaper than an overnight stay at most campgrounds!
Read More: Best Vehicles for Camping
How Do You Find Harvest Hosts Locations?
Simple! After you become a member, use the online directory or the app. Put in your destination and get numerous suggestions.
While coming through the Yakima Valley area in Washington, I got 17 possibilities of places to stay.
The website and app also include photos, recommendations and reviews of the overnight experience. I’ve read many of the reviews and have yet to find one that doesn’t rave about their Harvest Hosts stay.
After finding a suitable location, you have two options. Many hosts have an email link where you can request your preferred date. Or call the Harvest Hosts owner directly and ask for a reservation at least 24 hours in advance.
TravelingMom Tip: With the increased popularity of RVing, many Harvest Hosts fill up quickly. We recommend booking a reservation as far in advance as possible, but preferably several weeks in advance. Remember, most Harvest Hosts only have space for 1-3 RVs per night.
What Are the Rules of Harvest Hosts Camping?
As with everything in life, common sense and courtesy go a long way to making a Harvest Hosts site experience pleasant for everyone. A few basic rules include:
- Let the owner know if you must cancel your reservation. They often have waiting lists.
- Take your trash with you! Harvest Hosts are not set up for you to leave bags of trash you may have been accumulating.
- Ask permission to run your generator.
- Supervise your children. Yes, they’ll be excited to be at an emu farm, but it might not be safe to crawl over the fence to pet an emu.
- Understand it is expected you’ll only stay one night.
- Ask in advance if pets are permitted. In most cases Harvest Hosts welcome pets, but there are cases where pets can disturb livestock or other animals.
- Plan on cooking in your RV. This is not the time to set up your table and barbeque outside. Better yet, eat dinner at the Harvest Hosts site, if they serve meals.
Still need convincing that Harvest Hosts is for you? Then check out Heartland Farms in Pawnee Rock, Kansas.
This alpaca farm and business is run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. After Sister Jane shows you your parking site, you can walk a labyrinth, enjoy the alpacas, meditate in the silo and hike the trails. Oh yes… evidently Sister Imelda gives the best massages!