Editor’s Note: This story comes from Michelle Nowak, editor of the Farm Stay Project and author of a blog at http://farmstays.blogspot.com. This blog is for people who like the idea of visiting a farm to enjoy fresh food, fresh air, and quiet. In the blog, she profiles farm stays, features guest posts on agritourism and shares news. She’s also writing a guidebook for farm stays in the Eastern U.S.
Kim and Don Greene recently started a website called Harvest Hosts. The site is based on a concept the Greenes brought to the U.S. from Europe. The idea is to build a network of farms and wineries that agree to host RVers for free for up to 24 hours. RVers buy a membership to gain access to the network. Don Greene kindly agreed to answer some my questions. Here’s our interview:
Q: Could you briefly explain the concept of Harvest Hosts?
A: Harvest Hosts is a new, fun way for RVers to get off the main track and visit new places in more rural environments. We have put together a list of farms, wineries and other agricultural producers (orchards, lavender farms, llama and animal ranches) that not only are RV friendly, but feel that the RV traffic is so important to them that they are willing to let members stay overnight just for making the effort to visit them.
These farms, wineries, etc. are the hosts for the evening. Members can stay for a maximum of 24 hours, unless members and hosts work out a different agreement. We want to provide additional opportunities for RV owners to explore and enjoy the rural areas of America. Now, with Harvest Hosts, members can spend the night, parked for free, in the farmlands across the country, while supporting small mom and pop, family run operations.
There is no obligation to buy anything from the hosts, but we hope that if the host is offering something for sale that members like — food, fresh fruit and/or vegetables or wine, that members will support them by making a purchase.
Q: What should farmers expect when hosting RVers? What should RVers expect when staying at a farm or winery?
A: All Harvest Hosts members agree to abide by our code of conduct. The code is explained on the Harvest Hosts website; its basic point is that members will be “good neighbors” with the understanding that they are invited guests and that these overnight stops are not to be treated as a campground. The farmers also expect members to be traveling in self-contained vehicles – they are not providing water, electricity, sewer or trash.
The farmers hope that if you like something that they have for sale that you will support them with a purchase, but there is no obligation to do so. Farmers understand that every visitor can spread the word about their business and they are excited to have the RV community as customers.
Q: On your website, you say that you got the idea for Harvest Hosts while traveling in Europe. Could you say more about the European networks? Do you find them in most of the European countries?
A: France and Italy have the most expansive networks, while Spain and Switzerland have newer networks that are still be developed. Great Britain has a network offering overnight stops at Pubs.
France’s network, France Passion, is the granddaddy of the farm/winery stopover networks now in its 17th year with 1,400 farms and wineries participating.
Q: Why do you think the program has been so successful in France?
A: France has a motorhome/RV culture that matches and maybe even exceeds ours here in the U.S.A. Per capita, I think that the French might even have more RVs than we do.
Q: What has been the reception to Harvest Hosts so far, with both Hosts and RVers?
A: We are very hopeful that Harvest Hosts will be a huge success here. The feedback that we are receiving from Hosts and members has been very favorable and very supportive. The biggest challenge is just getting the word out, since it is such a new concept in the U.S.