If you are a grower or vintner with a retail outlet on your property, or if you are thinking about selling directly to the public, here’s something that may help you reach a new market. A company called Harvest Hosts is a membership program that connects RV owners with farmers, wineries, and museums around the country.
Here’s how it works. The host – who has a vineyard, orchard, or truck farm – invites self-contained RV owners to come visit for 24 hours, free of charge. The visitor agrees to follow a code of behavior on the farm and be a good guest.
While the RV’ers have no obligation or requirement to buy anything from the Host, you can bet they will want to. They are staying out on your farm because they are looking for the things you produce and sell. The company says that its members enjoy meeting new people and supporting local communities, and they are encouraged to support their Hosts with purchases. They also say that the average member has a household income of $93,600 and the goodwill motivates them to make purchases.
Most of the Hosts are small, mom-and-pop agricultural operations. They are not formal campgrounds. The RVs must be fully self-contained. And this is better than a visit from your in-laws; the guests call you in advance, and you can always say no. When accepting visitors they simply arrive and park where you tell them, then go spend money in your fruit stand or store. They don’t need hookups or restroom facilities, and any pets are leashed or in the RV at all times (if you choose to allow them at all).
The Harvest Host company started operations in 2009 and has been widely received across the country. They have about 550 hosts and 4200 members in the continental United States, Canada, and Baja California.
If you’re thinking about becoming a host, there’s no fee to the company but there are some responsibilities you need to meet. You should check with your insurance agent to confirm that your liability policy covers you. You also need to make sure that your property is accessible for RVs (no tight turns, no tree branches, etc.) and provide a fairly level parking area with space for RV side-slides to be extended.
For more information, visit their website at www.harvesthosts.com.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.