Wineries are better than WalmartsAug 02, 2022 11:26AM ● By Jan Weeks & Lynn Jacobs
Whether you’re a yearlong tin can tourist or a one-trip RV renter, Harvest Hosts is an alternative to the same old KOA camp routine. Many travelers have caught the fever. There are around 200,000 members and counting, with 1,000 more RVers joining every week.
Harvest Hosts offers RVers unique overnight stays at more than 3,000 locations throughout the country. Since traditional campgrounds charge between $40 to $80 per night (or more), many travelers consider it worth the annual $99 membership fee.
Since renting out her home in Vancouver, Canada, six weeks ago, Lori Losch has gotten a lot of value out of her Harvest Hosts membership as she travels the country searching for a small town where she can put down roots.
“I may be with no fixed address for five years, who knows?” said Losch, 54.
Seeing the country from her Mercedes Sprinter van is quite the change from her motorcycle, which she’s taken to every U.S. state and Canadian province. Finding a stable Wi-Fi connection has been a hurdle since she works remotely, but her experiences through Harvest Hosts have made the journey more pleasurable.
“A lot of hosts are creative and interesting people,” Losch said as she sipped pear-apple wine in the tasting room at Palisade’s Peachfork Winery. “I love staying at breweries, wineries and distilleries, but I’d like to find more food places. I try to go to farms to get organic produce and eggs. I might as well buy them from local farmers and get the experience.”
Losch swapped stories of RV life with two fellow Harvest Host travelers—weekenders from Evergreen who stopped for the night to break up the long drive from Durango.
Tyler Hanson and Rachel McGee, both 30, have stayed at a number of Harvest Host locations since purchasing their camper nearly two years ago.
Lori Losch shares stories over wine with fellow Harvest Host travelers Tyler Hanson and Rachel McGee at Peackfork Winery in Palisade.
“Hosts make it easy for you to show up and set up your stuff. It’s one less stressor,” said Hanson.
“And look at the vineyard!” added Losch. “This is a much better view than your neighbor’s RV in a park!”
A WIN FOR HOSTS
Hosts are farmers, golf courses, brewers and winemakers who allow self-contained motorhomes and campers to stay for a night at no extra charge. Unlike Airbnb, hosts are not paid by the company, so the parent organization requests that guests thank their hosts by buying products they sell, such as rounds of golf, drinks and souvenirs.
It’s encouraged to spend at least $20, which just about equals a bottle of wine at Olathe’s Mountain View Winery, where owners Wendy and Michael Young have hosted travelers for nearly 10 years.
“People are very willing to support us when they stay here,” said Young, 50. “We had so many people come through during COVID. These last two years, they’ve kept us in business!”
Peachfork owners Phil and Susan Patton have been hosts for two years. They get a free membership at HarvestHosts.com and great business exposure through reviews posted on the website. According to Phil, 71, those reviews have been wonderfully supportive.
Since water and sewer hookups are not required to host travelers, the Pattons have seven spots where guests can park. Two are near the winery, and the most popular one is nestled between the you-pick peach and apple orchards. Two Adirondack chairs look out over well-established grapevines, and the Colorado National Monuments offers a panoramic background for spectacular sunsets.
“We thoroughly enjoy guests,” said Susan. “They share their adventures and interesting places with us. They are respectful and genuinely interested in our farm/winery.”
In fact, one family sold their homes in Texas and Florida and traveled in their RV for a year and a half. Joshua and his family were so enamored of the Grand Valley and Peachfork that he said to Phil, “Are you hiring?” Joshua, who has a degree in horticulture, became a full-time employee on the spot, and now works in the orchard and makes wine.
Young has a similar story, where two young travelers ran the winery while she and Michael went away for the weekend.
“Our two older kids weren’t old enough to sell wine, but we left them here to run the house and left the Harvest Hosters in charge of the winery,” Young said. “It worked out. It was a fun time for all of us!”
Peachfork Winery owners Phil and Susan Patton have been Harvest Hosts for two years. Panoramic views of the orchards and the sun setting over the valley, in addition to the wine, are a major draw for Harvest Host travelers.
Having lived and traveled in many places themselves, the Pattons can usually find common topics for discussion with guests, and the travelers seem to appreciate that.
“Our lives are richer from our connections,” said Susan.
Young estimated that more than half of the guests they’ve hosted were senior couples, but they get a mix of long road trippers and weekenders as well as foreign guests.
Since the Youngs don’t own an RV, they gifted their Harvest Hosts membership to Wendy’s parents, Gary and Peggy Brink in Montrose.
In 2021, the Brinks parked their fifth-wheel at their first Harvest Hosts location: an alpaca farm and winery near El Paso, Texas.
“We usually travel with a destination in mind, but we were trying to travel behind the winter storm and wanted to stay somewhere safe,” said Peggy, 73.
The Brinks avoid RV parks and camp sites when possible because “we like elbow room,” Peggy said.
The winery was dog friendly, which was also a plus.
“That night, we tasted wine and talked with the host. He was very congenial, so I couldn’t help but buy wine!” said Peggy.
Until you become a member of HarvestHosts.com, you can’t see who and exactly where hosts are. After you enroll, the specifics are revealed, as well as how to contact each host to arrange a stay. The company also has a travel-planning mobile app that lets you see all hosts within a certain radius.
Some sites allow pets on a leash, and local regulations govern the use of generators. Electrical hookups and services at host sites are the exception, not the rule.
Reservations are required and campers must arrive during business hours. Each host has a website where members can find the perfect fit in locations of their choice.
Get started by visiting www.HarvestHosts.com.
Photography and additional reporting by Cloie Sandlin