How Unique RV Membership Club Harvest Hosts Is Helping Breweries Survive the Pandemic
Ever dreamed of camping out at your favorite brewery?
A unique RV membership program, Harvest Hosts gives you access to a network of breweries, wineries, farms, museums, and more, inviting RVers to visit and stay overnight.
During the global pandemic, when travel has been limited, RVing has been a great way for people to get out and live life. According to a study conducted by the global market research company Ipsos, last summer, forty six million Americans said they planned to hit the road in owned or rented RVs over the next twelve months.
Harvest Hosts gives “ members ” or self-contained campers (those that provide their own electricity, bathrooms, water, etc.) an opportunity to stay in exciting locations as opposed to big store parking lots or overcrowded campgrounds.
Most importantly, Harvest Hosts has been making a big impact on the small businesses that its members visit. Because Harvest Hosts kindly suggests that any visitor purchase at least $20 of goods and/or services from their host -- although the average member actually spends $50 during their stay, guests help generate revenue at breweries, often during off-peak hours or seasons. And Harvest Hosts has helped drive traffic to many out-of-the-way taprooms.
As breweries continue to look for strategic ways to boost their revenue streams, joining Harvest Hosts could be a fast, easy, innovative way to add to their bottom line.
What We’ll Cover in This Piece:
What Is Harvest Hosts?
A unique RV membership platform, Harvest Hosts gives folks traveling by RV access to a network of over 3,000 breweries, wineries, farms, orchards, museums, and more, where they can stay overnight.
It’s an exciting trend in agrotourism that also brings business and support to small enterprises across the country.
“At Harvest Hosts, our mission is to help people live happier lives by getting off the couch and onto the open road, while also supporting the small businesses that are the backbone of America,” said Harvest Hosts CEO Joel Holland in a statement for the RV Industry Association.
Overall, the site currently boasts more than 3,000 host locations – 379 of which are breweries and distilleries.
By bringing potential new customers to thousands of locations across the country, Harvest Hosts has been helping small businesses, such as breweries, find creative ways to continue generating revenue during the pandemic.
Who Is Behind Harvest Hosts?
Back in 2010, Kim and Don Greene had been traveling through Europe thinking: How cool would it be if we could stay at all these breweries, wineries, and small breweries we’ve been visiting? They brought the idea back to the States, launching Harvest Hosts later that year. After running the company for eight years, the Greenes sold Harvest Hosts to wife and husband team Mary Ashley and Joel Holland in 2018 (pictured above).
An entrepreneur at a young age, Joel started a company before selling it and hitting the road with Mary Ashley in their RV. After spending a couple years trekking around the country to all of the lower forty-eight states, the Hollands had grown weary of countless nights parked out in discount store lots and public campgrounds. Until they discovered Harvest Hosts.
Since purchasing Harvest Hosts, the Hollands have grown the company exponentially.
Last January, the duo raised $37 million in funding from growth investor Stripes to support the continuing growth of Harvest Hosts. Then, in May 2021, Harvest Hosts acquired Boondockers Welcome, an alternative RV camping platform to connect RVers with a community of individuals that welcomes travelers to stay on their private property with no nightly charge.
Both milestones helped expand Harvest Hosts' base from 6,000 in May 2018 to over 200,000 members today. According to Molly Edgington, Director of Partnerships and Host Relations at Harvest Hosts, the platform added ~100k net members in 2021 and now has almost 3,000 hosts on the network. “We over doubled our growth in both memberships and hosts,” says Edgington. “And we’re not stopping.”
How Does Harvest Hosts Work?
Members pay a $99-$139 yearly fee (about the same price as a night or two at a campground) that gains them access to any unique Harvest Host location. They simply need to book a free spot using the Harvest Hosts’ online reservation tool at the location of choice and arrive during business hours.
“These are members who really want to see North America in a different way,” says Edgington. “These are experiential stays. You’re not just staying in a Walmart parking lot or an RV campground. You’re staying at a winery and potentially getting to stomp on grapes or at a brewery and seeing behind the scenes how they brew, things you wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.”
Reservations can be made on the host’s personal page months prior or even just twenty-four hours in advance as long as spaces are available.
Once parked on site, visitors are only allowed to stay a maximum of twenty-four hours, although hosts can invite guests to stay longer and charge for additional nights at their discretion. And while locations are not required to provide any type of electrical or water hookup, some hosts may offer these services for an extra fee.
Since this form of camping is considered boondocking, it has been a great way for folks to continue to travel during the pandemic. Just please keep in mind that each host will have their own COVID-19 rules and regulations, so please check with your potential host ahead of time.
How Do the Host Breweries Benefit from Joining Harvest Hosts?
The most important part of Harvest Hosts is that it encourages all its members to spend at least $20 dollars at each host location during their stay. That could mean enjoying a beer at a brewery, purchasing a bottle of wine at a winery, or even an apple at an orchard. In reality, Edgington says, Harvest Host members typically spend an average of $50 dollars per night that go right back into the pocket of their hosts. Harvest Hosts doesn't take a dime — it all goes back to the local businesses and communities.
