RVers who are always eager to find new ways to travel the world, experience it, and gain knowledge about the country, have found an unusual way to take advantage of the agritourism trend by staying on farms, according to a News & Insights report of the RV Industry Association (RVIA).
Agritourism is becoming more popular as Americans want to learn more about and take part in the sustainability of agriculture as well as “farm-to-table” movements. Farmers are the driving force behind this industry in their efforts to protect their traditional lifestyles and natural landscapes as well as to sell more goods.
September and October were record-breaking months for RV trips to wineries, farms, distilleries, and breweries, as per the Harvest Host Director of Host Relations and Partnerships Molly Edgington. Not only did the membership group experience a massive increase in reservations for overnight camping, but there was also a substantial increase in property owners who signed for hosting RVers.
“We have over 200,000 active RV members and over 2,800 hosts throughout the country,” said Edgington. “The RVers love learning about and participating in life on the farm, and the farmers enjoy talking about their crops and getting a bit of help.”
The autumn is a popular time to go to wineries, as they enter their harvesting season. RVers can help pick grapes, “punch down” grapes in vats, stir lees in barrels, wash the juice presser, and numerous other tasks. There are even opportunities to test I Love Lucy-style grape stomping. The reward is an insider’s look at winemaking and vineyard methods and also the chance to taste the previous vintages.
One of Harvest Host’s wineries is Jewel of Blue Ridge Vineyard, located in Marshall, North Carolina. RV guests who help in the harvest can also take advantage of a “Muscadine Grape Experience” that includes learning about the sweet and thick-skinned grape that is indigenous in North America and goes into the winery’s description of “the finest wine in the state.”
Washington, Oklahoma’s Redbud Farm and Vineyard hosts state that there is usually plenty to choose from throughout the year at their winery, and they are always grateful for the assistance of visiting RVers.
It’s not surprising that half of the 650 Harvest wineries that host sites are located in regions like the Pacific and Great Lakes/Midwest. This includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in the former, and Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Many times, RVers visit these areas when traveling. According to research, the most popular factor attracting RVers is accessibility (closeness to interstate highways). This is followed by stunning scenery, and the overall experience.
The Midwest/Great Lakes area has the largest number of farm hosts, where almost 800 are situated. Tourists are attracted to them during this time with festivals, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, U-pick-em orchards, and Christmas tree farms. Although winemakers are busy during the autumn, farmers have typically been able to harvest their crops by the close of summer, which means they can interact with guests. However, there’s always work to be done on a farm, and RVers have been known to collect eggs, help fix fences and barns, and feed animals. At one farm in Churchill County, Nevada, RVers can walk and feed the alpacas.
“We like to say that we have the best members around. The reason behind this statement is due to the way they go above and beyond with their membership, including assisting host locations on-site with daily chores,” said Edgington, noting that even though 60 percent of their members are retired, they’re seeing the number of younger age group steadily increase.
More than 51 percent of their members have an annual income of over $100K. Ninety-nine percent of them have a self-contained RV. Fifty-three percent of them have Class A (23 percent), Class B (12 percent), and Class C (18 percent) models, and the rest have travel trailers (31 percent), fifth wheels (12 percent), and truck campers/others (4 percent).
“Among the young working professionals camping at these properties, we’re seeing mostly van-lifers,” said Edgington.
At just $99 annually, RVers, whose rigs are self-contained, may have unlimited one-night stays at various locations. The property owners are paid no compensation for their stay; however, there’s a huge potential for financial benefits. Hosts are reported to earn an average daily income of about $50 in sales to their guests, which could result in a rise in annual income between $10,000 and $16,000 for hosts with a long-standing reputation.
“We think this trend is here to stay,” said Edgington. “Particularly after COVID, people are craving connection, and engaging with working farmers and vintners is a great way to do that.