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Harvest Hosts is changing how people RV

Harvest Hosts, an RV-membership network offering 5,000 nontraditional camp sites across North America, supports small business and churches with a simple trade.

In exchange for a safe, well-lit space to park an RV, Harvest Hosts gives its members the opportunity to make a small donation to the church or business they dock at for the night. Just last year, Harvest Hosts generated $50 million for small businesses, and it’s estimated that more than $1 million will be gifted to churches in the Harvest Hosts network in 2024.

“It’s a win/win for our members and our hosts,” said Tim Cole, technical support specialist for Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts sites include drive-in theaters, alpaca and lavender farms, wineries, distilleries, farms, churches and more.

“If you can imagine waking up at a winery instead of to Walmart turning on their sign,” Cole said, adding that originally Harvest Hosts was created to get full-time RV-ers out of commercial parking lots and into secure, quality locations. “Imagine waking up at an alpaca farm and there is a mom and baby alpaca beside your RV.”

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Through an interactive website, Harvest Hosts campers check their travel route and send a request to book a stay—much like an Airbnb booking experience. Members have access to unlimited stays at thousands of locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico for the $99 annual membership fee. Though not mandated, the Harvest Hosts Code of Conduct encourages members to spend about $30 supporting their host site.

“You show up at a drive-in theater and you are not going to not buy a ticket to see a movie. If you show up at the vineyard you are going to want to see what the wine tastes like,” Cole said, smiling. He added that the donation goes directly from the member to the church or business.

Nasi Goudes said his most memorable Harvest Host experience was at a California winery. Having quit his day job as a mechanic to travel, Goudes pulled his camper onto the 10,000-acre winery and was told by a winemaker to park wherever he liked. Goudes camped on the crest of a hill surrounded by grape vines.

“At 4:30 a.m. I hear this loud whooshing sound and threw open the door,” Goudes said, smiling and animated. “There were hot air balloons everywhere I could see! That was a beautiful spot.”

Goudes visited 46 states that year, staying at as many farms as he could to see if he wanted to tackle what was waiting for him at home: taking over his family’s 400-acre farm. When Goudes returned to Monroe, North Carolina, he did just that. In 2020, Sharonview Farm started providing spots for Harvest Hosts.

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“We tend to have a lot of repeat campers,” Goudes commented, saying that he loves to give tours of his beautiful, wooded property and farmer’s market, where they sell their shiitake mushrooms. “You can’t see another house from anywhere on my farm. It’s nice to get away from the madness.”

Making sure their members have secure, peaceful stays is a trademark of Harvest Hosts and what he works hard to ensure, Cole said. He joined the Harvest Hosts team five years ago and led the launch of a new app and website this spring.

“We found out there is some anxiety attached to parsing what a stay will be like,” Cole said, adding that the updated site includes expanded host profiles with more images so campers know what the location looks like in detail.

Currently, there are about 250,000 Harvest Hosts members, which allows most businesses to attain between $15,000 and $20,0000 of additional revenue per year, Cole said. “It’s humbling to think about this—but one of the joys of Harvest Hosts is that especially during COVID, we help keep some churches and businesses going.”

Roughly 300 churches are part of the Harvest Hosts membership, including CrossWay Community Church set on 21 acres just north of Charlotte, N.C. CrossWay became a Harvest Host site in 2021 and the staff said its location just off of the I-85 and I-485 interchange seems to be a draw for members.

“People seem to really appreciate this particular site because it is easy access,” said David Moore, administrator for CrossWay. “And, it’s pretty. People can walk dogs around the pond and the field and let them run around the field.”

While there isn’t a lot of crossover interaction between Harvest Host members and the church, Moore reminisced on a time when a family booked a stay and were able to participate in an end-of-year youth event. In addition, a handful of times members stayed for a Sunday service.

“It’s really a small way to serve people and brings in a little bit of income,” Moore said, adding that about 200 stays have been booked at CrossWay. “They have done a good job of making it as simple and seamless as possible.”

Cole reminds members of a few tricks of the trade—members must have contained RV’s, there are currently no sewer or electric hookups at Harvest Hosts locations.

–Bethany Starin  | MinistryWatch.com | Used with permission

Images: Harvest Hosts.


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