It’s June; time to plan those summer winery trips. If you have a motor home – the summertime livin' is not only easy - it's FREE!! It's your chance to enjoy free stays at wineries across the U.S! It’s a new trend in this country, one that takes agritourism to a new level.
There is a growing group of winemakers, farmers and other agritourism ventures like orchards, animal ranches and farms, that are now offering motor homes and RV’s a chance to camp on their farms for up to 24 hours – free!
What’s the catch? There is none! In return, it is hoped that the RV travelers will visit the wineries, farms, orchards, and ranches, while camped there, and enjoy what their hosts produce and have to offer.
Many wineries offer free tours of their facilities and a wine tasting to their RV visitors. Animal ranches and farms may offer a chance to see the animals up close and to purchase food and products made directly on the farm. However, there is no obligation for an RV visitor to purchase anything.
The host sites will provide campers with a level surface to park on. Visitors are expected to be in a self-contained vehicle; motor homes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, truck and van campers (any vehicle that is self contained) to park in designated areas on their farms or grounds, free of charge. Self contained means that you must have a toilet and built-in holding tanks for water.
RV visitors are reminded that this is not a campground and should not be treated like one. Letting the farm or winery know 24 hours ahead of your visit is always appreciated.
The host sites are not charged to take part. Their goal is to provide motor home travelers with a place to stay off the beaten path, giving visitors a chance to sample local products and culture.
Host sites do not provide water, electric, restrooms, trash or sewer facilities. But many will provide you with memories you won’t get at a campsite. Remember, these are the people who live and work here. This is their passion! Most of them love sharing stories about their wineries, farms, or orchards with others. If you are lucky enough to be invited to sit and enjoy an evening around a bon-fire, don’t miss the chance. This is truly a chance to glimpse into a small slice of their lives.
It’s a great concept -but the RV’s and wineries idea is not new. RV travelers have been doing this in France for 20 years. France Passion, http://www.france-passion.com
the French network, has over 1,700 wineries and farms in their network that open their grounds to travel home visitors. Of that number, 800 are farmers, 750 winegrowers and wineries, 150 farms and craftsmen. It’s a chance to experience regional foods and drink produced on the farm you’re staying at.
Programs such as this also exist in Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. Instead of wineries, Great Britain offers overnight camping at various pubs across the country.
In the U.S., Harvest Hosts http://harvesthosts.com/
is new company that puts RVer’s, wineries and farms together. Owned by Don and Kim Greene, Harvest Hosts began in 2010 after the Greene’s traveled Europe and saw the tremendous network of campers and wineries that existed there. Harvest Hosts charges RVer’s $35 a year for membership that gives them access to the network of almost 400 hosts throughout the U.S. and Canada. Currently 53% are wineries and around 47% are farms and orchards. A profile on each business is also provided to members and includes information on tours, the number of parking sites, if pets are allowed, and if wi-fi is available.
So as you plan those summer trips this year, keep in mind that this could be your chance to meet the farmers and producers, learn about their history and businesses, and experience locally produced foods and products. These can include wine, cheese, honey, vegetables, even a delightful meal made from locally grown products, paired with the perfect local wine! Now that’s truly a vacation worth taking!