For breweries, becoming a part of Harvest Hosts has been a lifeline during a time when many businesses have been severely affected by the global pandemic. According to Edgington, its members spent over $25 million at the small businesses they visited in 2020 and $30 million in 2021.
Most importantly, it literally costs $0 dollars for a brewery to become a part of Harvest Hosts. “We like to say it’s a low time commitment and no cost commitment,” says Edgington. “There's no charge for the host location and no kicker. Nothing that you’ll be charged for in the future… You just need space for at least one RV [to stay] overnight that’s safe and flat and products to sell to our members.”
Breweries that have joined the Harvest Hosts network have immediately felt the impact.
Breweries like Mt. Shasta Brewing Company in Weed, CA. Co-owner Niccole Pulis discovered Harvest Hosts from her cousins. She and her brother had been talking about putting an RV parking lot in some unused space on-site at the brewery. Instead they joined Harvest Hosts.
Pulis signed up with five slots in June 2021 and within a month said it has been a “revolving door” with all camping spots full every single day during the summer. In the past seven months, 16k people have viewed the brewery’s location on Harvest Hosts and 355 members have stayed on-site.
“It’s nice because COVID has impacted the number of people that came through so severely,” says Pulis. “[Harvest Hosts] helped keep our business moving, helped people get to know our name, our town, and the reviews have been great.”
Mt. Shasta Brewing Co. sits off I-5 in the small Northern California town of Weed, so being a part of Harvest Hosts has helped drive traffic to the taproom. “It’s a very easy way to bring in new business and a great way to expand your reach because these people are traveling from all over,” says Pulis. “They come through our little town because of I-5. They see us on the Harvest Hosts map as an option and they stop in and they may never have stopped in before. Maybe they live in Michigan or live in Canada. It’s really fun to see how far our reach goes.” According to Pulis, she even has folks asking her if she can ship beer to them now.
Similarly for Debellation Brewing Company Founder David Goodell, Harvest Hosts has helped drive traffic to the newly opened brewery during the pandemic.
Launching in April 2021, Debellation Brewing sits right off I-95 in Richmond Hill, GA. On a primary highway leading north-to-south from Florida all the way up the East Coast, Debellation often had RVers come through. A few mentioned to Goodell that he should check out Harvest Hosts.
Joining the network this past September, Goodell says the experience so far has been great. According to Goodell, the brewery had seventy Harvest Host stays in September, climbing all the way up to an all-time high of 171 campouts this past December.
“[Harvest Hosts] is something we’re definitely on board with because, other than a little bit of our own time parking people or fielding a couple calls, it has been zero out-of-pocket for us,” says Goodell. “People will come in and spend money, so it really adds to our bottom line for zero cost… It’s a win-win for everyone all around.”
Goodell says based on the success of the past few months, the brewery has plans to add in additional elements for RVers such as water and ramped-up electricity hook ups.
“It’s been fantastic to see how the hosts have done so well,” says Edgington. “We were able to save a lot of small businesses, breweries included, who had no foot traffic coming in, didn’t have customers coming in buying beer to go or sitting at the bar buying beer.”
Pulis says Mt. Shasta will also continue to build up their presence on Harvest Hosts. Although the brewery won’t be open to members through February due to unpredictable, inclement weather, Pulis noted that 120 people have already added the brewery to future trips when they open up for reservations in March.
“I’ll talk about [Harvest Hosts] praises anytime I can,” says Pulis. “It’s definitely helped us keep the business moving and added new dollars and income to us. We’re right off I-5 so we have a good local crew that comes in, but they can’t buy every day all year long so, the Harvest Hosts Members have filled in that and they have just been nice, genuine people. It's been good all around.”
The Best Feature for Breweries on Harvest Hosts
(Photography courtesy of Mt. Shasta Brewing)
The most significant development to the Harvest Hosts platform last year was the implementation of an online reservation tool. Launched last spring, the tool functions much like a calendar you may have seen with other travel reservation apps.
For the consumer, a calendar will pop up with open dates to request a stay. The host has the authority to accept or decline (directly from their phone via SMS or on desktop), meaning the control really falls into the hands of the hosts. They can post business hours when RVs can show up or even block out weekends or months when they don’t want members to come stay.
“We support the hosts and want them to feel like they’re in control and that’s one step of giving them control,” says Edgington. “We’re excited with the technology catching up with the amount of hosts and members we have.”
Edgington continues, “We’re excited about increasing host locations…and encouraging brewers to get involved because brewers, out of everyone, are extremely busy running around brewing… This is a tool you can add to your toolbox without a heavy lift.”
How Can I Join?
If you’re thinking about taking an RV trip, you can become a part of the Harvest Hosts network by signing up for a membership here.
If you’re a brewery looking to enjoy the benefits of offering camping spots at your brewery on Harvest Hosts, there are several ways to join.
First, you can connect with Molly Edgington directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll help you set up a demo with their executive account team to walk you through the entire process and to learn the dos and don’ts and what is included in the program.
Alternatively, to get more information immediately, you can visit harvesthosts.com/hosts and submit a short form. A member from the Harvest Hosts account executive team will reach out to you directly via phone.